Mares has big plans after Moreno win

The way in which unbeaten junior featherweight titlist Abner Mares lowers his head and bulls forward in an attempt to break his opponents' will is nothing short of relentless.

In fact, it mirrors the stubborn determination with which Mares seeks out the toughest challenges available to him.

Coming off an impressive streak of five difficult bouts against a who's who at 118 and 122 pounds, Mares outworked defensive wizard Anselmo Moreno in arguably his most difficult challenge to date, claiming a unanimous decision (116-110, 116-110, 120-106) Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. ESPN.com scored it 115-111 for Mares.

Mares (25-0-1, 13 KOs), 26, not only used his aggressive -- and, at times, borderline dirty -- style to smother Moreno (33-2-1, 12 KOs), he raised the ante on his lofty goals after the fact by effectively declaring two coinciding intentions: conquering 122-pound champion Nonito Donaire by way of thawing the Golden Boy-Top Rank promotional cold war.

Asked after the fight by Showtime's Jim Gray whether he would seek next to face fellow Golden Boy fighter and unbeaten bantamweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz, who was victorious on the undercard, Mares offered an answer that was as honest as his fighting style.

"No, come on man, I want to fight Nonito Donaire," Mares said. "That's the only guy to fight. I can't take a step back. You know what I'm saying? No disrespect to what's his name, Santa Cruz, he's a great champion and a great fighter. But we want to fight the best. We want to continue to step it up."

Both Mares and Moreno would have preferred the opportunity to face Donaire instead of each other on Saturday. Donaire, in fact, has said on record that he wants nothing more than to face Mares next.

All of that would be fine in an alternate reality that didn't involve the competitive dislike between promotional moguls Oscar De La Hoya and Bob Arum.

"It's up to Nonito [Donaire's] promotion, because on our side, we're willing," Mares said. "Oscar [De La Hoya] said he is willing to drive [or] walk to Vegas and knock on Bob Arum's door. We're willing to make the fight happen, so let's go. If Bob Arum wants to and Nonito will do it, we want the fight."

Mares used an unyielding body attack to constantly bend Moreno on Saturday, close to the point of breaking him under the intense pressure. Mares, who often led with his head and was warned for low blows and rabbit punches, then used a series of looping right hands from close range to do damage, including one in the fourth round that floored the bantamweight titlist.

Mares' proposition for a fight with Donaire is easier said than done considering the growing list of fights that should be made -- but have yet to -- involving both companies. Yet if there's a fighter involved with the doggedness to refuse to let anything stand in the way of his plans (yes, even a cold war), it could be Mares.

• Bantamweight titlist and hot prospect Leo Santa Cruz showed something on Saturday that should serve as a warning to everyone at 118 pounds and above.

As Santa Cruz, 24, continues to improve and deliver the kind of performance he put forth Saturday in a ninth-round TKO of a determined Victor Zaleta (20-3-1, 10 KOs), the question quickly becomes: Who is going to be able to stand up to that kind of pressure for 12 rounds?

The wiry, 5-foot-7 Santa Cruz (22-0-1, 13 KOs) not only possesses a fan-friendly style of straight-ahead fighting, it's his accuracy and uncommon patience within the furious-storm pace he creates with his unrelenting punch output that makes him so dangerous.

It's becoming hard for opponents to keep up with the stalking Santa Cruz -- already described as some as the most determined body puncher in the sport -- and it's only getting harder due to his technical proficiency and (get this) defensive skills, uncommon for a pressure fighter.

And unlike fellow greenhorn fighters managed by Al Haymon (does Gary Russell Jr. ring a bell?), Santa Cruz has been refreshingly allowed to climb the ladder of competition at a steady pace.

Santa Cruz said Saturday he would like one or two fights in order to allow his body to transition up to 122 pounds, where bigger names and challenges await.

• Just getting a chance to see exciting junior middleweight Alfredo Angulo back in the ring Saturday was a joy in itself, but watching the way he dismantled Raul Casarez in 57 seconds was the icing on the cake.

Angulo (20-2, 17 KOs) had been out of action for one year and five days since his last bout -- a sixth-round TKO defeat against James Kirkland in a fight-of-the-year candidate that has come to define Angulo's fearless style.

But after spending seven months in a California detention center due to immigration issues, his first-round knockout of Casarez -- via textbook left hook -- brought Angulo, who openly wept in the ring after the bout, full circle.

Angulo fights with the kind of style that leads you to believe that watching him fight off a cold could somehow be exciting. But seeing him so thankful and emotional for simply getting a chance to return to doing what he loves was more rewarding to see than any one of his gripping battles in the ring.

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