Former three-division world titleholder Abner Mares suffered a right elbow injury during a sparring session Friday and, unable to overcome it, withdrew Wednesday from his shot next week against junior lightweight world titlist Gervonta Davis.
Davis was supposed to make the first defense of his second 130-pound title reign against Mares on Feb. 9 (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET) at the Dignity Health Sports Park -- the former StubHub Center -- in Carson, California. Instead, the show will go on with Davis instead defending his belt against late replacement Hugo Ruiz.
"I'm not going to sugarcoat this. I'm disappointed and devastated that I've injured my right elbow in sparring," said Mares, who has experienced soreness in his elbow after the past two fights but nothing that had been cause for major concern. "This is something that I haven't had happen to me during my career, and the feeling is just horrible.
"I will be going to see my doctor about this and am prepared to follow whatever recommendations and rehab that gets me back into the ring. I'm healthy, not afraid of doing the work, and I will be back. This is a temporary setback. Don't count me out."
Mares (31-3-1, 15 KOs), 33, who has won world titles at bantamweight, junior featherweight and featherweight, was moving up to junior lightweight after having called out Davis (20-0, 19 KOs), 24, a southpaw from Baltimore, who quickly agreed to fight Mares on his Southern California turf.
"Boxing is a sport of brains, passion and physical punishment," said Robert Garcia, Mares' trainer, who was overseeing the sparring session when the injury occurred. "When you're in the ring sparring with talented, top-class sparring partners, the chances of injuries are very high. That was the situation in this case. He was sparring top young fighters, and he injured his elbow. He cannot fight like that, especially in a fight against Davis."
Ruiz (39-4, 33 KOs), 30, of Mexico, is a former junior featherweight world titleholder who moved up to featherweight for his most recent bout, which took place Jan. 19 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the Manny Pacquiao-Adrien Broner undercard.
Ruiz was supposed to challenge interim featherweight titlist Jhack Tepora, but Tepora failed to make weight and was stripped of the belt and that fight was canceled. Instead, Ruiz took on late replacement Alberto Guevara, who had been on standby because of Tepora's weight issues, and easily outpointed him. Ruiz scored a first-round knockdown and won 100-89, 99-90 and 99-90 without taking much punishment.
Although 5-foot-9 Ruiz will own a 4-inch height advantage over Davis, he will be a huge underdog given Davis' youth, experience in the heavier division and explosive punching power.
Ruiz, however, is confident, especially because he had trained to fight a southpaw in Tepora.
"I trained for three months to fight a southpaw when I fought in January," Ruiz said. "When the opponent changed, it was hard to adjust in 24 hours. After the fight, I immediately went back to the gym, because you never know what's going to happen in boxing. I'm 100 percent ready to knock out Gervonta Davis."
Said Sampson Lewkowicz, Ruiz's promoter: "Hugo Ruiz has another opportunity to fight for a world title because he's demonstrated that he's devoted to boxing and his career. He went right back to the gym after his last fight. He's ready for another great opportunity to be a world champion, and he's going to take advantage of that opportunity."