When former three-division world titleholder Abner Mares withdrew last Wednesday from his shot at junior lightweight world titlist Gervonta Davis, he cited an elbow injury he had suffered in a sparring session as the reason.
While Mares did indeed have discomfort in his right elbow, Mares has admitted the real reason for his withdrawal from the main event of a Showtime card on Saturday (10 p.m. ET) at the Dignity Health Sports Park -- the former StubHub Center -- in Carson, California, was because he suffered a detached retina in his right eye and had surgery to repair it last week.
"It happened in a sparring session. It happened on Wednesday [Jan. 23]. I got hit in the eye," said Mares, who wore a patch over his eye during an interview with Kate Abdo that aired on Sunday on "Inside PBC Boxing," the FS1 news and interview show about Premier Boxing Champions fights and fighters that he co-hosts. "I felt the pain, but I went through it. I still sparred. I came back on Friday [Jan. 25] for another sparring session, I got hit again. It's a contact sport, and my eye got super red. And it was that Friday and Saturday where I started seeing clouds and just blurred vision, and I told my wife, and my wife was like, 'You got to get it checked.' I said, 'No, I'm good.'
"So, Monday came and I was gonna go to the gym. I had another sparring session ready for Monday. But my wife insisted to go see the doctor. So, she won, and I went to the doctor, a specialist, and he said, 'Abner, you have a detached retina. You're not gonna be able to fight.' ... It was really hard for me to hear those words once again. It was devastating."
In 2008, Mares suffered a detached retina in his left eye, an injury that kept him out of the ring for 11 months and nearly ended his career. He was able to return, fight at a high level and win multiple world titles, at bantamweight, junior featherweight and featherweight.
When he pulled out of the fight with Davis, Mares said he was not only dejected because of the injury, but because of all the hateful messages he received on social media from people saying he was faking an injury and was scared of Davis.
"In reality, people didn't know what I was going through," said Mares, who pursued the fight, for which he would have to move up another weight class. "They didn't know the pain I was going through. I'm not that type of person. I'm not that type of fighter. I called out Davis. I wanted him."
Mares (31-3-1, 15 KOs), 33, of Los Angeles, said Davis also direct-messaged him on Twitter and accused him of faking an injury to get out of the fight.
"It's been a tough week. ... I know that I'm going to come back strong after this," Mares said. "It's just a matter of healing, resting and doing what the doctors say."
Mares said he is ready for the possibility that the injury could end his career.
"My doctor is one of the best, and if he says, 'Abner, you're good to go,' I'm going to up there and continue to become a world champion once again," Mares said. "And if he says no, I'm ready for retirement. But I honestly feel I'm gonna come back and I'm gonna conquer that and become a world champion once again."
Mares said he stated his elbow was the reason for pulling out of the fight because he did not want people to know about the condition of his eye, but he eventually decided to come clean.
"I do have a bad elbow, but not that bad to cancel the fight," Mares said. "I mainly said elbow because I was afraid. I didn't want people to know about my eye. I said if I tell people about my eye, people are gonna think, 'That's it, he's not fighting anymore, it's a red flag.'
"I don't know, I was scared, honestly. I was scared to let the people know that I'm going through this. I don't want people to see me as handicapped. I don't want people to feel that I can't fight anymore, because I know I can. I just wanted to hide it. No one knew. I just recently told my manager and my promoter; no one knew. Only my family members, and it was hard."
Mares said he is on a 90-day medical suspension, which the doctor said would be time for his eye to heal "and then take it from there."
Instead of making his first title defense against Mares, Davis (20-0, 19 KOs), 24, a southpaw from Baltimore, will face a short-notice replacement opponent in former junior featherweight world titlist Hugo Ruiz (39-4, 33 KOs), 30, of Mexico, who moved up to featherweight for his most recent bout on the Jan. 19 Manny Pacquiao-Adrien Broner Showtime PPV undercard in Las Vegas. Now Ruiz is moving up another division to fill in for Mares.