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Abner Mares aims for Leo Santa Cruz, Gonzalez-Russell winner

Abner Mares has plans for big fights in 2015, starting with Leo Santa Cruz this summer.

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Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

After fighting through an illness to pick up a win over Arturo Santos Reyes on Saturday night, former three-division titleholder Abner Mares is making bigger plans for his next couple of outings. Mares, 29, says he's hoping to face Leo Santa Cruz next in the summer, and then the winner of the March 28 fight between Jhonny Gonzalez and Gary Russell Jr.

Mares (29-1-1, 15 KO) was not at his best on Saturday, and admitted as much:

"That wasn't me out there. I was tired and felt very fatigued in between rounds. And once that sets in it is hard to throw punches and get a good round in. ... I'm going to rest for two weeks and hopefully I can fight Leo Santa Cruz in June or July," Mares said. "After that, I want the winner of Jhonny Gonzalez and Gary Russell Jr."

There are some who believe that Mares is just on the downward slope after years of tough fights against top competition, but there's no doubt that he looked better and sharper in a December win over Jose Ramirez than he did this weekend, when he looked to have very little energy after the first couple of rounds.

Fights with Santa Cruz, Gonzalez, or Russell would, of course, require him to be more on top of his game. Santa Cruz (29-0-1, 17 KO) has been heavily criticized for his last couple of opponents, but is a good fighter who can put out an impressive workrate, too, and is looking to move up to featherweight soon, by all accounts. That fight has been discussed plenty by both camps, and both are with Al Haymon. The fight could easily be made.

Gonzalez (57-8, 48 KO) beat Mares in August 2013 to win the WBC featherweight title, and will make his third defense against Russell (25-1, 14 KO) on March 28 on Showtime. (For whatever it's worth, Gonzalez's last two opponents have been just as bad as Santa Cruz's, but with less complaint as neither has been televised on a major show in the United States.) Russell is coming off of a win over Christopher Martin following a loss to Vasyl Lomachenko.

Does Mares still pose a threat to these fighters, or do you think he's declining?

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