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Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Updated: May 29, 3:54 PM ET
Mares to make return vs. Oquendo

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Former three-division titleholder Abner Mares, coming off his first defeat, will make his return after nearly a year out of the ring in one of the featured bouts on the Canelo Alvarez-Erislandy Lara undercard July 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Golden Boy Promotions announced Tuesday the undercard bouts that will be part of the Showtime pay-per-view "Honor & Glory" event, and Mares will face Jonathan Oquendo in the scheduled 10-round featherweight co-feature.

Mares (26-1-1, 14 KOs), a former featherweight, junior featherweight and bantamweight titleholder, has not fought since August, when, in making his first featherweight title defense, he was stunningly knocked down twice and stopped in the first round of a major upset by Jhonny Gonzalez at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

"It's been a long time, but I can't wait to step into the ring and hear my name called again," said Mares, 28, a former Mexican Olympian living in Southern California. "Jonathan Oquendo is a respectable fighter and I know he's coming to win, but he is in the way of another world title, so I have to get him out of there."

Oquendo (24-3, 16 KOs), 30, of Puerto Rico, has won two fights in a row since being knocked out in the seventh round by former junior featherweight titlist Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. in a Puerto Rican grudge match in 2012.

"Puerto Rico versus Mexico always produces great fights, and this fight won't be any different," Oquendo said. "A win over Mares will do big things for my career, and I plan on leaving Vegas with the victory."

Also on the pay-per-view telecast, former featherweight and junior featherweight titlist Juan Manuel Lopez of Puerto Rico will face Francisco Vargas of Mexico in a scheduled 10-round junior lightweight fight. In the opening bout, interim junior welterweight titleholder Johan Perez will defend his belt against Mauricio Herrera.

The 30-year-old Lopez (34-3, 31 KOs) resurrected his career March 15 by scoring a second-round knockout of former two-division titlist Daniel Ponce De Leon in their rematch. Lopez also had knocked out Ponce De Leon in the first round to win a junior featherweight title in 2008.

"I'm in great shape, I have momentum on my side after beating Daniel Ponce De Leon and I'm ready for Francisco Vargas," Lopez said. "The MGM Grand was where I had one of my biggest wins against Rafael Marquez, and I'm looking forward to more success there on July 12."

Vargas (19-0-1, 13 KOs), 29, has begun to step up his level of competition and has two solid wins in a row, 10-round decision victories against Jerry Belmontes, who lost a highly competitive decision to Omar Figueroa in a world title bout April 26, and Abner Cotto, the cousin of Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto. A win against Lopez likely would put him in position to challenge for a world title.

"Juanma Lopez is a great fighter and two-time world champion, and we're going to give the fans a fight to remember," Vargas said. "I feel like this is my time, and with a win over Juanma, it will get me that much closer to a world title shot."

Lopez and Vargas were both Olympians. Lopez represented Puerto Rico in 2004, and Vargas represented Mexico in 2008.

Perez (19-1-1, 13 KOs), 30, of Venezuela, handed former lightweight titlist Paul Spadafora his first loss when he outpointed him in November to claim the vacant interim 140-pound belt. Perez will be making his second defense when he faces Herrera.

"Every fighter dreams of fighting in Las Vegas, and on July 12 I get my chance," Perez said. "Mauricio Herrera is a great test and tough challenger to my title. I feel Herrera beat [junior welterweight champion Danny] Garcia, and, because of that, he is the best and I want to fight the best. We're going to give the fans a great battle."

In his last fight, on March 15, Herrera (20-4, 7 KOs), 34, of Riverside, California, lost a controversial majority decision to Garcia in Puerto Rico. Many thought Herrera did more than enough to dethrone Garcia.

"You have to respect Johan Perez for all he's accomplished in such a short time, and I see him as a very dangerous fighter," Herrera said. "But my only goal is to win the title, and to get there, I have to beat him on July 12."

In the main event, 23-year-old Mexican star Alvarez (43-1-1, 31 KOs) fights 154-pound world titleholder Lara (19-1-2, 12 KOs), a 31-year-old Cuban defector living in Houston, in a scheduled 12-round nontitle bout at a maximum weight of 155 pounds.

"When you get a Mexican fighter like Francisco Vargas and a Puerto Rican fighter like Juanma Lopez together -- the greatest nationalistic rivalry in all of boxing -- there will be fireworks," Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya said. "Then you have Johan Perez and Mauricio Herrera, two skilled, hungry fighters who know their way around the sweet science, making this a dream fight. And lastly, we have the highly anticipated return of Abner Mares against hard-hitting Jonathan Oquendo. So get ready for another memorable night at MGM Grand in Las Vegas."