LOS ANGELES-Abner Mares returned to form and put on a show for his friends, fans and a television audience. It was all Abner in a near-perfect performance in dominating Carlos Fulgencio of the Dominican Republic  on Thursday.

“I could hear the crowd and it made me fight stronger,” said Mares.

No evidence of eye surgery was evident as Mares showcased his smooth punching and near flawless defense in knocking out the taller power-punching Fulgencio in front of more than 2,000 at Club Nokia.

Now fighting out of Indio, the former Mexican Olympian showed why many call him a virtual fighting machine in the 118-pound weight division. He finds openings, defends counters, slips attacks and makes it look like breathing in and breathing out. It was a Picasso at his best.

Mares attacked from the beginning against the four-inch taller Fulgencio with speedy combinations to the head and body and slipped almost everything in return. If there were computerized stats it might have shown a ridiculous disparity between the two fights. But that was the first round.

“He took a lot of punches,” Mares said of the Dominican. “I liked that he was taller.”

In the second round, after tasting an abundance of power shots, Fulgencio decided to unload some heavy bombs too. It didn’t matter. Mares slipped, countered and returned bombs with the same accuracy as the first round.

For six rounds Mares seemed to know what punches were coming and when to fire back. If Fulgencio hesitated, Mares didn’t.

After five rounds and careful mastery, Mares slipped into another gear and increased the power shots even more. In the sixth round, he concentrated to the body and with a perfectly placed left hook to the liver, down went Fulgencio for the knockout.

“I got my second wind,” said Mares who slipped into another gear and left Fulgencio gasping.

“I started slow and finished strong, that’s the way champions do it,” said Mares, in his second fight following surgery to repair a torn retina. “I broke him down little by little. It was a body shot that put an end to it.”

Fulgencio said he wants a rematch.

“I only had 20 days to prepare,” said Fulgencio who trains in Santa Domingo. “I couldn’t tell if I was stronger than him but I need more time to prepare for someone like him.”

Mares wants one more fight before challenging for a world title

“I just need one more under my belt,” Mares said.

Artists always need that fine-tuning before a masterpiece. Can he duplicate the feat with the stronger fighters?

Mares is slated to fight again next month in Las Vegas.

“I’m ready,” said Mares. “I’m ready to fight right now.”

Other bouts

Wilmington’s David Gaspar (11-2-1, 7 KOs) had too much firepower for San Diego’s Sergio Espinoza (16-6-1, 5 KOs) who was moving up from flyweight to junior bantamweight. Espinoza was floored with counter left hook in the opening round and a right uppercut-left hook combination in the third round. The judges scored it 58-54 twice and 59-55 for Gaspar.

Junior lightweight star David Rodela (14-1-3, 6 KOs) found slick-fighting Puerto Rican Gamalier Rodriguez (8-2-2, 4 KOs) a little puzzling the first two rounds. The antidote was to increase the pressure and that turned the six round fight around as his longer reach against the counter-puncher began to pay off. There were no knockdowns in the fight. Judges James Jen Kin and Marty Denkin scored it 59-55 and Jerry Cantu 58-56 all for Rodela.

Oxnard’s Ricky Lopez (6-0, 2 KOs) avoided big punches from Miami’s John Wampash (1-2-1, 1 KO) in the first round, then turned on the juice and dropped the aggressive fighter three times in the four round fight. The judges scored the fight 39-35 for Lopez.

Las Vegas’s’ Juan Heraldez (1-0) proved too much even in his debut for smaller Luis Tapia (1-3) in a junior welterweight bout. After watching Tapia absorb a lot of blows referee Lou Moret stopped the fight at 2:36 of the second round.

Lake Arrowhead’s Kerry Hope (12-2) outlasted L.A.’s rugged Danny Z (8-16-4) in a six round middleweight bout. The judges scored it 57-56 twice and 59-55 for Hope. The crowd liked Danny Z and his penchant for violence.