Junior featherweight titlist Abner Mares has a tough assignment against bantamweight titleholder Anselmo Moreno at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Saturday night (Showtime, 10 ET/PT).
Moreno (33-1-1, 12 KOs) is a very skilled and slick southpaw who has not lost since dropping a four-round split decision in 2002. While Mares-Moreno is a high-class match, it is simply not the one most fight fans want to see, but it is the fight their promoter, Golden Boy, could deliver.
Nonito Donaire also holds a junior featherweight belt and was in Houston on Thursday for Top Rank’s formal news conference to announce his Dec. 15 defense on HBO against Mexican warrior Jorge Arce, who has been in many great fights but is now past his prime and a big underdog. Donaire-Arce is simply not the fight most fans want to see, but it was the one Top Rank could deliver.
I think you know where I’m going with this: The fight most fans want to see is Donaire against Mares.
They were both bantamweight titleholders at the same time. And now they are titleholders and the top guys at junior featherweight. They both are superb fighters who make fan-friendly fights. A match between them would be one of the most significant and entertaining in the sport -- one HBO and Showtime would fall over each other to pay a lot of money to get.
Yet, it's not happening because of the silly, energy-sucking feud between Golden Boy and Top Rank, which has done nothing but damage the sport for years even if the bosses of the companies won't admit it.
There are a lot of fights they could make together that would be great, but Donaire-Mares is one of the very best. That is bad for the fans -- the people the promoters claim to care about -- and the fighters.
Frank Espinoza, who manages Mares, has told me that the one fight they really want is against Donaire. They took the Moreno fight because they had no other serious options and Espinoza feels as though they were forced into it.
Donaire would also love to fight Mares, but the match is not available to him. So while Donaire (30-1, 19 KOs) has had a busy year with fights against good opponents -- Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., Jeffrey Mathebula and Toshiaki Nishioka with Arce (61-6-2, 46 KOs) on deck -- none is remotely as significant as a showdown with Mares.
Mares (24-0-1, 13 KOs) also wants to fight Donaire.
"That's actually the fight I wanted before the Anselmo Moreno fight, but it didn't work out," Mares said.
When Mares said it didn't work out, he was being kind. Top Rank and Golden Boy won't even discuss the fight.
Instead, their chief executives, Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer and Top Rank's Bob Arum -- who despise each other -- instead spout off about how when the fighters' contracts with the other company expire they can sign with their company and the fight can be made.
Mares didn't want to get dragged into the fray, but it's clear that he's frustrated, as he should be. Not getting a fight with Donaire means a lot of money and glory neither guy will ever make up.
"I got this fight [against Moreno], which is also as tough and as great for the fans," Mares said. "All I can say, Nonito, he's a great fighter. He's really, really explosive -- a really great fighter. His last performance against Nishioka, I mean the fight was a little bit, you could say, boring at the beginning. But being that Nishioka wasn't throwing that much, he wasn't giving that much, but Nonito found a way and took his time, and got that knockout. He looked good.
"If I were to fight him, obviously I'd fight him different and it would be a great fight. I know and I've seen that people want that fight. They've been asking for that fight and they know that I could give them a hell of a fight and definitely beat him as well. But again, that's in the future, first things first."
Mares said he thought that he would get to fight Donaire after beating Eric Morel in April. Maybe he thought that, but everyone else knew it wasn't going to happen no matter how the promoters and TV execs want to spin it.
"I thought that was going to be my next fight after the Morel fight, but obviously, for some reason the fight didn't happen. It didn't get made," Mares said. "Without a doubt, I'll take, hands down, the Nonito fight. All I have to say is this fight [with Moreno] is done already, I'm fighting Moreno and [then] keep going. This is a tough fight and, God willing, I win this fight I hope [and] I really hope that we get the Nonito fight after."
So do we all. But the childish, industry-damaging behavior of Golden Boy and Top Rank is going to have to stop first.
Don't hold your breath.