LAS VEGAS -- Before Abner Mares vacated his junior featherweight title in order to move up to featherweight, he campaigned hard for a unification fight with fellow titleholder Nonito Donaire. That would have been a big fight and was one so many boxing fans wanted to see.
But the never-ending battle between Golden Boy, Mares' promoter, and Donaire promoter Top Rank made the fight a nonstarter.
Mares was disappointed, but moved on, vacating his 122-pound title and moving to the 126-pound featherweight division, where he landed a title shot against Mexican countryman Daniel Ponce De Leon on Saturday night (Showtime PPV, 9 ET) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in the co-feature to the Floyd Mayweather-Robert Guerrero main event.
While Mares (25-0-1, 13 KOs) moved on to face Ponce De Leon (44-4, 35 KOs), Donaire, the 2012 fighter of the year, wound up facing fellow Top Rank fighter Guillermo Rigondeaux in a unification fight on April 13 -- and was upset via unanimous decision.
Mares watched with interest and was surprised that Donaire lost.
"I was one of the many people that thought Nonito was going to take it," Mares said. "I'm obviously going to back that up because I've said that Nonito was going to win and he didn't. Rigondeaux gave him a hell of a fight, just a boxing clinic. He just outboxed him and did whatever he did with him on that fight."
Asked if he was disappointed that Donaire lost, putting a possible match between them even further out of reach, Mares said he wasn't.
"I'm not disappointed at all. Everybody knew I wanted to fight Nonito," Mares said. "Rigondeaux exposed him. I wanted to be the one to do that, but he beat me to it. And now, I would love to fight any of them, either Rigondeaux or Nonito."
Mares has a history with Rigondeaux, the two-time Olympic gold medalist and Cuban defector, going back to when they fought as amateurs.
"I saw Rigondeaux already in the amateurs in the Pan-American Games. He beat me," Mares said. "Yes, it was a controversial fight and I would love to fight him again. But again, I have a fight [with Ponce De Leon] and I plan on seeing that fight first and then let's see what happens."
Like many, Mares noticed that Donaire was not in top shape for the fight.
"[I was] surprised that Nonito seemed like he didn't train," Mares said. "He seemed like he was out of gas and didn't know what to do."