Abner Mares, Eric Morel set to fight

Abner Mares, who relinquished his bantamweight title in February to move up to junior featherweight, will face Eric Morel for a vacant world title on April 21 in the main event of a Showtime tripleheader at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.

Golden Boy Promotions has scheduled a news conference in El Paso for Tuesday afternoon to announce the fight, which it has dubbed "Battle on the Border."

Mares (23-0-1, 13 KOs) and Morel (46-2, 33 KOs) will meet at a contract weight of 120 pounds, two less than the junior featherweight maximum.

They will fight for the WBC version of the title after the alphabet organization stripped longtime titleholder Toshiaki Nishioka of Japan this week. According to the WBC, Nishioka is dealing with a personal situation and is unavailable to defend for the time being.

Also on the card:

•Bantamweight titlist Anselmo Moreno (32-1-1, 11 KOs), 26, of Panama will defend his belt against Mexico's David De La Mora (24-1, 17 KOs), also 26. Moreno, who signed with Golden Boy last year, will be appearing on his second consecutive Mares undercard. Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com he hopes to match the winner with the main event winner for the junior featherweight belt.

•In the opening Showtime bout, 23-year-old featherweight Gary Russell Jr. (19-0, 11 KOs), the 2011 ESPN.com prospect of the year, will face Dat Nguyen (17-2, 6 KOs), 29, in a scheduled eight-rounder. Russell-Nguyen was originally scheduled for Feb. 11 on the Showtime undercard of the welterweight rematch between Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto. Then it was briefly moved to the April 20 Jermain Taylor-Caleb Truax undercard on Showtime's "ShoBox" series before being moved again to the Mares-Morel card.

Mares, a 2004 Mexican Olympian who lives in Southern California, decided to move up in weight following a strong four-fight run against the best of the bantamweight division.

He fought to a disputed draw in a world title challenge against Yonnhy Perez and then won two fights to win Showtime's four-man bantamweight tournament. He took a bloody, hard-fought split decision against Vic Darchinyan followed by a controversial majority decision against Joseph Agbeko to claim a world title. In the December rematch with Agbeko, Mares, 26, retained the title by rolling to a lopsided decision victory. Moreno easily outpointed Darchinyan on the undercard.

"I did fight the best at 118. I fought four tough opponents back to back and I don't think anyone could take that away from me. It's the right decision to fight at 122 now," Mares told ESPN.com last month.

The 36-year-old Morel, a native of Puerto Rico and 1996 U.S. Olympian, is a former flyweight titleholder and interim bantamweight titlist who has won 11 consecutive fights since he resumed his career in 2008 after a three-year layoff during which he was in prison. Morel's last fight, a 10-round decision win against Jose Silveira on Dec. 3, was on the Mares-Agbeko II undercard.

Schaefer had hoped to have the card in Cancun, Mexico, because he wanted to give Mares an opportunity to fight in his birth country. However, Schaefer said they decided on El Paso instead because of looming problems getting HD equipment to Cancun.

"The quality of the signal if you pick up the feed in Mexico is not something Showtime feels is of the right quality for Showtime, so they wanted their own production trucks to go to Cancun and, unfortunately, the way to do that is by barge and the barge which takes care of those HD trucks is undergoing repairs and not available," Schaefer said.

"We're going into a hotbed for boxing with a tremendous Mexican crowd right on the border," he added. "The Don Haskins center is a great venue that has had many fights, but no big ones in awhile, so this is a great venue for Abner to fight for another title. And Morel knows how to be champion and this is another opportunity for him. Plus, it's another fight in the Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry, which usually brings the best out of the fighters."