By Jake Donovan
From the moment Top Rank signed Nonito Donaire some four years ago, the belief was that the Fil-Am star would go on to win world titles in some seven weight classes, conquering every division from 112 all the way to 130.
Those plans still remain very much on the table as Donaire continues to grow into new divisions with each passing year. A flyweight titlist at the time he signed with Top Rank, Donaire has since captured alphabet hardware and interim titles at 115, 118 and most recently in the 122 lb. weight class where he and his team believe will be home for quite some time.
Fresh on the heels of his vacant title win over Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. this past February, Donaire now heads into a dangerous unification bout with Jeffrey Mathebula of South Africa. The bout headlines HBO’s next telecast, which airs July 7 live from the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
Assuming Donaire is victorious, the plan from there is total unification. Top Rank has under contract Guillermo Rigondeaux, who is said to next return to the ring on September 15. The one wild card in the equation is Abner Mares, who won a title earlier this year and fights for Golden Boy Promotions.
As far as Arum is concerned, the problem isn’t so much doing business with his on-again off-again hated rival company. The bigger picture as he sees it, is the fight landing on the right network.
“HBO is the premiere network and to its credit has embraced this division,” insists Arum of the network which will showcase Donaire in his fourth straight fight. “Mares is a very good fighter, but he has to be willing to perform on the premiere network which is HBO and not on the secondary network that is Showtime.
“It’s not a question of Top Rank or Golden Boy, but it’s the fact that HBO has embraced Nonito and this entire division and that’s where the future is.”
Mares’ 122 lb. title win over Eric Morel came earlier this year on Showtime. Oddly enough, so too did Rigondeaux’ title winning effort over Rico Ramos. Donaire himself saw his career launch to new heights on Showtime, first on its Shobox series and then in his breakthrough performance in knocking out then-unbeaten Vic Darchinyan. The bout aired live on Showtime Championship Boxing, with its five-year anniversary landing on the same night he faces Mathebula on HBO.
Still, the past is the past and Arum believes HBO and not Showtime has the right idea when it comes to making great things happen in the 122 lb. division. The path has already been paved on Top Rank’s end, as the company is already making plans to line up Rigondeaux as well as Toshiaki Nishioka of Japan and Mexican superstar Jorge Arce.
Mares won’t necessarily be left out in the cold, but in Top Rank’s eyes must be willing to play ball if he wants to be part of this game.
“Nishioka will be at the fight July 7 and Rigondeaux fights September 15,” Arum stated in explaining each fighter’s involvement in this unofficial series of 122 lb fights. “Mares is there. But he’s got to cut the apron strings and be willing to fight in this whole series of important fights on the premiere network, HBO which is behind and knows how great this division is.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]