By Robert Morales
Super bantamweight champions Nonito Donaire and Abner Mares have made no bones about wanting to fight each other. But since Donaire is promoted by Top Rank Inc. and
Mares by rival Golden Boy, the two haven't even come close to squaring off. Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy, does not hold out a lot of hope that will change, either.
"Oh, I would love to see that fight as well because I think it would be a great fight, another one of those pick-em fights," Schaefer said. "And you have the Mexican and the Filipino. So, absolutely, it's definitely a fight I would like to see, it's definitely a fight I'd like to make.
"But Bob Arum is pretty clear that he has no interest whatsoever to work with us and he was very clear, was on the record with that. So if you have a promoter who is absolutely not willing to work with us, then the fact that this fight is going to happen, the chances I think are very slim."
Schaefer was queried as to what Mares' next move could be, assuming nothing materializes with Donaire, and if the possibility exists that he could defend his title against bantamweight champion Leo Santa Cruz, who would have to move from 118 to 122.
"Well, I think he and his team are going to have to decide what they're going to do because right now there is a mandatory looming against a Mexican fighter (victor) Terrazas who is promoted by Beltran, and they're an extension of, I guess, Top Rank," Schaefer said.
"So they're going to have to decide if they're going to want to do that mandatory or if they're going to want to pursue a different fight with other names within the weight classes. And Leo Santa Cruz might be one of them, which by the way would be a hell of a fight as well."
Santa Cruz is promoted by Golden Boy.
Espinoza Has an Idea
Mares is managed by Frank Espinoza, who over the years has become one of the best and most respected managers in the game. We reached out to him to see if he had any thoughts on the bleak prospects for a Mares-Donaire fight. Turns out he has an idea that he is hopeful will at least bring something more definite to the situation - good or bad.
"I've told you before, the fight we want is Donaire and Mares," said Espinoza, of East L.A. "That's the fight we're looking at right now. We haven't really thought about any other fight right now. And I personally would like to talk to Arum and hopefully let him know how I feel about how important this fight is for the fighters, for the fans, for everybody.
"That's going to be my first step, to discuss that with him first and see what happens after that. Then we'll have a clearer picture."
Although most of Espinoza's fighters - again, including Mares - toil for Golden Boy, Espinoza has in the past had world champions such as Martin Castillo who fought for Top Rank. Not only that, Espinoza recently signed 2012 Mexican Olympian Oscar Valdez, who fights under the Top Rank banner. It is therefore Espinoza's hope that since he is in good standing with Arum, his concerns will be weighed heavily by the longtime promoter.
"That's the way I look at it," Espinoza said. "I do have a good working relationship with both companies. And that would be my desire, to speak with Arum and hopefully come up with some sort of solution to make this fight.
"Hopefully, I can meet with him and sit down with him in the next week or two to come up with some plan."
Arum Chimes In
Reached at his office in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Arum came out swinging when asked about Donaire-Mares.
"We're willing to do that fight yesterday," Arum said. "But the only basis I can do that fight is to offer Schaefer and Mares a sum of money, and we do that fight."
In other words, a Top Rank Inc. promotion only.
"Golden Boy would be mentioned and so forth, but it has to be a fight that's on HBO," Arum said. "After all, Nonito Donaire is Fighter of the Year last year only because HBO put him on four times. And to be honest about it, that guy at Showtime, (Stephen) Espinoza, won't even pick up the phone and talk to us about anything.
"So why would I entertain any thoughts of going and doing a Donaire fight on Showtime? It's not a question of not wanting to do the fight. Let him (Schaefer) come to me with a sum of money. What do they want? I'm happy to pay it. Don't you think I know that's a fight people want to see?"
Arum was asked what he thinks about Frank Espinoza - no relation to Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza - wanting a sit-down with him.
"I like Frank and I think Mares is a very nice kid and a good fighter," Arum said. "That fight would do big business, but there is nothing I can do about it. ... So, really, Frank should sit down with Golden Boy. If Mares happens to beat Donaire, they have a much-enhanced asset. I'm not looking to get options or anything like that. Just one fight. The money I'm prepared to offer, Mares will make more than twice what he's ever made in a fight."
Arum said if Donaire-Mares is not made soon, he will go about making Donaire-Guillermo Rigondeaux. That would also be a title unification bout, and Rigondeaux is promoted by Arum, so no problem there.
"That fight's going to happen unless they (Golden Boy) get off their asses make a Mares fight," Arum said.
Speaking of Valdez
The aforementioned Valdez, a 22-year-old featherweight, is 2-0 with two knockouts since turning pro in November. Although he did not win a medal in the London Games - he went 2-1 - Espinoza is jazzed to see what he could do as a pro.
"I'm really high on Oscar Valdez," Espinoza said. "I think he's the best Olympian to come out of Mexico. He has this Mexican following in Mexico and he has a following here in the States as well. He is very bilingual, a good-looking kid. He's got everything. This kid is very talented."
Espinoza was just getting started.
"He has tremendous experience in the amateurs and you're looking at a future world champion in Oscar Valdez," he said. "There is no question. Top Rank has a long-term plan for him and we're very excited."
But Wait, There's More
Schaefer, speaking by telephone last week, was very animated. As a reporter tried to exit the interview, Schaefer basically stopped him in his tracks.
"You want to talk about some of the other exciting stuff?" he said. "I'll give you a couple of other ones, where I know it's going to be toe-to-toe battle. March 2 from the Apollo Theater in New York, (Daniel) Ponce de Leon defending his (featherweight) title against Jayson Velez of Puerto Rico; that's going to be an unbelievable toe-to-toe battle.
"Another fight I'm going to try to attempt to make this year is going to be Victor Ortiz against Andre Berto or Victor Ortiz against Josesito Lopez - the rematches.
Maybe James Kirkland against Alfredo Angulo - rematch. Maybe Lucas Matthysse against Marcos Maidana. Those are some mouth-watering prospects, and that's the kind of fights we want to deliver."
Robert Morales covers boxing for the Los Angeles Daily News and BoxingScene.com.