By Robert Morales
Frank Espinoza does not have the reputation of a trouble-making manager. He's not the type who goes around making promoters miserable for no good reason. But judging by the conversation we had with Espinoza this week, it sounds like he's mad as hell and is not going to take it anymore, to steal a phrase from the 1976 film "Network."
It was Monday, a very hot day at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. Filling the park were what appeared to be dozens upon dozens of homeless, mostly men. Near the boathouse was a boxing ring temporarily erected for a workout that day with the fighters participating in Saturday's Golden Boy Promotions card that will feature Abner Mares defending his super bantamweight belt against Anselmo Moreno (on Showtime).
Spotting Espinoza, we took him aside and asked him about the absurd notion that Mares may not be able to get a title unification bout with Nonito Donaire because Mares is promoted by Golden Boy and Donaire by hated rival Top Rank Inc.
It was Top Rank chairman Bob Arum who recently told BoxingScene.com that if Mares wants a fight with Donaire, he has a choice to make when his contract is up in 2013. Arum said the two companies can't work together on this fight because Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy, "is owned by Showtime."
First of all, Espinoza said Mares' contract with Golden Boy is not up until sometime in 2014, not 2013. But most of all, Espinoza is more than a little irked at all of this Top Rank-Golden Boy mess that is keeping good fighters from getting it on with each other. Very disheartening, he said.
"Oh, absolutely," Espinoza said. "To answer your question, yeah, it is very frustrating."
Espinoza then mapped out everything Mares has done while with Golden Boy, especially his recent run of five fights that has included a draw with then-bantamweight champion Yonnhy Perez, and victories over Vic Darchinyan, Joseph Agbeko twice and Eric Morel.
"You know, we have done everything asked of us," Espinoza said. "We fought Yonnhy Perez, which a lot of people and I, as one, felt that he won. Came back and, deep cut, dropped (second) round, behind on all scorecards, showed his warrior's spirit with Vic Darchinyan. That showed me a lot, he grew in that fight.
"He came back and fought Agbeko. First one was a controversial fight with the low blows. We did the right thing, we wanted to come back and prove everything to everybody that Abner is the real thing and we showed that and he won a clean (rematch) fight (along with the Showtime Tournament championship). Then after that we fought Eric Morel and now we're fighting a tough fighter in Moreno, who we respect and is a real tough fighter. And there is nothing more to prove."
That is basically when Espinoza issued what appeared to be an ultimatum. He didn't say it was, but it seemed that way.
"The only fight we want is Donaire," Espinoza said. "No ifs, no buts, no nothing. We don't want to fight nobody else. That's the fight that we're looking to fight next. If Abner gets over on Moreno, that's the only fight that I want."
By the time Mares' contract does run out, who's to say that fight with Donaire will even be possible by then? Donaire almost certainly will be at featherweight, and there is no guarantee Mares will join him there. But if that fight hasn't happened by the time Mares' contract expires, and it is still possible, it sounds like Espinoza will be discussing his fighter's options before re-upping with Golden Boy.
"Well, I mean, I think we have to have a conversation and certainly I would sit down and talk to Abner," Espinoza said. "But until then we have to respect our contract and then when the time comes sit down and have that conversation."
A Message on Mares' Face?
Not long after this talk with Espinoza, we spoke with Mares.
"Do you mind if I sit down?" Mares asked. He then took a seat on the steps that lead into the ring. He was told what his manager had just said, then was asked what he intends to do about this ridiculous ongoing beef between Golden Boy and Top Rank that is preventing him from getting with Donaire.
"I mean, like any worker, any job, when they're not getting what they want, normally what they do is go on strike," Mares said. "But me, no, I don't think I have to do that. I've just gotta go in the office and talk to my team, Golden Boy Promotions, and be a gentleman about it and talk about it and hopefully Golden Boy and the whole crew could come to an agreement and make that fight happen."
Mares was asked if he was of the same mind as Espinoza and wanted Donaire and no one else next.
"Yeah, I think it's only right," he said. "I don't think anyone would think any different, seeing my resume and seeing the fights that I've had back-to-back, and I can't wait."
Finally, we asked Mares if he would be willing to leave Golden Boy to get the fight with Donaire if that's his only option. He kind of put his head down for a second, then looked up with a pained expression.
"Really, I can't comment on that, to tell you the truth," he said.
Indeed, this kind of thing is painful for everyone - but mostly to the fighters who want to fight the best but can't because of a silly ongoing feud, and to the fans who want to see the best against the best.
Schaefer Chimes in on The Matter
With all this information in hand, we put in a call to Schaefer on Tuesday. We told him the pertinent parts of what Espinoza and Mares said. Schaefer was respectful, but stubborn in his retort. He didn't say he was going to do everything he can to get Mares what he wants. He instead came with this:
"I think when Nonito Donaire's contract is up with Top Rank, which is going to be in a year or so, then I think he's going to have to think what he wants to do," Schaefer said.
It was pointed out to Schaefer that is basically what Arum said to BoxingScene.com about Mares, which at the time did not sit well at all with Schaefer.
"I guess so," Schaefer admitted. "What goes around, comes around." Schaefer said he will deal with Mares' contract when the time comes. For now, he said, he believes it is disrespectful for people to be talking about this situation when Mares is about to take on a tough customer in Moreno.
"The thing is I always try to put the best fights together and I think we see this here as a great fight," Schaefer said. "A lot of these people who are already wondering about Abner Mares and what's going to happen (down the line), I think maybe they should have these conversations next week and not this week out respect for Moreno.
"That's like selling Moreno short and he is undefeated and there is a reason why he is undefeated. What is going to be next in that weight class, I would love to have a conversation with you next week about that. Let's enjoy what we have instead of worrying about what we might have next."
Actually, Moreno is 33-1-1.
Caplan Delivers Message From Chargin
Longtime public relations guy Bill Caplan was on hand at MacArthur Park on Monday as he is currently working for Golden Boy. As we discussed the whole situation with Mares and Donaire, Caplan told of a recent conversation he had with Hall of Fame promoter Don Chargin.
The subject was Leo Santa Cruz, the bantamweight champion from Los Angeles who Saturday will defend his belt against Victor Zaleta (20-2-1, 10 KOs) of Mexico on the Mares-Moreno undercard. Caplan said Chargin made quite a declaration.
"He said, 'Santa Cruz is so good he would run Nonito Donaire out of the ring,' " Caplan said.
Santa Cruz, just 24, is originally from Mexico but has been living in the Lincoln Heights section of Los Angeles for many years. He is 21-0-1 with 12 knockouts. He will be making the second defense of the title he won with a wide decision over Vusi Malinga this past June at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Joe Goossen Speaks out on Molina Move
Recently we reported that lightweight contender John Molina had for the second time left trainer Joe Goossen, this time taking his talents to another world-class trainer - Robert Garcia. It came on the heels of Molina being stopped in the first round by lightweight champion Antonio DeMarco on Sept. 8 in Oakland.
Molina never took a shot at Goossen. Instead, he just said, "We were happy with Joe and everything was going good. We just had to make a decision to progress in my career and we thought Robert was the guy to do it with."
Goossen spoke with us late last week. Class act that he is, he first said, "I hope he does well with Robert." Then Goossen went about defending what he described as a terrific training camp that he said left Molina as ready as he could be.
"We really made a great effort," Goossen said. "The whole team worked very hard. I know we covered every base regarding a southpaw. Had five or six left-handed sparring partners. He never got hit in the chin in training with that straight left the way he did in the fight like that. We probably did 600 rounds on the mitts, over 100 rounds of sparring with six different left-handers.
"We did a lot of damage to them in the ring. We were doing three-hour workouts, leaving no stone unturned. He looked very intimidating on the scales in Oakland. If you asked anyone involved in the camp, they would have told you we had our ducks in a row. "His quote to me was, 'I've never felt this good going into a fight.' So what can I tell you? He wants to change trainers, that's his prerogative."
Angulo Relishing Freedom
The story of junior middleweight contender Alfredo Angulo being detained at an immigration center in El Centro, Calif., for nearly eight months has been widely told.
Angulo, who will fight Raul Cazarez on Saturday's Mares-Moreno undercard, on Monday described the day he was released.
"They called me out, 'Bed 52, DMV,' meaning you could leave," Angulo said, smiling big. "I told the guards, 'Don't joke around like that, that's not funny.' They said, 'No, seriously, you're free, you're leaving.' "
What happened next must have made Angulo feel he was back in the ring in front of adoring fans.
"When they found out that I was leaving, all the other detainees cheered and yelled because they were happy for me," Angulo said.
Angulo wanted to make it clear that he was not deported, as he said many stories have stated. Rather, he presented himself to the immigration center upon entering the U.S. from Mexico on the advice of his lawyer in an attempt to work out previous visa issues.
Robert Morales covers boxing for the Los Angeles Daily News and BoxingScene.com.