Nonito Donaire vs. Abner Mares: Yet Another Great Fight Promoters Have Stalled

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Nonito Donaire vs. Abner Mares: Yet Another Great Fight Promoters Have Stalled
Harry How/Getty Images
Nonito Donaire is a top pound-for-pound fighter.

Sanctioning bodies and rival promotional outfits have done their best to occupy boxing with petulance and greed. Considering that boxing’s bureaucratic institutions are technically in a unique position to help the sport, they seem to possess little foresight or desire to do so.

This unfortunate trend could continue if a fight between Nonito Donaire and Abner Mares never gets made.

Last night, Juan Manuel Marquez knocked Manny Pacquiao out cold in a sensational fight that benefited boxing. Pacquiao-Marquez IV lived up to the action and competitiveness of the previous three fights and finally crowned a definitive winner. The fight exceeded expectations and gave fans exactly what they deserve.

Well, everything except for the continued hope that Pacquiao will one day fight Floyd Mayweather.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Mares (right) has defeated elite opposition, including Joseph Agbeko (twice)..

The hypothetical Mayweather-Pacquiao fight was unlikely to ever happen anyway, and frankly, its genuine appeal had already expired. Pacquiao-Marquez IV only confirmed this. Now, boxing fans can finally let go of the Mayweather-Pacquiao albatross that has strangled the sport for years.

There was a time, however, when Mayweather-Pacquiao should have happened and would have greatly benefited the sport. Unfortunately, that was several years ago. Whether one blames Bob Arum or the fighters and their respective camps for this missed opportunity, the fact remains that everyone involved simply blew it. 

A super bantamweight unification fight between WBO champion Donaire (30-1, 19 KO) and WBC boss Mares (25-0-1, 13 KO) is likely at the peak of its appeal and would feature two prizefighters who consistently seek out elite competition. It is up to Top Rank and Golden Boy to finally realize this.

With Donaire-Mares in a similar situation that Mayweather-Pacquiao was in two or three years ago, fans shouldn’t be surprised if they are again disappointed.

David Becker/Getty Images
Bob Arum is a mercurial figure in boxing.

The frustrating inability to make Donaire-Mares has everything to do with the feud between rival promotional outfits Top Rank, who promotes Donaire, and Golden Boy, who handles Mares. In his ESPN.com boxing blog, Dan Rafael succinctly outlines the foolishness of this impasse:

Yet, it's not happening [Donaire-Mares] because of the silly, energy-sucking feud between Golden Boy and Top Rank, which has done nothing but damage the sport for years even if the bosses of the companies won't admit it.

There are a lot of fights they could make together that would be great, but Donaire-Mares is one of the very best. That is bad for the fans—the people the promoters claim to care about—and the fighters.

Frank Espinoza, who manages Mares, has told me that the one fight they really want is against Donaire. They took the [Anselmo] Moreno fight because they had no other serious options and Espinoza feels as though they were forced into it.

Donaire recently told RingTV.com’s Lem Satterfield that he is keen to make a fight with Mares

“I want to request that fight with Mares to happen. I requested that fight last year and this year, but it never happened,” said Donaire of Mares, who dropped Moreno during the fifth round of a victory that ended Moreno's 27-bout winning streak.

Harry How/Getty Images
Donaire (left) destroyed a tentative Toshiaki Nishioka in his last fight.

“Maybe now that he's calling me out on national television, it might happen. We'll see, but I want to try to get that fight for next year. But we'll see. I'll fight Mares, who is the Golden Boy guy as well. We'll have to wait for that negotiation to present itself. But I want that fight in order to begin cleaning out this division and then move up to 126.”

This echoes sentiments that both Mares and Espinoza have expressed. Of course, Satterfield also notes that Donaire has been linked to a potential fight against WBA 122-pound champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, which could happen if the Donaire-Mares stalemate continues.

Still, Donaire-Mares is one of the few fights in boxing that can generate unanimous, widespread excitement and captivate casual fans.

If Donaire understands the importance of securing this fight as soon as possible, Mares appears to be a willing and enthusiastic adversary. In an interview with BoxingScene.com, Mares acknowledges that he has noticed some flexibility between Top Rank and Golden Boy and that he’s now more “excited” than “frustrated” about the prospect of fighting Donaire.

Al Bello/Getty Images
Manny Pacquiao's KO loss is a lesson to all proposed "mega-fights."

In the same interview, Mares claims that fighting Donaire could “help save boxing and bring it back to where it was.” This type of hyperbole is expected from fighters trying to promote a bout. That said, the idea of one specific fight “saving” boxing is the exact fallacy that blew the prospect of Mayweather-Pacquiao out of proportion.

This is not meant to downgrade the significance of Donaire-Mares. Donaire and Mares are peaking, and they have both strung together runs of impressive victories against elite opponents.

At 30, Donaire is in the midst of his prime and clearly wants to maximize it. As a result, Top Rank and Golden Boy must realize that waiting beyond 2013 to make Donaire-Mares is tempting fate.

Fighters can often suffer steep an unexpected declines in boxing’s smaller weight classes. While nothing suggests that this will happen to Donaire imminently, there is no need to risk it.

More fights between elite champions is what boxing needs. A stylistic breakdown of why Donaire versus Mares is a tremendous matchup is best saved for another article. Still, Mares’ combination of skill and aggression would undoubtedly produce fierce exchanges when pitted against Donaire’s classy boxing an unparalleled explosiveness.

Will Donaire-Mares happen in 2013?

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Waiting too long to make this fight negates the potential historical and financial benefits of a rematch or trilogy should the first fight prove worthy. If both boxers are sincere in their desire to fight each other, it is now exclusively up to the promoters to grow up.

Sadly, this remains a frightening and unlikely prospect.

The result of Pacquiao-Marquez IV liberated boxing fans from the clutches of Mayweather-Pacquiao. Now, boxing can move on and thrive if the appropriate fights are made and the wishes of the actual fighters and fans are met. Donaire and Mares can be crucial in this transition.

Let’s hope all promotional outfits allow this to happen. 

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