|Can Mares-Donaire Get Made?|
In the immediate aftermath of Abner Mares’ convincing victory over the respected Anselmo Moreno on November 10th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, conversations centered on having Mares - who holds the WBC junior featherweight title - face the WBO beltholder, Nonito Donaire, in 2013. It seems like a natural fight, one yearned for by at least the hardcore boxing fans, between two boxers who have been featured regularly on the premium cable networks the past couple of years. And it features two talented and accomplished prizefighters in their physical primes.
So what’s the hold-up?
Well, you know what it is. It’s that little intractable dispute between the two promotional entities that represent the two boxers. Golden Boy (which handles Mares) and Top Rank (who has Donaire) are locked in this “Cold War” that sees these two companies operating in such a vacuum away from each other that they have essentially created two separate boxing leagues.
It’s been a few years since the two companies (whose histories are intertwined with each other’s given that Oscar De la Hoya was once promoted to stardom by Bob Arum and Top Rank) have worked with each other on a true co-promotion. The last one this reporter can recall is the fight between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton in May of 2009.
The fighters and their respective managements have said all the right things regarding this potential hook-up, especially Mares, who’s made it clear that this is the only match-up he wants next. But the reality is that while, theoretically, the promoters work for the fighters, the promoters are who really control and dictate who their fighters face. And as long as they are being paid well, you could argue the boxers themselves don’t really care who they are facing. But you could argue here that Mares-Donaire is the most economically viable fight in this division.
So can we begin to even discuss this? After all, Oscar De la Hoya said he’d be willing to walk to Las Vegas to knock on Arum’s door. Later, he amended it to say he’d do the more sensible thing and just meet him halfway or await his phone call. Regardless, can we at least start a productive dialogue?
Bob Arum told Maxboxing last week, “It really wouldn’t be appropriate for them to contact us now until the fight on December 15th (Arum is talking about Donaire’s date with Jorge Arce in Houston, Texas on that night). Secondly, [WBC President] Jose Sulaiman tells us that Mares must fight a mandatory. So all of this is just bullsh*t talk. I don’t want to waste my time with bullsh*t talk. If Donaire is successful against Arce and if Mares is free to fight, then fine; we’ll talk.”
If there is someone who can perhaps bridge this divide, it’s Mares’ manager, Frank Espinoza (who has made it crystal clear he wants ’the Filipino Flash’ next), who, with the signing of Mexican Olympian Oscar Valdez to Top Rank, now works intimately with both companies.
“We talked about it,” said Arum. “We expressed the same thing; eventually this fight will be made. But you have to understand, it’ll be made only on one condition - and that is they tell us how much they want to fight.”
In other words, no co-promotion. Basically, Top Rank would be doing a provision of service contract (much like the way they did last year with Golden Boy for Daniel Ponce de Leon to face Yuriorkis Gamboa) with Mares and Golden Boy. But working together as full partners? Nyet.
“They can be on the dais and all of that but as far as the business for the fight, it’ll only be done by us. In other words, I’m not interested in business with them. If they will give me a number and that number’s OK and they split it with Mares, I’m fine with that. Just the way if they have an opportunity for a fighter of mine and they want to make a proposal, an offer, it would be done in the same way that Dan Goossen is doing with Kelly Pavlik (to face Andre Ward on January 26th). We’re not looking to take over Goossen’s promotions.” According to the veteran promoter, there are other ancillary issues that have to be dealt with other than the animosity between the two rival companies. “You have to understand; this is not just bombast. There are various elements in doing a co-promotion with them that are irreconcilable. Number one, [Golden Boy has] a different major sponsor for Mares - they have Corona; we have Tecate. They have a different television network in Mexico. They have Televisa; we have TV Azteca.”
Then there’s this from Arum, “I would rather go out of business then do a fight on Showtime, where the guy who’s running Showtime (Stephen Espinoza) doesn’t return calls, just f**ks us around. So if they want to do a fight for Mares against Donaire and they came up with a number that’s acceptable, of course, we’ll do it.”
OK, so it’s clear there are hurdles to overcome - none smaller than which network would televise this bout. The 2002 fight between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson, which was much bigger in scope, had similar roadblocks that centered on both HBO and Showtime (if you recall, announcing teams were split and rebroadcast rights were determined by who won that fight in Memphis).
Can pork chops grow again on the palm trees in Tel Aviv (and rest in peace to the late Jay Larkin, who came up with that gem of a quote in regard to Lewis-Tyson)?
So is Arum just avoiding this fight or, more to the matter, doing his best not to break bread with Golden Boy at all costs?
“I think so,” said Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, who added, “I very much like your idea as well.”
OK, my idea was a tweet I put out last week (@stevemaxboxing) where I stated that perhaps both Top Rank and Golden Boy basically do what amounts to a purse bid for Mares-Donaire. The highest bidder wins the right to promote the fight. Yeah, I know it’s a far-fetched idea but Schaefer added, “I think you agree on a split and then you do a purse bid and [Arum] can work out his deal with his fighter; I can work on my deal with my fighter. You do at the end what is the most important thing; obviously, as fight fans, we all want to see these great match-ups. But at the end of the day, we have a responsibility to ensure that we make the most money for our fighters and that’s maximizing revenues for the fighters.”
Back in the olden days, fights went to promoters who made the best offer for them. It’s how the first fight between Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns ended up at Main Events. But nowadays, with fighters tied up in long-term deals with promoters, for the most part, this scenario no longer exists. Purse bids are held for mandatory title defenses and elimination bouts where an agreement cannot be reached between the representatives of the competing boxers.
If there is one thing Arum and Schaefer do see eye-to-eye on (and yes, they actually agree on something), it’s that there are legitimate issues regarding sponsors and networks. “Bob is right there,” Schaefer conceded, “but that’s why I think when you do a purse bid, then all those issues go away, because, ‘Hey, sorry, we don’t control it,’ and vice-versa. So it is what it is. So Bob can go to his partners and we can go to our partners and everybody is going to have to sharpen their pencils and based on those numbers, we would then participate in such a purse bid. Whoever has more money on the table will obviously be able to pay more for the fight. I think you had a great idea.”
(Thanks, Rich. I get lucky once in awhile.)
As for a looming WBC mandatory for Mares, Schaefer says, “That’s the first I hear but I don’t know. Sulaiman may have informed Bob first. Now, you see, when I heard that, now that starts to sound to me like avoidance because I don’t think there’s any sanctioning organization which would not want to sanction a fight like that. Whether it’s Donaire and Mares, whatever mandatories - even if there would be a mandatory, it’s the first I’ve heard – [it] must be one of his guys, probably, if in fact that is the case. Then I’m sure that can be worked out.”
Currently, the top-ranked 122-pounder in the WBC is Victor Terrazas, who holds the WBC silver title and is indeed promoted by Zanfer (which is closely tied to Top Rank). Now, it’s not clear if he’s been named the mandatory by the organization or not. But let’s be honest; other than the IBF, which is very rigid in regard to their champions fulfilling their mandatory obligations, these rules can change and those in charge can change their minds on a whim. Many of the WBC bylaws come down to this: What does Sulaiman want to happen? This decision could come down to just who has a cozier relationship with Sulaiman at the moment, which fluctuates (yeah, I know, it’s a cynical view but this is the boxing business).
“Again, I think if Golden Boy and Top Rank want to put together that fight, I don’t think that mandatories are going to be an issue,” Schaefer stated. “Now, if [Arum] comes with that kind of stuff - now that sounds like an excuse.”
No, Mares-Donaire isn’t a fight on the level of, say, Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather. It’s not even a fight that can necessarily be called “big” based on the fact that neither entity is truly a top-shelf draw (neither can really fill up a 10,000 seat venue as of now). In their last appearances on television, Donaire’s peak number of HBO viewers hovered at around 800,000 on October 13th and Mares’ peak on Showtime a couple of weeks ago was 504,000. Regardless, it’s a good fight, one that should be consummated and enjoyed by the public. But it points to a bigger question: Can these companies at least work together when need be?
If not, fights like this and Brandon Rios vs. Lucas Matthysse are fights that will only be imagined.
Schaefer pleads, “I’ve tried many times and I think it’s time for the writers as well to cut [Arum] some slack and to cut me some slack as well too. Because I certainly tried and tried but after being continuously subject to these comments from him, at some point, you have to realize this is not going to work, that relationship and you just move on. And I have moved on; I really have moved on. As I said before, I couldn’t care less anymore what Bob Arum is saying or thinking or doing.”
Golden Boy finishes off 2012 with promotions featuring Robert Guerrero vs. Andre Berto, Miguel Cotto at the Garden and the return of Amir Khan. Top Rank ends its campaign with Pacquiao’s fourth contest with Juan Manuel Marquez and then Donaire-Arce. So yeah, they are doing OK without each other. The question is, can they do at least a little bit with each other?
“We are doing extremely well. We have a record year; we have one great fight promotion after another,” said Schaefer. “Look at what’s happening in the last couple of months of the year. Honestly, Bob Arum, I couldn’t care less [about what he’s doing].”
As for perhaps reaching out to him in making Mares-Donaire happen, he says he will not do that till December 15th passes.
“So let’s see what’s going to happen.”