Last Tuesday, a press conference was staged at the Conga Room at L.A. Live to promote the finals of Showtime’s bantamweight tournament featuring Joseph Agbeko and Abner Mares. At about the same time, a media conference call was held by Top Rank featuring Fernando Montiel and Nonito Donaire, who fight this weekend at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. In a perfect world, the winners of these two would face each other for supremacy in 118-pound class (with all due respect to WBA titlist Anselmo Moreno, who isn’t involved in either scenario). But there is one fly in this ointment.
The growing discontent between Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions, who simply don’t do business with each other nowadays.
If Mares beats Agbeko at the Nokia Theater in a couple of months, there is no doubt who he wants next- the winner of Montiel-Donaire.
"Definitely, for the boxing fans, it would only be fair for me to fight the winner of Montiel-Donaire and the winner of this tournament to fight each other," said Mares, who earned this shot at the IBF champion by gutting out a tough victory over Vic Darchinyan in December. "But if you really look at it, the winner of this tournament should definitely be called the best bantamweight. Why? Because we have fought nothing but the best in bantamweight. My last fight was against Darchinyan; my last fight before that one was against Yonnhy Perez and if you look at Montiel or Donaire, their last fights weren’t against top ranked fighters. Just looking at it that way, whoever wins this fight, [he] definitely should be called the best bantamweight."
(In all fairness, Montiel did go to Japan and lifted the WBC strap by stopping the respected Hozumi Hasagawa, who was considered the best bantamweight on the planet for at least a few years.)
And yes, Agbeko, who regained his title by exacting revenge on Perez, wants the winner of this weekend’s bout. "Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. Right now, I’m concentrating on Mares but I know, definitely, I’m going to go past him and look at the winner of Donaire and Mares."
The “Filipino Flash” is on board with this plan.
"Oh, definitely, that completes everything for me because that makes it a chance for undisputed, being an undisputed champion," Donaire told Maxboxing last week. "I’d like to go for that since I’m already there rather than building up from scratch." There has been talk of Donaire moving up immediately to junior featherweight after this bout but even if he should topple Montiel, he feels he has unfinished business in the division. "I just want to clean it up," he said. "Be the best in it and be the undisputed guy. That’s my goal; that’s my dream and I work hard for that. That’s what I want to do."
OK, the fighters seem to want it. Make it happen for the summer.
If it were only that easy.
Those who manage these careers are more realistic of the possibility of any fight taking place right now between Top Rank and Golden Boy.
"Yeah, I want that fight; I do but will it happen?" asked Mares’ manager, Frank Espinoza, rhetorically. "I can’t tell you that because of the conflict we have with the promoters. But yeah, we’ll be open to that, absolutely."
Cameron Dunkin, who manages Donaire, admits, "I think right now, that’s a hard fight to make because you’d have to deal with Golden Boy or Don King with those guys and that may be rough to make. So I think there’s other fights for Nonito at 122, moving up. You’ve got Wilfredo Vazquez Jr.; you’ve got a rematch with Montiel at either ’18 or ’22, if it’s a good fight and then you’ve got Steve Molitor. So you’ve got many opportunities for him after this."
In recent years, Top Rank has become more and more insular in their match-ups but they are working with King on March 12th when Miguel Cotto takes onRicardo Mayorga. Making a deal with King doesn’t seem to be too problematic since the old archrivals have reached a détente in their old age. Now, breaking bread with Golden Boy, that’s a whole ’nother issue. When asked about this, Arum admitted, "If [Mares] wins that fight and if there is no rematch between Donaire and Montiel and if the winner of that fight wants to stay at 118, the winner of the Mares-Agbeko fight is a natural opponent."
Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, says that making a Mares-Montiel/Donaire fight should be no problem. "Maybe we’ll just buy Arum out of the promotion because you know what they say; what comes around, goes around and so we’ll see who comes up with more money."
Arum will never, ever allow for such a scenario. His position would be that he is the guy with the draw and it’s his company that truly knows how to promote and maximize an event. Till they find a common ground, you will not see any co-promotions between the two entities. Right now, Top Rank seems to almost be creating its own league ala the UFC.
"Look, here we have Don King, Thompson Boxing, Golden Boy,- we’re all working together to try and get the best fighters out there possible to fight each other," said a frustrated Oscar De La Hoya, "but we’re going to continue with what we’re doing because this is really what the fans want to watch."
There had always been tension between the two companies- especially given the fact that De La Hoya was promoted and developed by Arum’s company- but this cold war has reached an all-time frigid level. When asked if he thought the level of animosity would get this bad, De La Hoya answered, "Not on our part. Golden Boy still, to this day, wants to continue to work with whoever, just to bring the best fights to the public but it’s very unfortunate that the other side doesn’t want to work with us. We’re willing to do all the fights possible because this is what the sport’s all about. When you put on the best fighting the best, they become events and Showtime gets involved, HBO gets involved and the public embraces the events."
It’s a shame that some of the most intriguing bouts in boxing can’t be made because of the discontent between the two promotional titans. Espinoza says it best, "These are the type of fights that fans want to see; the public deserves to see. So yeah, absolutely, if the promoters started getting more media pressure and listen to the fans, then I think these fights can actually happen."
DUNKIN THE DIPLOMAT
Don’t know if I’d call him the Henry Kissinger of boxing but Cameron Dunkin is perhaps the most prominent manager in the sport today that works closely with both Top Rank and Golden Boy, as he has a vast stable of fighters with both companies.
"It’s really weird because you know how I feel. I love Todd [DuBoef] and I love Richard [Schaefer] and Bob has moments, sure. But overall, like the other day he held the Anaheim show (on December 4th) together. You just sit there and look at him and you go, ’Y’ know what? This guy’s good for all of us. He’s good for boxing, good for my fighters.’ You just wish they could get along because they make [each other] out to be monsters and stuff and they’re not. They’re actually nice people; they just have different agendas and they can’t seem to get along. And it’s a shame because it would be good for everybody if they could get along. But no, it’s a weird situation to be in and I gotta walk very softly that I don’t upset anyone, that I’m fair to both of them. You tilt a little bit one way and it gets mighty sticky."
When Dunkin signs a particularly client to either Top Rank or Golden Boy, he understands that in the near future, certain fights will be impossible to make and each company has differing philosophies on how to move a boxer.
"Absolutely, and you look at it this way, both companies have their strengths, just like anybody. We’ve all got our strengths and weaknesses. You look at a guy and say, ’OK, if he goes here, he’s going to fight on this network and he’ll maybe make this much money but he won’t be as active. If he goes over here, he’s going to fight cheaper but he’s going to be more active.’ And my job is to look at that and form an opinion and say, ’This is the best for him right now at this point in his career.’ So I sit down with my fighter and discuss it and tell him my thoughts and say, ’What do you want to do?’"
According to Dunkin, these two companies are McDonalds and Burger King; no other promotional firms can offer what they can.
"Listen," he said, "I’ve been with Gary Shaw; I’ve been with Don King. I have done business with Dan Goossen; I’ve never done business with Lou DiBella. I’ve done business with Prize Fight, a smaller promoter. So yeah, I’ve done business with just about everybody and those by far are the two biggest promoters and if you’re going to get where the real money is, they gotta be involved somewhere. You try and get your guys the best opportunities and the most chances to make money and those are the places you go."
OK, let me get this straight; HBO, which not-too-long ago basically disavowed Bernard Hopkins, has not only purchased his rematch against WBC light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal (in a move that should be applauded) but they have also signed the 46-year-old Hopkins to a three-fight deal? Huh?
Does any boxer at the age of 46 really need to be given a multi-fight pact (This may not really matter since Hopkins may or may not retire after the Pascal bout in May)? But didn’t the network make it a point to try and start focusing on a younger generation of boxer?
Naturally this brings me to this point: why hasn’t Tavoris Cloud gotten any play from HBO? I’m not saying that the IBF light heavyweight beltholder is the next Michael Spinks but he is a guy who makes for good fights and is generally entertaining. Or have they put all their eggs in the Chad Dawson basket?
The more thing change...
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