Nonito Donaire and Abner Mares are two of the most exciting fighters in boxing today. The latter has never been defeated, the former’s lone loss came in the second fight of his career. Both have looked exceptionally strong in their last three matches, and neither has shied away from the prospect of facing increasingly difficult competition. Mares’ next bout will be against one of the world’s best featherweights, Daniel Ponce de León; Donaire will square off against current WBA super bantamweight champ Guillermo Rigondeaux.
While Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao may soak up most of the boxing-related headlines these days, followers of the sport probably get more giddy when Donaire and Mares lace them up. It's all of the same quality (maybe more, even), minus the drama.
Because of the hype surrounding them, it stands to reason that folks wanted (and still want to) see Donaire and Mares square off. Unfortunately, earlier this year, Donaire passed up on an opportunity to make the fight happen. When presented with a $3 million deal to turn their much discussed showdown a reality, Donaire said no.
During a recent interview with Tha Boxing Voice, he explained why.
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"Did you read the contract?” Donaire asked. “If I do fight him, in the contract it states they could postpone the fight without penalty and what am I supposed to do, sit down for 9 months? They want my HBO date, what am I going to do? They could say you know what, we can postpone it for 3 months or you know what we’ll cancel it. So what am I going to say? I told them sent it to me and my manager so we could make this fight happen. So I said you know, you want to make this fight happen, stop playing games. I want to make this fight.”
Donaire’s manager, Cameron Dunkin, elaborated a bit on that.
“There was no site, no network in the contract. They put 3 million in there but other than the money, they said the fight would take place before June 30th and they said at anytime they could cancel the fights up to 2 weeks before and there would be nothing paid to either fighter. I would never sign that contract. There are things that need to be worked out and we’re fine with Golden Boy and Top Rank working them out. You know Nonito wants the fight and we’re not saying anything bad about Golden Boy. It needs to be worked out and we’re game after this fight.”
The reason they couldn’t put Mares and Donaire together on this go-round is because the latter is a student of the game. He knows how this industry works. He is obviously not opposed to fighting top-tier competition, but he doesn’t want to fall victim to the pitfalls that the business side of boxing often presents.
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If he agreed to a match against Mares without the terms being concrete, Donaire would have left himself exposed to an extremely lengthy possible layoff. A layoff, mind you, that would be totally unnecessary given all of the options he currently has. Instead, he played this smart. He took an equally interesting fight, and he continues to leave the door open for a bout against Mares in the near future.
“I know Mares wants to fight me and he knows I want to fight him. The fans are the one that are suffering and are the ones that are getting the bad end of it,” Donaire said. “At this time, as long as me and Mares keep pushing it and we’re hoping that it will happen. You seen it with Manny Pacquiao and (Floyd) Mayweather, those guys were high power personas and that was stopping the fight. With me and Mares, it’s the promoters that are playing the high power part. To me Mares is one of the guys I set my eyes, and when I set my eyes on a guy I usually want to fight him and get to fight him.”
The Pacquiao-Mayweather point is right on the money, and it’s fantastic that boxers are finally refusing to let themselves be pawns in these ongoing promotional wars.
Donaire-Mares will come together eventually. It makes too much sense not to. Fortunately, in the meantime, fans get to be entertained by a couple of really solid fights while they wait. Win-win for everybody.