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Counter Punch

Abner Mares' popularity undermined by Golden Boy-Top Rank feud

Bantamweight titleholder Abner Mares, who is No. 13 on SI.com's pound-for-pound list, returns to action Saturday on Showtime against Anselmo Moreno. (AP)

The ongoing feud between Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and Bob Arum’s Top Rank has stood in the way of countless potential fights. Prime examples include junior welterweights Lucas Matthysse and Brandon Rios, middleweights Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Saul Alvarez and, most recently, super bantamweights Abner Mares and Nonito Donaire.

On Saturday, Mares (24-0-1) will defend his WBC title against Anselmo Moreno (33-1-1) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles (10 p.m. ET, Showtime). And let’s be honest: Very few people care. It’s hard enough to get average fans interested in the 122-pound division, even harder when they know it’s not even the best fight they could be seeing.

The best fight is Mares-Donaire, which would feature the two unquestioned top dogs in the super bantamweight division. Mares is slick and skilled, the winner of Showtime’s bantamweight tournament who has been picking off top opponents for the last two years. Donaire, who dominated Japan’s Toshiaki Nishioka last month, blends power and speed better than anyone in the division.

On a recent conference call, Mares expressed interest in making a Donaire fight.

“All I can say is Nonito, he's a great fighter,” Mares said. “He's really, really explosive, a really great fighter. His last performance against Nishioka, I mean the fight was a little bit, you could say boring at the beginning but being that Nishioka wasn't throwing that much, he wasn't giving that much. Nonito found a way and took his time and got that knockout. He looked good.

“If I were to fight him, obviously I'd fight him different and it would be a great fight. I know and I've seen that people want that fight. They've been asking for that fight and they know that I could give them a hell of a fight and definitely beat him as well. But again, that's in the future, first things first.”

There are no reasonable excuses for not making Mares-Donaire. Both fighters are experienced champions who are ready for the best fight out there. Both are marketable to networks -- Mares to Showtime, Donaire to HBO -- and both have developed a following over the last two years.

The only excuse is that representatives from Golden Boy and Top Rank don’t want to be in the same room together. And that’s not good enough. Because only the diehards will watch Mares-Moreno, just like only the diehards watched Donaire-Nishioka.

You want to build an audience, give them something worth watching.

-- Chris Mannix

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