The young contenders of the Golden Boy Promotions stable have been on an impressive run in recent weeks, a win streak that the Los Angeles-based company hopes to continue when Abner Mares challenges bantamweight titleholder Joseph Agbeko on Saturday.
Mares will be the fourth Golden Boy fighter to vie for a major title in the past 50 days when he takes on the formidable Ghanaian veteran in the final of Showtime’s bantamweight tournament at Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.
The other three — Saul Alvarez, Robert Guerrero and Victor Ortiz — came through with flying colors, boosting the pride and stock of Oscar De La Hoya’s promotional outfit, which was once criticized for focusing too much on established veterans of the sport.
It was often written that the company, which rose to prominence on the back of its superstar president, De La Hoya, and his legendary peers such as Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley, Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez, did not bother to develop young talent the way rival promoter Top Rank is famous for.
A Mares victory may finally put that criticism to rest.
“I think we’ve established that we have the best young champions and contenders in the sport,” said Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer. “Having Victor Ortiz, Amir Khan, Robert Guerrero, Marcos Maidana and ‘Canelo’ Alvarez on our roster proves that. If Abner Mares wins on Saturday, that will be icing on the cake.”
Actually, a title-winning effort from the 25-year-old Southern Californian, who represented Mexico in 2004 Olympic Games, would mean a lot to Golden Boy.
“It would be extremely meaningful,” Schaefer told RingTV.com. “Mares began his career with us. He would become Golden Boy’s first homegrown champion, which puts him in a very special place in our hearts.”
Nobody on Golden Boy’s staff would be as proud of Mares winning a world title as Eric Gomez.
“It would be special for Golden Boy but extra special for me,” said Gomez, Golden Boy’s head matchmaker. “He’s been my little project over the years. I made all of his pro fights, and I’ve known him since he was 14. He used to visit our gym, the old Resurrection Gym in East L.A., when he was amateur. He would spar with talented pros like Jose Navarro and beat them up.
“To have signed him out of the amateurs and watch him blossom over the years has been very satisfying. I think we did a good job getting him to this point, and I think he’s ready to be let loose. He proved it to me with the draw against Yonnhy Perez, which I thought he won. He proved it again by beating Vic Darchinyan. Who wins a fight after being knocked down and badly cut and docked a point from the ref the way Abner did? That shows you his mettle.”
Mares (21-0-1, 13 knockouts) has indeed proven to possess world-class talent and heart in his last two bouts, the 12-round majority draw against Perez and his hard-fought split decision over Darchinyan in a bantamweight tournament semifinal last December. If he can get the job done against Agbeko (28-2, 22 KOs), a 31-year-old veteran who owns victories over both Perez and Darchinyan, he’ll prove that Golden Boy can take a fighter from an 0-0 record to a world title.
Despite success in other areas of promoting, the jury is still out on whether De La Hoya’s company can develop talent.
Most of the Golden Boy’s standouts, including the recent trio of Alvarez, Guerrero and Ortiz, started out with other promoters. De La Hoya himself was guided to stardom in the 1990s by Top Rank, which has an excellent track record of developing titleholders from scratch.
Fans and members of the media who revel in the acrimonious rivalry between the two promotional giants often point this out as an example of Top Rank’s superiority.
Schaefer bristles at the comparison.
“I never agreed with the criticism that we didn’t develop young talent like Top Rank,” Schaefer said. “Of course, Top Rank has developed more champions. They’ve developed more than any other promotional company because they’ve been in business for 40 or 50 years. We’re still a young company.
“And while it’s true that we signed a lot of experienced, name fighters, like Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez, we did some developing with them. They didn’t come to us on top of the world. Marquez was coming off a loss to Chris John. Mosley was coming off two losses to Winky Wright. We built them back up, marketed them well, and they made record purses with us.
“But at the same time we were working with the legends, we were also signing new talent. It takes time to bring them up, and we’re finally seeing our work and our considerable investment pay off. We don’t crow about it, but we were focusing on the next wave of stars a few years ago when we singed guys like Seth Mitchell, Adrien Broner and Danny Garcia. We have another wave behind them with young fighters such as Frankie Gomez, Randy Caballero, and Fidel Maldonado.”
Schaefer believes Mares will be Golden Boy’s first “homegrown” titleholder but certainly not their last.
“Fans know we can work with older fighters," he said, "and they are going to find out that we know how to deal with younger talent, too."
Photo / Stephen Brashear-Hoganphotos-Golden Boy Promotions