Abner Mares, above, will face Daniel Ponce De Leon on Saturday before the… (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)
Frank Espinoza is aware of the history of a boxing manager daring to allow two of his fighters to square off against each other in the ring.
In April 1977 at the Forum in Inglewood, manager-trainer Arturo Hernandez sided with Carlos Zarate over Alfredo Zamora Jr., working the World Boxing Council bantamweight champion’s corner after having recently split with Zamora.
After Zarate won by fourth-round knockout, Zamora’s father was so angry at Hernandez that he walked across the ring and kicked the manager near the groin.
“More than once,” Espinoza said.
Saturday night, Espinoza will send his two Southern California fighters, WBC featherweight champion Daniel Ponce De Leon of Los Angeles and former world bantamweight champion Abner Mares of Hawaiian Gardens, into battle. It's the co-main event to the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Robert Guerrero main event on Showtime pay-per-view.
“It’s a very awkward situation,” Espinoza said. “I’ll be in the ring prior to the fight, but I won’t walk with either of them or visit either in their dressing rooms. I’m as neutral as I can be.
“I’m close to both of the guys. I love them like my own sons. I just want them to both come out healthy. I’m not happy they’ll be punching each other.”
Espinoza said the bout was first proposed to him by Golden Boy Promotions Chief Executive Richard Schaefer as a main event at the Home Depot Center in Carson. When Saul “Canelo” Alvarez backed out of fighting below Mayweather, Ponce De Leon-Mares was moved to Saturday.
“They’re fighters, but they’re both businessmen, and they both wanted to fight,” Espinoza said. “Fighting on this platform, Cinco de Mayo, millions of people watching two warriors showcasing their talent, there’s no losers.
“Boxing needs the best fighting the best. I know I could’ve gone a different direction, but I got them the most money they could get from a fight now. I did my job as a manager.”
Each fighter is reported to be guaranteed $375,000 for the bout.
Hard-hitting 32-year-old left-hander Ponce De Leon (44-4, 35 knockouts) won the featherweight title in September, and previously served as Mares’ sparring partner at their San Gabriel Valley gym.
The 27-year-old Mares (25-0-1, 13 KOs) was a Mexican Olympian like Ponce De Leon whose current trainer, Clemente Medina, once trained Ponce De Leon.
“We’re close, I saw his kids grow up,” Mares said of Ponce De Leon.
For Mares, the bout represents a move from 118 pounds (bantamweight) to 126. He started his career as a 122-pounder.
Ponce De Leon is a “heavy puncher, a lot to handle,” Mares said. “But mentally I’m strong. I’m capable of doing whatever I can. I can stay there and trade punches and make it a war, an interesting fight, or I can box and do what I know how to do, make it an easier fight....
“The good thing is I have different abilities, things to do to win.”
Mares said his training camp was disrupted by the stroke suffered recently by his father, Ismael, 54, who underwent surgery and is at home resting.
“He’s gonna watch the fight,” Mares said of his father. “I told him, ‘Relax, stay cool, let the son do the work, sit back.’ ”
As for Espinoza, Mares cracked, “Frank is probably pulling for a trilogy, so he can make paper.
“I know it was hard for him, hard for all of us, but it’s our job to entertain the crowd.”
Ponce De Leon also forecast “a battle.”
“This fight could be harder for [Espinoza] than for me or Abner, but he’s gonna have a winner,” Ponce De Leon said. “He’s going to keep one champion in this company, and it’s going to be me.”
Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy signs contract extension
Mark Sanchez, headband and all, ready for Jets' QB competition
Poll: Will Floyd Mayweather Jr. defeat Robert Guerrero?