- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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It took only two days for the much-anticipated Daniel Ponce De Leon-Abner Mares featherweight world title fight to find a new home after it was displaced from April 20. The fight landed in the sweetest of all spots on Friday -- in the semi-main event position on the Floyd Mayweather-Robert Guerrero Showtime PPV card May 4 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Titleholder Ponce De Leon and Mares, who is moving up in weight after vacating his junior featherweight belt, were due to fight April 20 on Showtime at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The Mayweather-Guerrero co-feature was supposed to be junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez facing Austin "No Doubt" Trout in a high-profile unification match. However, that hinged on Mayweather signing a contract stipulating that Alvarez would be his next opponent as long as they were both victorious on May 4.
When it came down to making a final decision, Mayweather blinked and would not sign. Without the guarantee of a Mayweather fight later this year, Alvarez, Mexico's biggest boxing star, did not want to lend his name, star power or economic muscle to Mayweather's pay-per-view event. So on Wednesday, Golden Boy Promotions shifted Alvarez-Trout to April 20 in San Antonio, where it will headline a Showtime card.
That left the Ponce De Leon-Mares fight in need of a home, and now it has one of the best any fight could ask for.
"We got it worked and both fighters are excited, we are excited," Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com. "It's a great platform for Abner and Ponce to be on. They will be on the biggest pay-per-view and it is on Cinco De Mayo weekend, which is big for them as Mexican stars."
As soon as Alvarez-Trout was moved off the pay-per-view card, Schaefer hoped to replace it with Ponce De Leon-Mares. However, their manager, Frank Espinoza, was at first reluctant, wanting the fighters to have their own date.
"Once it became known that Canelo was not going to be on card, Floyd called me himself and said, 'Please go get the best fight you can for the card,' and I discussed with him the possibility of Ponce and Mares, and he was excited about it. He said, 'Go out and get it done,' and that's what I did," Schaefer said.
But Schaefer had to convince Espinoza, who, as it turned out, had no real issue with it but was simply negotiating.
"I had numerous conversations with Frank," Schaefer said. "I told him to look at some of the great fighters who had big fights -- George Foreman, Oscar (De La Hoya), Manny Pacquiao, Floyd. Those cards all had young fighters gain tremendous exposure on their undercards. So I told him this was a great opportunity for his guys to be in high-profile card.
"He realized that and was excited about it and then couldn't wait to talk to the fighters. He did a great job to look out for Ponce and Abner. Frank's a smart guy, a great poker player. He knows the benefits of them being on this card, so what he did was he negotiated for more money. He did a good job."
Ponce De Leon (44-4, 35 KOs), 32, a former junior featherweight titleholder, won a featherweight belt in September and will be making his first defense against 27-year-old former bantamweight and junior featherweight titlist Mares (25-0-1, 13 KOs).
"We're very excited about appearing on the May 4 card," Espinoza told ESPN.com. "The addition of Abner and Ponce De Leon will make an explosive night for boxing fans all around the world. We know it's big. There's no question. To be showcasing both of their talents on a worldwide platform, to have worldwide media and fans from around the world seeing them, it's just the greatest exposure for both of them, and they can't wait.
"Being on Cinco De Mayo and you have two of the finest Mexican fighters, it's perfect. People were already excited about this fight happening on April 20, and now it just adds more being on Cinco De Mayo."
When Ponce De Leon-Mares was slated for April 20, Schaefer was planning a welterweight fight between former junior welterweight titlist Marcos Maidana of Argentina against Josesito Lopez of Riverside, Calif., as the co-feature.
With the featherweight title fight moving the Mayweather-Guerrero card, Schaefer said he finalized Maidana-Lopez to headline a Showtime card on June 8 at the Home Depot Center. Schaefer said the show would be a tripleheader, although the other two TV bouts are not set yet.
"We finalized the fight and it's the kind of fight you know can be a fight of the year candidate because of how these two guys fight," Schaefer said.
Schaefer said Maidana-Lopez might be for an interim world title.
Lopez, 28, and Maidana, 29, both fought on the same Sept. 15 card on which Ponce De Leon beat Jhonny Gonzalez to win his featherweight title. Lopez (30-5, 18 KOs), who had been fighting at junior welterweight, moved way up in weight to challenge Alvarez and was wiped out in the fifth round of the main event, one fight after he scored a major upset by breaking Victor Ortiz's jaw and stopping him in the ninth round.
Maidana (33-3, 30 KOs), 29, who gave up his junior welterweight title to move up to welterweight in 2012, stopped Jesus Soto Karass in the eighth round on the September card. He then knocked out Angel Martinez in the third round in December in Argentina.