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Golden Boy vs. Top Rank may be the main event, but boxing fans are still getting great fights

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

Perspective is always such a wonderful thing. On March 18, HBO Sports president Ken Hershman rocked the boxing world when he announced that his company – long considered the most influential boxing broadcast entity – would no longer do business with Golden Boy Promotions.

The phone lines were burning the morning the news broke, as boxing insiders couldn't wait to gossip about the wholly unexpected event. "Unbelievable" and "stunning" were the words most insiders uttered.

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Nonito Donaire Jr. could provide Top Rank with another golden moment Saturday. (Getty Images)

And yet, less than a month later, it hardly seems so bad.

Top Rank has put on back-to-back sensational shows on HBO, with Timothy Bradley defeating Ruslan Provodnikov and then Mike Alvarado topping Brandon Rios.

On Saturday in New York, HBO has what could be another gem when it airs the super bantamweight unification bout between WBO champion Nonito Donaire Jr. and WBA kingpin Guillermo Rigondeaux.

"There are so many choices people have for their entertainment," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said. "You need to give them good, hard competitive fights. This other [expletive], matching your best fighters against someone they're going to blow out, no one wants to see that. Who gives a [expletive] about a fight like that? Nobody."

[Related: Rigondeaux trying to do what most other Cuban defectors have not ]

The roll his company has been on in the last few weeks has filled Arum with bravado. So far, Top Rank has a huge upper hand on Showtime and Golden Boy. Showtime has only broadcast two fight cards so far in 2013, and neither was anything close to epic. The lightweight title fight between Richard Abril and Sharif Bogere was dreadful, and the super welterweight match between Ishe Smith and Cornelius Bundrage wasn't particularly compelling.

Beginning next week, though, Golden Boy has a big series of fights set. Canelo Alvarez will meet Austin Trout on April 20 in a fascinating bout that could draw 40,000 to the Alamodome in San Antonio.

On April 27, Golden Boy has a card at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Showtime that features a solid headliner of Danny Garcia against Zab Judah. And the following week, Floyd Mayweather Jr. debuts on Showtime pay-per-view when he faces Robert Guerrero.

The competition is fierce and the winner is, at least for the time being, the consumer. The promoters are being forced to compete hard for the hearts and minds of the fans, and it's leading to a series of compelling bouts.

Donaire has an opportunity with a great performance to close ground on Mayweather and Andre Ward for the title of best fighter in the world.

In Rigondeaux, Donaire faces an opponent with an impeccable pedigree that includes a world title in just his seventh pro bout, two Olympic gold medals, two amateur world championships and a Pan Am Games gold. In addition, Rigondeaux has won hundreds of amateur bouts, although there is plenty of dispute about his amateur record. Unquestionably, though, he's won more than 200 amateur fights and perhaps more than 400, all against only a handful of defeats.

A win over that kind of opponent will vault Donaire into the uppermost strata of boxers. The 2012 Fighter of the Year, Donaire has won 30 fights in a row and heads into the Rigondeaux match seemingly at the top of his game.

"Nonito, he's right there now," trainer Robert Garcia said. "He's got it all, all the punches, the power, the footwork. He sees things coming real well. There's nothing he's lacking."

If he gets past Rigondeaux, all he'd probably lack is elite opponents in his division. He'd likely have to make a jump up in weight yet again to compete at featherweight to get top-drawer opposition.

Arum said it's likely that if Donaire wins on Saturday, he could return in the fall after the birth of his child to fight Juan Manuel Lopez, the ex-featherweight champion.

Arum added, "Of course, we'll make a run at [ex-super bantamweight champion Abner] Mares, but I don't have a lot of hope there."

That's because Mares is promoted by Golden Boy and appears regularly on Showtime.

The feud between the companies is nothing if not pathetic, particularly the way Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya and Arum go after each other.

In an utterly classless move, De La Hoya routinely mocks the 81-year-old Arum's age and has referred to him in social media as "The Bob-A-Saurus." And then, to show he has the temperament of a 10-year-old, De La Hoya tweeted that he'd canceled his HBO subscription on the night of the Rios-Alvarado rematch.

[Related: Nonito Donaire Jr.'s latest obsession is to be a pound-for-pound best father ]

Arum, though, couldn't take the higher ground. Asked about the slight at a news conference, Arum mocked De La Hoya's intelligence and taunted him about the photos that surfaced of De La Hoya wearing a wig and women's lingerie.

The nauseating and childish feud is the only thing bad about boxing these days. There have been a series of great fights, and new stars are emerging.

WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin has scored two brutal stoppage victories and is heading for a compelling June date with Matthew Macklin. Alvarez-Trout will draw more than 30,000 and perhaps more than 40,000. The week after that in Argentina, a bout featuring WBC middleweight champ Sergio Martinez will attract a crowd in excess of 50,000.

The April 6 show Top Rank promoted in Macau was an unqualified success and was the most-watched card of the year, even if the actual viewership was tens of millions lower than Arum said.

It's a great time to be a boxing fan, even if the heads of the two largest and most successful promotional firms routinely make fools of themselves with their silly, childish feud.

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