Abner Mares, who just made the first defense of his IBF bantamweight belt last December against former champion Joseph Agbeko, has opted to vacate his title rather than face mandatory challenger, South Africa's Vusi Malinga.
The decision to vacate paves the way for Malinga to face Filipino AJ Banal for the vacant title.
Mares, who just won the belt by beating Agbeko as part of Showtime's bantamweight tournament in August of last year and defended it successfully against the former champ four months later, is considered by many to be a fighter on the verge of breaking through to a more mainstream audience.
As such, a Malinga bout offered little in the way of payday or exposure for the native of Montebello, Calif., by way of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
High on the list of priorities for the 26-year-old is a possible move up in weight for a main-stage bout against new WBO junior featherweight titlist Nonito Donaire.
"After watching Saturday's fights, I'm convinced Abner Mares beats Nonito Donaire," Mares' promoter Oscar De la Hoya tweeted following Donaire's bout with Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. last Saturday.
Donaire, however, is promoted by Top Rank and Top Rank-Golden Boy partnerships are notoriously hard to hammer out, especially when one or both fighters are considered hot properties.
Mares is still the WBC silver bantamweight champion and is scheduled to defend that title on April 21 against Puerto Rican former world titlist Eric Morel.