Yesterday, Oscar De La Hoya made a splash with his bold — in multiple senses of the word — remarks about his aims for worldwide domination of all things boxing, BWAHAHAHAHA. That last part of the sentence was an exaggeration; he didn’t cackle diabolically, or if he did, it didn’t make the transcript. But he said some stuff like that overall, about how boxing would be better off with one organization running the show and how he’d like it to be his promotional company, Golden Boy.
It was a bit of a bombshell. Various rival promoters have reacted in a less-than-pleased fashion, as one might expect. Some folk didn’t think you needed Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes to have figured out that’s what Golden Boy’s intentions were before Oscar declared them. Some have hinted at antitrust lawsuits. And hardly anyone has really endorsed what he said, even if they kind of agree with some of it.
I have a few thoughts of my own.
I’m sympathetic to how Oscar kicked this all off.
Now, we have to think outside the box; we have to think like the NBA and MLB and have one commission and one major promoter in the sport. That’s one of the reasons I commend UFC for what they have done in such a short period of time; they are the only real player in their category, the mixed martial arts world. They have been able to organize themselves, have all the TV dates, a pay-per-view every month; that’s why they are valued at more than $1 billion. They are doing the right thing, and it’s time for boxing to do the right thing…
Boxing, when it succeeds, succeeds despite itself. One organization in charge is an easier, more manageable structure, as all those leagues he mentioned have shown. You never have to worry at the end of the NBA or MLB season whether the two best teams will face one another. You have to worry about it in boxing, because, while it managed to make most of the best fights from 2007 to 2009, and is going to have a very strong November and December with excellent bouts, there’s nobody MAKING it happen.
It’s Oscar’s proposed fix where he gets into trouble.
They are doing the right thing, and it’s time for boxing to do the right thing, as long as we don’t have those obstacles named Don King and Bob Arum.
How does that actually happen? You want Golden Boy to replace them?
Absolutely. We need to sign all the talent and get all the TV dates; then you can have your own agenda and have a schedule for the fans and the sport. You can do a monthly PPV, a bi-weekly HBO fight, you can have the best fighters fight each other. When you have five or six promoters, it’s very difficult.
So, is your plan to take over boxing?
My plan is not to take over boxing, but really do what no other promoter was able to do, and that is have unified rules and one commissioner and make sure the fighter is taken care of and is not cheated out of anything.
Oscar may protest that his plan isn’t to take over boxing, but that’s functionally what he said.
I don’t think I trust Oscar to do it, though, any more than I’d trust any other current promoter. Each of the promoters has their strengths and weaknesses, but none of them have the uncommon vision of the UFC’s Dana White. If you put Golden Boy in charge, who’s to say all the fight cards don’t end up looking like the programming for Solo Boxeo, the shows that Golden Boy controls but that few think are all that worthwhile (despite a recent uptick in their quality)?
And while I think some of the criticism aimed at HBO for playing promoter is too one-sided, the fact remains that there also isn’t any current entity, HBO included, that has a track record of consistently putting on the best fights when left to their own devices.
My problem is that I have a hard time imagining how boxing gets one entity, even a less-than-ideal one, controlling the sport, per the NBA/MLB/UFC scenario above, unless it happens the way Oscar is suggesting. There’s no way I can envision all the promoters banding together and willingly giving up power and money. It probably has to happen through brutal competition.
If that’s Golden Boy’s aim, I can’t say I blame them too much. It is generally the goal of all ambitious businesses to become the biggest and best, to squash the competition, etc. etc.
Some of the promoters bitching about Golden Boy’s status in boxing are really just jealous that they got beat. I generally find Lou DiBella to be one of the promoters I agree with most, but his griping about Golden Boy signing a deal with Barclays in DiBella’s backyard of New York City sounds like sour grapes.
But DiBella has another point about this that I kind of agree with: Yawn. As Michael Woods’ story here quotes DiBella, “I’m not surprised by Oscar’s comments about how they want to take over. Their behavior has made it apparent what they want to do.”
Other promoters haven’t been so calm. Top Rank’s Bob Arum called Oscar “dumb,” for about the millionth time. Gary Shaw advised Oscar to “get his attorneys and get HBO’s attorneys to discuss how they can avoid an antitrust lawsuit.” That’s not a completely idle threat. I wouldn’t reveal personal conversations I’ve had with people about this that weren’t on the record, but suffice it to say there’s more than one promoter who’s raised the idea of suing over the HBO-Golden Boy alliance. There’s a hint at this as well in this recent Thomas Hauser piece, I think, where he writes in conclusion: “During the past few years, there have been complaints throughout the boxing industry of improprieties in the relationship between HBO and Golden Boy. Is this an example? If so, the legal ramifications could be significant.” I’m not saying it would be a successful suit, mind you, but it’s floating around out there as an idea.
It’s possible that Oscar’s remarks deepen the current trend of Top Rank, and to some extent, of Golden Boy, keeping fights in-house, with each of the two top promoters refusing to work with the other, and too often, with only themselves. I can see Shaw, DiBella and others being less eager to work with Golden Boy in the future, after these blunt pronouncements from Oscar.
And, as I said, boxing can work despite itself. The problem of too many promoters that Oscar mentioned is more related to how often those specific promoters refuse to get together because of idiotic feuds and personal vendettas. That’s one of the reasons why the Super Six tournament is such a big deal — five promoters got together to make the best fights in the super middleweight division. But when promoters say things that piss the other promoters off, well, they don’t work together as often.
That is my immediate worry: That Oscar’s remarks exacerbate the revived Golden Boy-Top Rank Cold War and extend it to other nations like Gary Shaw Productions.
I welcome Oscar putting some of this out there in the open, otherwise. It’s thought-provoking material.
Unless — and this is a distinct possibility — it was Oscar saying more off-the-cuff b.s., as he did when he claimed Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao was making progress and later admitted he didn’t really mean it.
As is typical of much of what Oscar says, Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer tried to walk it all back the next day, per Woods.
…Schaefer was asked if indeed this move to New York is part of a Golden Boy takeover attempt.
“Takeover is not the right word,” he said. “It just means we will aggressively pursue all available free agents.”
He minimized Oscar’s stated intention to have Golden Boy be the be-all, end-all in boxing, like the UFC is.
“I use Golden Boy as the model, not UFC,” Schaefer said. “We don’t want to do our own production. We’re not in the production business, we’re in the talent business.”
In which case, this was all kind of useless.