Of Golden Boy, Suspensions, The Ring And The Sweet Science [UPDATED]

Golden Boy Promotions is in a little bit of trouble in New York. Depending on who you ask, Oscar and Co. are either guilty of deliberately breaking the law or just forgetting some paperwork. I don’t aim to get to the bottom of the matter, but I’m going to put on my fawn cardigan again and have a look at the way the story’s been reported.

The whole shemozzle kicked off in the aftermath of the Amir Khan-Paulie Malignaggi/Victor Ortiz-Nate Campbell junior welterweight doubleheader on HBO’s Boxing After Dark back in May. Those “highlights” clearly show that the post fight wrangling is more interesting than both fights put together. Basically, there may have been some creative accounting when it came to paying the fighters, with $500,000 going missing from the purse of the first fight. I’d love to know where it went (maybe it’s behind the couch), but I’m not getting into that here.

George Kimball of The Sweet Science penned this piece (sorry, cached version) about what happened, wondering aloud whether the missing money had gone to other promoters or was taken by GBP, either to “line its coffers” or to fraudulently pay more for Khan. Thomas Hauser had earlier alleged something similar in a piece for secondsout.

The Ring then got in on the action, posting an article by Michael Rosenthal which claimed that Golden Boy was suspended for not providing the proper paperwork for their fighters. His piece quoted GBP lawyer Judd Burstein in an attack on Kimball and his article.

The plot thickened further when The Sweet Science took down the Kimball article. TSS Editor Michael Woods couldn’t be reached for comment, so it’s unclear why the article is no longer available. It’s noteworthy that Burstein called the item “actionable,” as quoted by Rosenthal. It could also have been a simple error in archiving on the part of TSS. George Kimball told me that he thought it was unlikely that TSS would “knuckle under” to “bluster” from GBP.

George Kimball and Thomas Hauser are both fairly vocal critics of the GBP/HBO matrix that is a big part of professional boxing right now. Kimball doesn’t hold back on the criticism, generally taking the tone that it’s about time somebody stood up to Golden Boy. The article, when it existed, ended with: “Golden Boy has been put on notice that its days functioning as a law unto itself may be numbered.”

I don’t think that Kimball is unreasonably critical of Golden Boy, and some of the questions he raised still haven’t been answered. He told me that he stands by what he wrote, bar a few wording changes about the NYSAC administrative process.

Kimball won’t reveal his sources, and for good reason, but he told me he “had reason to be comfortable with the information.”

Not having a voice from Golden Boy might be a little bit of a problem for such a confrontational piece, but Kimball claims to have tried to contact them for two days before publishing, which is about the best you can do.

To my mind, he was probably a little harsh in listing Ring Magazine as one of the tentacles of the GBP empire and describing it as the “onetime bible of boxing.” But The Ring and Kimball have previously been involved in a bit of journalistic argy bargy, and I guess that’s continuing to play out here.

Which might have had something to do with the construction of Michael Rosenthal’s article. As a disclaimer, I’m not one who believes that The Ring is part of the united GBP/HBO conspiracy theory. They consistently hold themselves to a very high standard (higher than most other boxing media) precisely because of the apparent conflict of interest brought on by being owned by GBP.

Rosenthal’s piece basically reports the Golden Boy side of the story — and that’s not meant as a criticism. Michael quite rightly pointed out to me that: “Kimball’s story was out there so I got Golden Boy’s reaction. I would’ve done the same if it were Top Rank or Gary Shaw or whomever.”

I do think that Rosenthal should have got Kimball’s side of the story if he was going to quote Burstein attacking him: “If I didn’t think he was broke, I’d have Golden Boy sue him. … In my 28 years of practice that was one of the sloppiest, most-outrageous pieces of purported journalism I’ve seen.”

Those are some pretty nasty words to be printing without giving their target a chance to reply. Rosenthal didn’t contact Kimball, which he probably should have. For the record, Kimball says he’s not broke and not surprised that nobody ran it by him, describing his relationship with The Ring as “strained.”

In the end, the article doesn’t exactly contradict what Kimball claimed either. Just because Campbell’s manager was cool with Nate getting that amount of money doesn’t mean that GBP wasn’t lifting some off the top of the purse as well. It should definitely be noted that pushing back against criticisms of Golden Boy isn’t Rosenthal’s job. That’s not what his piece was trying to do and we shouldn’t judge it through that prism.

Dan Rafael also covered the issue for ESPN over the weekend without mention of the purse problems. His was the only article that got the official line from the NYSAC, which is essentially that the documentation was never handed in. Which again, doesn’t contradict what Kimball and Hauser have said.

So in the end, we’re none the wiser as to what happened to the money. Instead, we have two of the highest quality boxing news outlets squaring off against each other again. Both Rosenthal and Kimball are great journalists, for whom I have nothing but respect. There’s no reason why they and their publications can’t coexist. Unfortunately, these things can have a way of snowballing into full-on spats.

[UPDATED: Michael Rosenthal adds… “I have absolutely no problem with Kimball and never have. I haven’t said more than a few words to him. I didn’t even know there was friction between him and the magazine-website. I’ve just always respected him as a fine journalist.”]

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.