The Good And Bad Of Thomas Hauser’s Latest Series On HBO

Once a year, acclaimed journalist Thomas Hauser writes a mammoth examination of HBO, and the stories always make a splash. Often, the pieces are damning, but have significant shortcomings. This year it’s no different. Let me clarify. It’s different this time in some ways, just not in that fundamental dynamic.

My initial reaction upon reading Hauser’s HBO stories this year is that they were much improved from previous years for one simple reason: The people accused of various wrongdoings were allowed to defend themselves. And it’s still true that this is an improvement, although, as far as journalistic standards go, it’s really a very meager gain. That’s really as basic as it gets. If you raise a line of attack against someone, you should ask them for response, and if they decline to respond, say that you at least tried to get them to respond.

Looking at them more deeply, and after talking to a couple other people about the pieces, I see more problems.

The main problem is that I read them and think: What did I learn here? What did Hauser prove that we didn’t know already? And I have trouble answering that. There are some interesting tidbits. There is a lot of smoke — very thick smoke. But there is no fire. What follows is something of an annotation of the pieces, responding to the highlights and lowlights.


Part one, then.

The section with the behind-the-scenes discussions within HBO between CEO Bill Nelson and sports prez Ross Greenburg is groundbreaking, with Nelson concerned that HBO’s boxing programming wasn’t attractive enough black viewers and HBO being more concerned with other problems like replacing The Sopranos. If true, it’s very informative. There’s one problem here. We don’t know how Hauser knows what he says he knows. He only quotes “sources.” Who are these sources? People within HBO? Promoters outside HBO? Usually in journalism, you’re obligated to provide some kind of information on your sources, so the reader can assess the veracity of those unnamed sources’s claims.

If Hauser’s track record was impeccable on this point, maybe he could get away with it, from a credibility standpoint. But very often, boxing writers are unable to duplicate his reporting on HBO. And sometimes, they flat dispute it. Last year, Hauser reported about an impending major 20 percent budget cut to HBO’s boxing budget. ESPN’s Dan Rafael said the report of a budget cut was erroneous. Neither man ever elaborated on whether the cut happened or not. If anyone has confirmed whether the budget cut did or didn’t happen — beyond promoters claiming that one of their fights was turned down because of budget cuts, who may or may not be trustworthy (and, candidly, it’s something where I’ve been too credulous in the past) — I haven’t seen it. There have always been rumblings. There has never been proof. Hauser wrote last year that Boxing After Dark might have to be eliminated. It wasn’t — which doesn’t prove anything either, only that there’s reason to doubt any kind of major budget cut happened, since the possibility of BAD’s elimination was held out as a potential consequence of the cut.

Furthermore, one of the central criticisms of Hauser’s next most recent piece, about Floyd Mayweather’s troubles — that Golden Boy needed to address the bigoted remarks he made about Manny Pacquiao, and it’s failure to do so was inexcusable — was fundamentally false. Golden Boy had addressed the remarks. So, the track record is a bit on the peccable side.

Hauser is right, of course, that HBO’s programming for most of the year has been lackluster, although really, so has boxing everywhere else. To answer his question about which of the 23 fights on HBO in 2010 I’d like to see again, I’d say: Tomasz Adamek-Chris Arreola; Devon Alexander-Andreas Kotelnik; Tavoris Cloud-Glen Johnson; Paul Williams-Kermit Cintron; and Jean Pascal-Chad Dawson (although Alexander-Kotelnik and Williams-Cintron primarily to settle outstanding controversies). Not very many. Fair point, then.

The suggestion Hauser and/or the people he quotes makes to correct this problem it is produce more exciting match-ups, regardless of the quality of the fighters. That, too, is a fair suggestion. I can’t speak for every boxing fan in the world, but sometimes I want to see the best fighters, regardless of how exciting they are, fighting the other best fighters in the world. (Hauser does recognize that the best fighting the best generates excitement, per a later section of the story.) But if HBO were to boost its ratio of exciting match-ups — its ratio of “DANGEROUS” fights — I certainly would be behind that.

The ratings question Hauser raises is a separate one. No one has done a very good piece yet about how much ratings are actually down versus how much ratings are seemingly down due to people watching things via DVR and such. Earlier this year, in an interview I did for Ring magazine, HBO’s Kery Davis told me ratings were about the same in 2010 as they were in 2009, and previously HBO had claimed ratings higher in 2009 than in 2008. And sometimes what does ratings has nothing to do with the excitement of the fight. Victor Ortiz-Nate Campbell did well, as did Miguel Cotto-Yuri Foreman (especially if you double-count the way HBO did for Cotto-Foreman) but I don’t want to see them again.

I do take issue with Bob Arum being the preacher of this “only exciting fights” gospel in quotes from Hauser. I’ve raised objections before to Hauser’s multi-year refusal to challenge Arum or write a piece that was counter to his agenda. Arum says he is forced to make exciting match-ups because he doesn’t have HBO’s money, but look at what Arum has done so far in 2010 when he has gotten HBO’s money. Of the 23 fights Hauser listed, there are none of them — zero out of six — that Arum promoted that I want to see again. And it’s not like there’s a Fight of the Year candidate among any of the shows Arum has produced independently or given to Showtime, except maybe Juan Manuel Lopez-Bernabe Concepcion, and, potentially, this evening’s Lopez-Rafael Marquez bout. Arum SAYS he makes exciting match-ups. But in 2010, he’s done no better than anyone else. And, especially, he has not very often put his best fighters in against the other best fighters in their division, not that anyone else has, either. Arum, in fact, appears a bit too much in this story over all, although I suspect part of it is that he’s one of the few promoters brave enough to attack HBO on the record.

It’s interesting that, as Hauser says, Andre Berto and Alfredo Angulo have appeared more than any fighters on HBO since 2008. Angulo, he says, hasn’t been put in risky fights often enough. That’s true, although I disagree with Hauser’s definition of risky in some cases. I think the bouts with Richard Guitierrez, Kermit Cintron and Joel Julio were risky — Guitierrez wobbled Angulo, Cintron beat him and Julio posed some risk that never delivered — but I don’t get why Angulo-Harry Joe Yorgey was on HBO, for example.

Hauser makes the case that HBO overpays for some lesser fights, artificially inflating a boxers’ sense of value when offered more demanding fights. We all know that by now, though, thanks in part, I might add, to some of Hauser’s previous reporting. Chad Dawson got paid too much for his rematch with Antonio Tarver, perhaps the most egregious example. But it’s not the case that Dawson is always in bad fights, as Hauser implies. Dawson-Pascal was pretty good, and Dawson-Glen Johnson I was a legit Fight of the Year candidate, albeit on Showtime.

Kathy Duva makes some interesting editorial points in Hauser’s piece about HBO’s boxing programming being led by people who don’t have passion for boxing. I don’t know if it’s true or not because I don’t know them as well as she does. But it’s interesting. It’s also a bit convenient for her that she mentions boxers she promotes as inspiring passion.

This is also interesting — I’m assuming Hauser knows this from first-hand experience, because he doesn’t explain how he knows otherwise: “Often, when HBO hosts an on-site party on fight night, the party takes place during the undercard and extends into one or more of the televised fights.  What message does that send?”

Hauser raises questions about the young fighters HBO has tried to develop into stars, noting the stumbles of many of them, like Ortiz. But some of the people HBO has focused upon, like Yuriorkis Gamboa, haven’t. It’s also not clear who Hauser would suggest for the role, because he doesn’t nominate any. Furthermore, HBO has stuck with some of the stumbling youngsters despite losses, which contradicts the point made earlier in the piece about HBO being concerned with people having good records above whether they’re good or exciting or not. Overall, I think HBO has gotten much better about this — a loss doesn’t disqualify someone from being featured on HBO the way it might have once. He’s also right that Wladimir Klitschko would (probably) deliver a “one-sided beat down” to Tomasz Adamek, but Adamek is a top contender at heavyweight and Klitschko is the champ, so the fight has some value. So what Adamek fights does Hauser want? I don’t know. Me, I like Adamek against just about anybody (including the Adamek-Arreola rematch that, per his earlier list, Hauser might not care for) and have long been annoyed by HBO’s disinterest in him. But the main reason I don’t want to see Klitschko-Adamek has nothing to do with its competitiveness and everything to do with my disinterest in Wladimir.

This seems like a more valid complaint, and at least this time we know the loyalties of the anonymous people quoted:

A number of promoters have complained about misinformation that they say flows from Davis’s lips during negotiations; misinformation regarding the license fees that HBO pays to other promoters, HBO’s arrangements on subsidiary rights with other promoters, the amount of money that HBO receives for foreign rights on a given fight, the availability of dates, and the money that’s available to license a fight on a given date.

“I don’t give misinformation,” Davis says when the issue is put to him. “I give people the most accurate information I have at the time. Sometimes things change.”

“That’s very Kery,” one promoter says in response. “He has zero credibility with some of us, but he and Ross hold our livelihood in their hands.”

Arum goes on to say that Davis isn’t a “boxing guy,” and Lou DiBella, who used to have Davis’ position, is. Maybe so. But it’s not like the DiBella era of HBO was a universally golden one, either. So whether Davis is passionate or a “boxing guy” or not might not be the only factor in HBO’s programming decisions.

Another fair point: HBO should have maybe realized the whole Angulo/illegal immigration thing was going on sooner than it did.

It is conventional wisdom that manager Al Haymon has outsized influence with HBO, as Hauser points out. (It’s a bit of an aside here, but the stuff about Jimmie Johnson falls under “interesting if true” yet is attributed to “sources” of unknown reliability or allegiance.) Duva alleges that this is related to Haymon managing Beyonce and the like, but presents no proof. HBO’s Ross Greenburg says, “No person at HBO outside of sports has ever spoken to me about Al Haymon.” Hauser doesn’t offer any evidence to contradict that. Haymon’s influence with HBO has apparently manifested itself in numerous ways, but nobody’s really gotten the goods on how Haymon has mustered this. It’s really just a number of situations where the Haymon-managed client wins out over the others when the other side has a seemingly better business case, like how Adamek-Arreola would have drawn more fans in Adamek-friendly New Jersey than it did in Arreola-friendly California, but Arreola is managed by Haymon. Hauser also mentions that Haymon is “believed” to have made millions by reselling tickets for fights, but my understanding is that this happens with at least promoters if not managers. It’s uncool, but Haymon doesn’t stand out on this count, unless it’s rare for managers to do this as opposed to promoters, something Hauser doesn’t claim.

HBO’s weird, Haymon-related affection for Berto comes in for some treatment, although Hauser breaks no ground here. I’ve always explained HBO’s affection for him as at least partly related to HBO’s interest in finding the next young, black American talent. But I still don’t quite understand why they’ve gone so overboard with it, or why Berto’s the one they have focused on beyond all others — Paul Williams is young, black, American, better and more proven than Berto AND managed by Haymon, and is a similar lackluster gate draw. Yet Williams isn’t on HBO as often as Berto has been. I wonder if it’s just bad decision-making or if there’s something else here that hasn’t been reported.

The fact that HBO was quoted in this story apparently led to an HBO publicity blitz in advance of, and following, the Hauser series’ publication. In other words, they knew what Hauser would be saying, basically, and took steps to counteract it. In one of those pieces, Greenburg asserts that Berto, Haymon et al know that he better fight a top opponent in early 2011 or it won’t be on HBO. Let’s see if they follow through with that.

The “Haymon as unlicensed promoter” debate is a bit beyond me. Certainly, Haymon behaves as a promoter in many ways, and has gone around his boxers’ promoters to do things they don’t know about, but I’m not sure how much a license or lack of a license presents any legal issues. I don’t have the time or resources to address this question today. If it does present legal issues, Davis’ admission that he negotiated with Haymon for Williams-Sergio Martinez II during the period where Williams didn’t have a deal with promoter Dan Goossen could be one of the major revelations of this piece. It’ll be something I look into soon, if someone else doesn’t sooner. On the surface, it’s hard to imagine HBO or Haymon running afoul of the law when I’m sure lawyers were available to both, but it’s a worthwhile topic to explore.

Hauser does praise HBO’s role in making Williams-Martinez II. I’m glad he does. A lot of the anti-HBO material out there in boxing journalism hurts itself by uniformly demonizing HBO, rather than recognizing that it does some things right sometimes. It’s religious fervor, not reporting. But Hauser’s in the minority for criticizing Juan Manuel Marquez-Michael Katsidis as an “entertaining mismatch.” Yahoo’s Kevin Iole also has criticized the fight, but most fans I know and most writers are tingling with anticipation at the match-up. It’s a bout between a division champion and the #1 contender and both men are in action fights every time out. Taste is taste. But sometimes, I think Hauser’s own personal tastes run counter to mine and even a large number of boxing fans — so blunt statements like calling Marquez-Katsidis an “entertaining mismatch” fail to take into account the world outside Hauser.

One of the highlights of the piece is Hauser’s accounting of Greenburg promising every year that it’s time to get in the business of meaningful in competitive fights. So, when Greenburg says that’s what he wants for 2011, you have no choice but to doubt his intentions. I think 2007, 2008 and 2009 were pretty good years for boxing, with HBO showing progress in some of them, but if you have to re-up the pledge for good and competitive bouts each year, maybe you need to really hunker down and do what you said rather than promising to do better next year.

There are some good details, too, on the nature of the agreement between Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander that I haven’t seen elsewhere, although a source isn’t cited.

Hauser’s idea about cross-promoting Williams-Martinez II with Boardwalk Empire is a bit kooky. I don’t mind some of his other suggestions about HBO creatively promoting fights, and generally support more creativity in promoting fights. I don’t know if they’d work, but they’re food for thought. I don’t generally share his distaste for Max Kellerman, although I’d rather see more of Jim Lampley than Kellerman, so Kellerman appearing more on HBO than Lampley is admittedly a strange choice.

As for rankings and championship belts, I’ve never understood why Hauser can’t embrace Ring. Heck, he writes for ’em sometimes, so it’s not some anti-Golden Boy sentiment, what with Ring owned by Golden Boy. They are, as he says he wants, “the most credible rankings possible.” HBO often refers to their rankings and champions, too, so it seems like the network has already effectively taken his suggestion but that he wants them to do something else.


Part two is heavily focused on how HBO’s output deal with Golden Boy affects the industry as a whole. I think it’s a stronger piece than part I, but still has its flaws.

Output deals have never worked anywhere in boxing history, or if they have, I haven’t seen a good argument about why they did. Guaranteeing dates to promoters rather than merely approving the best fights regardless of who the promoter is is obviously a bad way to make the best fights.

Greenburg won’t say whether HBO will renew its output deal with Golden Boy when it expires in 2011. It was worthwhile to get him on the record on this. By getting commentary from the subject of his story, Hauser has done the reader, and his story, a service. The reticent-sounding answer is newsworthy.

(You might be wondering at this point why I’m harping on Hauser not quoting the subject of his story in the past when I am not quoting Hauser here. First off, a blog isn’t journalism, exactly. But you should know that in the past, I have nonetheless offered opportunities to Hauser to comment on things I’ve written about him. I won’t get into any discussions we did or didn’t have, but suffice it to say he hasn’t been quoted in any of my pieces. If at some point he would like to be, I would be most interested in quoting him.)

Part two does hit a troublesome stretch immediately afterward. Unnamed “rival promoters” allege, but provide absolutely no proof, that HBO has steered fighters toward Golden Boy. Greenburg and Davis heatedly deny this, with Davis noting that he’s a lawyer and wouldn’t cross that line. One unnamed promoter alleges that Davis is doing this behind Greenburg’s back, and a “half-dozen” promoters and managers would tell Greenburg that. But no proof is provided of this, either. While I understand why a promoter would want to be anonymous to make this claim, the anonymity provided to such an explosive, unproven allegation is troubling from a standpoint of journalistic standards. If this promoter went on the record, other journalists could interview him or her, ask questions about he or she knew this, and assess the credibility of the claim. It might still be a “he said/she said” kind of piece, but at least the debate could be had. If the whistleblower proved correct, it would be a major, major story in boxing. If the whistleblower couldn’t prove the claim, then HBO would win the argument.

“Rival promoters” also say they are told HBO doesn’t have a date and to go to Golden Boy. Again, here, Duva puts her name behind this claim, and good for her. Furthermore, she doesn’t exclusively tout her boxers this time, saying that she wanted to put Philly welterweight Mike Jones, promoted by Russ Peltz, on the card in New Jersey tonight. And she’s right — that would have made more sense than two Golden Boy-promoted California lightweights on the undercard. I don’t mind Zab Judah not having a “room at the inn” at HBO overall, since he doesn’t have a meaningful win since 2005. But if Judah only got the room at that inn because Duva went to Golden Boy, then it’s troubling in a different way. Too bad Hauser doesn’t quote Golden Boy or HBO on these claims in response; maybe, for all we know, Jones wasn’t on the card because of the Golden Boy-Top Rank feud and Jones’ allegiance to Top Rank, or maybe Golden Boy and HBO would dispute that Duva was told no such thing about going to see Golden Boy. We don’t know, and it would be nice to know, whether she’s the only one with this recall.

The quote from Paulie Malignaggi, who recently left DiBella for Golden Boy, is a huge highlight of the piece: “I’m not stupid. Lou was my promoter. But the last four times I was on HBO, Lou provided my services to Golden Boy and it was on Golden Boy shows. Golden Boy has a chance of getting me on HBO again. Lou can’t. It’s as simple as that.” I’m not saying Malignaggi is right or not, and maybe DiBella’s response here would have been instructive, too, since DiBella had gotten Malignaggi on HBO on non-Golden Boy cards before. But it is a powerful illustration of how — alleged illegal steering or whatever aside — the HBO-Golden Boy output deal can/has reshaped the industry.

Hauser’s right in pointing out that Kelly Pavlik’s competition after his loss to Bernard Hopkins was better than Berto’s, but HBO still aired Berto’s fights, while Pavlik was forced into a couple independent pay-per-views when HBO turned down the bouts. That there were “those who thought” HBO was trying to squeeze Pavlik into signing with Golden Boy rather than staying with Top Rank is interesting speculation, but nothing more. It would have been nice to see HBO’s answer to a question about its differing treatment of Pavlik and Berto.

On the pay-per-view front: Everyone’s pretty much in agreement that HBO hurt its “brand” by getting affiliated with the crappy Golden Boy Shane Mosley-Sergio Mora card. Potentially newsworthy is the dollar figure Hauser ascribes to the price HBO paid for the international rights to the crappy Golden Boy Bernard Hopkins-Roy Jones, Jr. card: $400,000. I haven’t seen the figure elsewhere, and don’t know if it’s the kind of thing easily available to reporters via public records and Hauser doesn’t cite a source. This might be a shortcoming related to my modest amount of boxing reporting as opposed to reporting on other subjects.

The smaller promoters — Duva, Joe DeGuardia — make valid, but well-known, points to Hauser about Golden Boy stealing young talent rather than developing its own. I think Golden Boy is still figuring out how to develop its own talent, and has made some progress there, but hasn’t gotten there. They’ve increasingly been signing talent out of the gates, rather than signing it away from others. Presumably, at least some of those young fighters see what’s going on with Golden Boy and HBO. There’s nothing wrong with Golden Boy doing this in and of itself — any promoter with an HBO output deal probably would try to do the same, and Hauser acknowledges this — but it does speak to, again, how the output deal can/has reshaped things.

We’ve all ruminated about Oscar De La Hoya’s controversial boxing megalomania interview. But is it illegal? Hauser raises the question but doesn’t answer it. Why doesn’t he contact any lawyers who specialize in this kind of thing for a second opinion? And if it’s illegal, at a certain point, why doesn’t someone sue? There’s been some handwringing over this in the boxing world but nobody has actually followed through.

HBO’s role or lack of a role in the Golden Boy Barclay’s deal is revisited, but not resolved. But, at least, the claims made are made in public, and discussed. Hauser appears to come down on the side of thinking it was on the up-and-up, but said that if Brett Yomack ends up with a Golden Boy-connected company, “it would raise eyebrows.” True.

The long rant from Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer is likewise informative. He makes several valid counterpoints about how it doesn’t “steal” talent (it signs free agents); how Golden Boy is sometimes held to a tighter leash than other promoters, as with the junk DiBella is putting on their Nov. 27 undercard (he claims HBO is scared of DiBella because of his vocal complaining, but no one else addresses this claim in the story); and that Golden Boy has survived previous claims of its demise once its prized possession Oscar De La Hoya retires, etc., so they’re a legit company regardless of any of the connections that might have helped them get started. Then there’s this priceless quote: “All this complaining about HBO this and HBO that actually helps us, because it makes the fighters think that Golden Boy is even more powerful than we are.” I mean, the output deal no doubt helps Golden Boy get fighters. Malignaggi’s quote shows that even if Golden Boy doesn’t use the output deal to recruit, it’s its own recruiting tool. It’s possible, though, that Golden Boy’s power has been inflated by all the complaining.

Hauser broke the original story about the peculiarities in the contracts of the May 15 doubleheader, and we’ve been over that before, too. He deserves credit for breaking that story. But he adds some very worthwhile counterpoints here to the claims of Golden Boy on its failure to file the documents. It’s another strong section of the story. Unfortunately, it leaves matters on a frustrating note. The money Golden Boy got in relation to the amount the fighters got remains fishy and unexplained (and is something I asked Golden Boy about myself, to no avail). Schaefer and Greenburg are quoted on the fight overall, but not that particular issue. Why did Golden Boy get so much money compared to the fighters? Was it, as an anonymous source alleges without presenting any proof, that the money “subsidized” the acquisition of Ortiz and Campbell? I don’t know if Hauser asked that specific question, but if he did, he didn’t print the answer or non-answer. So he concludes the piece thusly: “If enough people tug hard on that thread, the cloth might unravel.” I wish I knew whether Hauser tugged on that thread himself, and if so, what came of it.


Part three starts with a discussion of HBO and whether it’s the biggest problem, or whether in fact it’s promoters fighting each other, particularly Top Rank and Golden Boy. While HBO is arguably the most powerful force in boxing, Greenburg’s right when he says there are some things “beyond our control.” Also true. There are fights HBO wants but can’t get.

I’m not sure it’s a great defense of Arum putting his top fighters in against fighters under rival promoters to say that he did it three times in all of 2010 and tried to do it one more time. But at least Hauser acknowledges that “to an extent,” Top Rank is keeping its fighters in house.

The lying (on Golden Boy’s side) and name-calling (on Top Rank’s side) over Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather is revisited, but the only new takeaway is that Schaefer said he would be willing to deal with Arum and Arum saying he wouldn’t be willing to deal with Schaefer because he thinks Golden Boy is clumsy and stuff. Arum has concluded he’s the only one who knows what he’s doing, and it’s irritating, but it’s nice to see a confirmation of who’s willing and who’s unwilling to make a fight happen between Golden Boy and Top Rank.

Another good quote from Greenburg on what it would do if Mayweather continues to refuse to fight Pacquiao: “That would pose a problem for us,” Greenburg answers. “The fact that we couldn’t make Mayweather-Pacquiao cast a pall over the sport this year. Now we have to come to terms with the fact that the fight might not happen and move on. If Floyd came back and wanted to fight someone else, I’m not sure how we’d handle it.”

This third piece offers some more “interesting if true”/but according to vague “sources” information about internal activities inside HBO. They involve the possibilities — with sources saying most of this is early, speculative thinking — that HBO could dismantle its sports department, with 2012 maybe being an ideal time for it with Greenburg’s contract expiring (on the heels of some recent severances and such); and that control of boxing programming could be moved to Turner, with fights still airing on HBO but maybe occasionally on TBS or TNT. Arum likes the idea.

The final note is depressing as all get-out. Schaefer claims (but HBO doesn’t answer, nor does Showtime) that both networks are tiring of boxing.


“If you’re Time Warner and you see that ratings are down and there’s criticism about this and criticism about that, at some point you will say, ‘We really don’t need boxing.’ I can tell you from discussions I’ve had that Showtime is getting fed up with boxing too. People have to remember; HBO and Showtime don’t need boxing. It’s the other way around.”

Warning lights don’t come any redder.

Final Analysis

So, back to the material: What did I learn, and what was proven? The strongest, most reliable new material is this series, in no particular order:

1. Greenburg makes the same promise every year to air only meaningful, exciting fights, but still airs at least some dogs.

2. Greenburg won’t say if the Golden Boy output deal will continue, but sounds reticent.

3. At least one fighter chose to sign with Golden Boy because of its affiliation with HBO, so it clearly can have an impact.

4. Many of Golden Boy’s explanations about what went down with the May 15 BAD card and the related documents are goofy.

The most inflammatory material, but the material that is inadequately sourced and/or based on unproven allegations:

1. Haymon might have been illegally serving as an unlicensed promoter. (Hauser could have delved into this more himself, but I will, too, at a later date.)

2. Some anonymous people, including rival promoters, allege that HBO steers fighters to Golden Boy, but they provide no proof whatsoever.

3. The large swath of the purse that went to Golden Boy for the May 15 BAD card was to subsidize the acquisition of two fighters from other promoters — but only according to an anonymous rival promoter.

4. HBO could face a major restructuring in its boxing programming and its leadership is worried about losing black viewers, but according only to “sources.”

The rest is a collection of sometimes well-sourced and sometimes poorly-sourced claims and meaty tidbits, plus an examination of some well-known problems at HBO and unproven conventional wisdom/theories about the network.

So, the piece does some good things for the reader. It’s an improvement over past editions of Hauser’s HBO reporting by virtue of more liberally quoting its subjects. And, it obviously is thought-provoking, or else I wouldn’t devote three gajillion words to it.

But it falls short of proving some of the larger things it purports to prove, and mainly fails to do so due to an over-reliance on anonymous sources with unknown agendas claiming things for which they present no proof; or, sometimes, even named sources claiming things for which they have no proof.

All that smoke is worth watching. Hopefully some other reporters will try to track the smoke to see if it leads to any fire. Just keep in mind when you read the pieces that suspicious isn’t the same as guilty.


Here’s some thoughts on the other stories about HBO out there the last couple weeks.

In all of them, Greenburg says they’ll look to the lower weight classes for good fights. Those fights, by the way, are cheaper. But Greenburg says that’s not the reason. They just want good fights. Whatever HBO’s motive, I’m in favor of better fights between boxers of any size. I hope HBO finds them.

In this Rafael piece, Greenburg explains the strong late 2010 schedule compared to the week schedule for much of the year thusly: “…what happened was, over the summer the promoters and fighters came to the realization that HBO isn’t going to buy any old fight. And the fighters and their promoters figured out that they had to fight the best guys. They suddenly woke up to that, and we were able to make the fights we have coming up. So going forward, I am optimistic again.” I’m not sure I buy this explanation. It’s a little conveniently heroic for HBO. And Celestino Caballero is still fighting Jason Litzau Nov. 27 on HBO, so it’s not like that’s the best guy fighting the best guy. He also says that some fights fell through beyond their control early in the year, which is accurate.

In several of the pieces, Greenburg mentions bringing boxing back to the “mainstream,” but is short on details about how to do so. Compelling fights — OK. In this Lance Pugmire piece, the main idea seems to be to make Mayweather-Pacquiao happen. But good luck on that. (He likes the chances, according to Lem Satterfield.)

We already touched on the Berto easy fights thing.


About Tim Starks

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