On Golden Boy’s Plot To Foil Manny Pacquiao Vs. Juan Manuel Marquez III

We’ve already had a spirited discussion about the likelihood of an ugly third Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez bout happening in the fall, but there’s an ugly element of it that we didn’t discuss because it’s really kind of a fruitless asterisk: that Golden Boy Promotions is trying to block the fight.

This effort will almost certainly end in failure, thus its relevance to the actual dynamic of Pacquiao-Marquez III is negligible. Its relevance instead is as another volley in the ongoing war between Golden Boy — which currently promotes Marquez — and Top Rank — which promotes Pacquiao. That feud is one of the biggest drags on boxing these days, if not the biggest, because those companies are the two biggest promoters in the business, and between them have the highest number of top-notch fighters and draws.

Golden Boy has matching rights to any offer Marquez receives. One could hardly blame a promoter for wanting to keep one of its biggest names in its stable, in theory, especially when their biggest rival is the one trying to lure him away. But in practice, Golden Boy is, by all appearances, trying to block Pacquiao-Marquez III for reasons that could be summed up as “just because.” And it’s going to great lengths to do so.

When Top Rank offered lightweight champ Marquez a fight at welterweight worth $5 million against Pacquiao (incidentally, the same figure that Top Rank decried as Marquez “pricing himself out” of a Pacquiao fight mere months ago), it didn’t look like Golden Boy would be able to match. But it did pull a rabbit out of its ass by offering up a welterweight fight with Saul Alvarez.

As rabbits go, Marquez-Alvarez was born a little deformed, but at least breathing. Marquez and Alvarez are two popular Mexican fighters — Alvarez is a bona fide sensation down there — which means the fight might conceivably have done OK south of the border. They had talked trash toward one another a few months ago, which gave the fight the mildest of hooks. Maybe people could have been talked into being interested in this fight. I wouldn’t have bet on it, though, to recoup the $5 million paid to Marquez and whatever Alvarez’ purse would have been, even with a hefty HBO licensing fee or big pay-per-view sales.

Arum — that sly fox — countered the Alvarez offer with a catchweight of 144 pounds for Pacquiao-Marquez III. Alvarez in has last fight had failed to make weight for a 150-pound bout against Matthew Hatton, which, ironically, was the subject of the Marquez-Alvarez trash talk. It was already unlikely that Alvarez would get down to 147 for a Marquez fight; no way he could get down to 144.

Now, Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer says they’ll contemplate offering Victor Ortiz to Marquez at 144 for $5 million. Ortiz has his fans in Southern California, but he’s nowhere near the moneymaker Alvarez is. Ortiz-Marquez would surely lose money for Golden Boy. That’s how interested they are in blocking Pacquiao-Marquez III. On one level, I suppose I should be grateful for them wanting to block a fight I have no interest in, but on another level they’d be producing a fight I have no interest in.

And considering Golden Boy once offered to get out of the way of Pacquiao-Marquez III temporarily if that’s what Marquez wanted, the lengths they’re going to to prevent it are a bit opposite their original stated goal to be a fighter-friendly promoter. You think Marquez will re-sign with Golden Boy after this? I don’t. In fact, should Golden Boy indeed offer Ortiz to Marquez — and doing so would be cutting off its nose to spite Top Rank — I wouldn’t be surprised if Marquez sits out until his contract expires early next year. I guess I’d get the outcome I want for Pacquiao in the fall, that is, not to fight Marquez and hopefully someone with better credentials at welterweight, but Golden Boy would be screwing over Marquez, one of my favorite fighters, to do so. I can’t say I’d be too grateful about that.

So let’s look at the major breakdowns in Top Rank-Golden Boy relations. The original bad relations emerged from Oscar De La Hoya, as a fighter, departing Top Rank. The next major breakdown came when Golden Boy attempted to lure Pacquiao away from Top Rank, which produced the original Cold War between these two, and I’ll skip over some of the volleys fired during that time. Then, Golden Boy officials suggested Pacquiao might be on steroids and a resulting lawsuit from Top Rank et al. After that, we had a long period where Golden Boy tried to play nice (albeit without the apology about the Pac/steroids business that Top Rank wanted) and Top Rank trashed Golden Boy at every occasion. Lately, Top Rank luring Shane Mosley and Marquez away from Golden Boy for Pacquiao fights has exacerbated bad relations, while Golden Boy exacerbated bad relations by trying to lure Nonito Donaire away from Top Rank.

Are we sensing a pattern here?

These guys should stop trying to steal each others’ fighters. Certainly, every promoter has a right to pursue whatever free agents they want. Overall, Golden Boy has found themselves on more legally questionable ground in their pursuit. But every attempted luring, successful or no, legal or no, has been prompted by retaliation from the other side. (We could do without that retaliation, too.)

But one of the things that’s flat-out insane about the Top Rank-Golden Boy feud is how, fundamentally, the two sides have put their financial interests second to childish tit-for-tat. The notion of Marquez-Alvarez somewhat and Marquez-Ortiz more so as a means of blocking Pacquiao-Marquez III is an exceptionally vivid example of just that dynamic.

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.