By Ivan G. Goldman
The big chiefs of professional boxing proved this week that they can act almost as stupidly as governments. Appropriately, their demonstration of imbecility took place on the tenth anniversary of what many foreign policy experts consider America’s dumbest foreign adventure — the invasion of Iraq.
Sure, die-hard defenders of the Bush-Cheney disaster say that their $2 trillion war that killed approximately 100,000 people and made Iran much more feared and powerful worked out just peachy, but they’re lying, just plain stupid, or both. And when boxing guys say cementing the sport into two leagues, which is essentially what happened this week, is good for the sport — well they’re lying or stupid too.
The Golden Boy-Showtime roster, headed up by boxing’s biggest star Floyd Mayweather, also includes names such as 22-year-old Canelo Alvarez, Alfredo Angulo, Danny Garcia, Robert Guerrero, Daniel Ponce De Leon, and Keith Thurman. Many of these fighters are “advised” by the Rasputin-like Al Haymon. Haymon will most likely take his lightweight star Adrien Broner over to Showtime too.
The HBO-Top Rank roster includes Brandon Rios, Mike Alvarado, Timothy Bradley, Nonito Donaire, Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., and Mikey Garcia. The first group looks more valuable at this juncture, but junctures tend not to last long in this sport.
Pro boxing had been forming what amounts to these two leagues for some time, with HBO and Bob Arum’s Top Rank in one group and Showtime and Golden Boy, run by Richard Schaefer and Oscar De La Hoya, in the other. But this week Ken Hershman, who runs HBO sports, made it official. He will, he announced, no longer do business with Golden Boy. Hershman, who used to run the boxing show over at Showtime, was of course still smarting after Mayweather quit HBO for Hershman’s former employer.
Hershman could have upped the bid and possibly kept Mayweather, but the bidding clearly got insane. We can say that with a fair amount of certainty because Mayweather was already the top 2012 earner in all of sports when he was with HBO, and he didn’t jump to Showtime so he could take a smaller cut.
Showtime, a division of the CBS corporation, was willing to lose lots of money in the short run in an effort to profit long-term and pull more subscribers over to its network. Hershman either thought it would be dumb to bid any higher or the money-men at Time-Warner, which owns his network, wouldn’t let him do it.
Personally I think the Showtime-Golden Boy league probably got the worst of the new hardened status quo, but it’s close, and the fat lady has yet to sing. As for fans, they will suffer for sure. It’s not certain what this will mean for smaller promoters like Dan Goossen and Lou DiBella who both have excellent fighters on their rosters. Will their fighters flee? Or will they find advantages by getting matches against fighters from both leagues?
It we were talking about a horse race here I’d say HBO-Top Rank is in position to move up the rail and Showtime-Golden Boy is so excited by its lead position that it can’t spot the glue factory waiting for it just over the next hill. I say that because Floyd turned 36 not long ago. He’s already lost some of his formerly great footwork, and if he keeps fighting, one of two things will happen: he will lose or he will take matches only with obviously inferior opponents. And though Showtime and Golden Boy have excellent publicists just waiting to do their stuff, there’s only so much lipstick you can put on a pig.
Now, why do I say these companies are all acting stupidly? Because if you take a good look at those two rosters you’ll see some dream matches that can’t be made — Canelo versus Chavez, for example. The winner of Donaire-versus Guillermo Rigondeaux against Golden Boy’s Abner Mares is also dead on arrival. More of these glaring impossibilities will keep cropping up. But at least no one’s accusing anybody of hiding weapons of mass destruction.
Ivan G. Goldman’s boxing novel The Barfighter was nominated as a 2009 Notable Book by the American Library Association. Information HERE
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