By Ivan G. Goldman
It’s now clear that there are earthquake tremors shaking the executive offices of Golden Boy Promotions, the world’s largest, most important boxing promotional company. How high these tremors rank on the Richter Scale it’s too soon to say. But a temblor has indeed struck.
Oscar De La Hoya, by commenting on a rumor that there’s a rift between him and CEO Richard Schaefer, has probably revealed more information than he intended.
Friday night Oscar, the president of Golden Boy Promotions, tweeted:
“Regarding all these rumors about my company and Richard Schafer, I will be setting the record straight soon.”
If there were no substance to the rumor that he and Schaefer are on the outs, wouldn’t Oscar have made that clear in his tweet immediately? Of course.
Let’s say there’s a rumor that you and your significant other are about to break up. And let’s say the rumor’s untrue, that you’re a happy couple. Do you tweet that you’ll clear up the rumors later? No, if you decide to allude to the whispers at all, you immediately dispel them. If you tell everyone you can’t comment now but will do so later, clearly something less than wonderful is going on in your relationship. There’s a rift.
Perhaps the first sign came December 14, when out of the blue Oscar tweeted a kind salutation to Bob Arum, who runs archrival Top Rank:
“Mr. Arum, on behalf of my family and I, we wish you happy holidays and a great year. Let’s make these fights for the fans.”
Arum tweeted back: “Thank you Oscar. Wish you and Millie a merry Christmas.” Millie is Oscar’s wife.
This was very much not in keeping with the direction Schaefer had been taking the company. He’d made it repeatedly clear that Golden Boy wouldn’t work with Arum’s company under any circumstances. He said in no uncertain terms that there was no possibility of a welterweight bout between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao as long as Pacquiao was promoted by Arum. Schaefer’s denials were more than emphatic. They were nasty.
Meanwhile Arum has often said that Schaefer is a Swiss banker who knows little about the sport.
Golden Boy contracts with Mayweather to handle promotional chores for his fights, which are the biggest money-makers in the sport. Schaefer and Mayweather get along. Oscar and Floyd do not. So Schaefer handles most of the Floyd business.
Arum used to promote Oscar. The two have a long, complicated history. Arum’s remarkable tenacity got his fighter much notice as he fought his way up the ranks and won world titles. Oscar was close to his mother, who died of cancer while he was a teen. He was never that close with his father but dutifully shoveled money at him as his fortune of millions multiplied to tens of millions. Meanwhile Oscar actually bestowed his precious 1992 Olympic Gold medal on father-figure Arum. Oscar had dedicated his Olympic victory to his mother.
When Felix Trinidad won an unearned majority decision over Oscar in 1999, dealing him his first loss, Arum had to be restrained from physically attacking Trinidad’s promoter Don King in the post-fight media conference. In those days King’s name carried more weight in Las Vegas than Arum’s did, and the Trinidad victory was one of many fishy decisions that went King’s way.
De La Hoya had expected to be able to retire undefeated, and he took the loss hard. He began forming his own promotional company, which at first did small shows, inexpertly. Then he found Schaefer, who was married to a sister of one of Oscar’s friends, and Schaefer brought a more solid business foundation to the enterprise. As Oscar’s company grew, Arum was still promoting Oscar’s fights, but a rift was growing. Eventually there was a break and much bitterness, the deep bitterness of a father-son feud.
Oscar referred to Arum as “the biggest Jew out of Harvard.” He later apologized for the remark. Arum called Oscar dumb. And he didn’t apologize.
In 2010 Arum’s oldest son John, 49, died in a climbing accident in the Cascades. The rift still failed to heal. John was a lawyer, like his father.
These days Oscar is back from another stint in rehab for cocaine and alcohol. He hasn’t been seen around the fight world very much. People undergoing detox and rehab generally reassess their lives, trying to figure out where they went right and where they went wrong.
Meanwhile we wait for the next shoe to drop.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in 2013 by Potomac Books, a University of Nebraska Press imprint. It can be purchased here.