By Ivan G. Goldman
The game of musical chairs in the boxing business has begun, but the music hasn’t stopped, and no one knows what it will all mean to the sport itself.
Photo: Hogan Photos/Golden Boy
As of Monday, Richard Schaefer, former CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, is without a chair and may not have one until March 2018. That, according to Oscar De La Hoya’s attorney, is when the Schaefer employment contract ends. In boxing years, that’s forever. It’s unlikely, for example, that Floyd Mayweather, the sport’s biggest cash cow, will still be competing. Schaefer has denied his contract says this. I expect it will eventually be hashed out by lawyers, maybe in a courtroom.
Meanwhile, someone will have to take Schaefer’s seat at Golden Boy, whose founder and principal owner is De La Hoya. In the boxing world there’s no shortage of loudmouths to tell you what the big shakeup means regardless of whether they understand the stakes.
If you believe yahoo.com’s Kevin Iole, Schaefer is a “brilliant” operator who’s essential to the sport. If you check reality, you find he’s one of the chief architects of a bizarre structure that sorts fighters into camps patrolled by sentries and surrounded by minefields that prevent good fights from being put together.
Bob Arum of Top Rank Promotions only grievously insulted Schaefer about 8,000 times before Schaefer said okay, that’s it, no more business with that mean man. Arum was aghast. Boxing guys insult each other all the time and sue each other all the time. But they still take each others’ phone calls and put on shows together. That’s how it works. Boxing isn’t Swiss banking, which was Schaefer’s world before Oscar took him in more than ten years ago and threw him into the nonstop fight maelstrom. He did okay on some counts but flunked miserably on others.
It turned out that Schaefer’s too thin-skinned for this sport. He also doesn’t always tell the truth, but that’s not terribly unusual in boxing or anywhere else. Arum is still a little haunted by the time he told reporters that yesterday he was lying but today he’s telling the truth. But it wasn’t a crippling admission. After all, this is boxing.
I very recently read a tweet from a boxing writer whose name I won’t mention because I feel sorry for him. It said (this is a quote): “The real question out of all this is how does Dick Schaefer’s Golden Exit affect the P4P rankings?”
That’s got to be one of the dumbest tweets in all of tweetdom. And it wasn’t from a fan (fans tend to know better) but from a guy who considers himself such an expert he pontificates from the royal throne of boxing journalism.
Most of you already know why it’s dumb. Because compiling pound for pound ratings is just an exercise we do for fun. It has very little bearing on anything that matters. What counts is whether good fights get put together for the fans. If Timothy Bradley can’t fight Keith Thurman, the sport loses a solid match-up. If Sergio Martinez moves from Number 7 pound-for-pound to Number 4, that’s interesting, but so what?
What we need to know is whether Schaefer’s departure will unfreeze the structure or make it worse. Will HBO, for example, start working with Golden Boy again? If so, I call that good. Not because I want HBO to pulverize Showtime but because I want fighters free to appear on any network against anybody.
A key to this chart is Al Haymon, who “advises” plenty of fighters, including Mayweather. Haymon has taken advantage of the network rivalry to, for instance, take light heavyweight Adonis Stevenson over to Showtime where HBO’s Sergey Kovalev can’t get at him. Kathy Duva’s Main Events has filed a lawsuit against both Haymon and Schaefer for allegedly interfering with a match that she contends had already been arranged.
Haymon took his fighters from HBO after Max Kellerman pointed out on camera that he appeared to be getting special treatment from the network. Apparently he acted like the kid who, feeling insulted, takes the ball and goes home. We don’t know for sure whether Kellerman’s remarks triggered the departure because Haymon refuses to explain any of his moves to the mass media. Shrouding everything in secrecy is a big negative for the sport. Boxing needs Haymon like Syria needs Bashar al-Assad.
It looks like some of Golden Boy’s fighters, particularly clients of Haymon, will exit with Schaefer gone. Oscar no doubt wants the next CEO to take phone calls from HBO and Arum.
Stephen Espinoza, who runs Showtime boxing, has ties to Haymon, Schaefer, and De La Hoya, but as a lawyer he knows he has a fiduciary responsibility to his employer to put on good fights and attract viewers to the network. If that requires dealing with Arum, then that’s what he’s supposed to do and what I expect he will do.
What’s important is to keep the sport fluid. Not all the front office people in the NFL like each other, but their teams always show up to play, and anybody can play anybody. That’s what we need in boxing.
` 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.