By Charles Jay
HBO could have just cut back on the amount of business it did with Golden Boy Promotions. Instead, it has made a clean break.
On Monday the network announced that it has stopped doing business with the Los Angeles-based promotional outfit, which means that the talent that Golden Boy has under promotional contract will make the natural migration to Showtime; at least that talent which hasn’t been moved there already.
Golden Boy’s marquee star at the moment is Canelo Alvarez, the colorful 154-pound champion who will face off against another recognized 154-pound champion, Austin Trout, on April 20 in San Antonio on Showtime. Originally the discussion was that the Alvarez-Trout fight would be the main support for the Floyd Mayweather-Robert Guerrero fight on May 4, but reportedly because Mayweather will not agree to fight Alvarez if he emerges victorious, it will go ahead as a standalone event.
Richard Schaefer, the CEO of Golden Boy, was quoted as saying, “Canelo feels he’s his own man and can carry his own event.” But that won’t be on pay-per-view. If it was big enough it would be, but it isn’t, so you will see it on the Showtime’s “regular” premium channel. Someday soon, however, Alvarez may reach the level where he can headline PPV shows solely on his own strength, but that day is apparently not here yet.
Another fighter on the rise that has been fighting under the auspices of Golden Boy, WBC lightweight champion Adrien Broner, would presumably be moving over to Showtime with this sudden news.
At a press conference before the Bernard Hopkins-Tavoris Cloud fight in which he discussed a possible bout between Broner and Paul Malignaggi, “Adrien Broner has been fighting on HBO and I’m sure that’s going to continue.”
With regard to the possibility of a conflict of interest in dealing with both of the rival networks, Schaefer said, “HBO could have maybe objections because some of these fighters went over to Showtime and Showtime could have objections about this (the Broner-Malignaggi fight), but at the end of the day we need to do what is right for the fighters……We are not exclusive to Showtime and we are not exclusive to HBO.”
Well, now he would seem to be limited in his choices.
Last month Schaefer had mentioned that he approached HBO about working out a multi-fight agreement with them for Broner, but if the network is interested in making a deal with Broner, it would have to be one without Golden Boy attached. And how long will Golden Boy be attached to Broner? Well, according to a report that came from Yahoo’s Kevin Iole, the current deal may be running out in April, although there are plans for a June fight, promoted by Golden Boy, which could be against Malignaggi.
If Broner did indeed become a free agent, he could certainly find himself being courted by HBO, with new connections. Keep in mind that Showtime has committed an awful lot of money to Floyd Mayweather over the next couple of years, and money is not necessarily an unlimited commodity. For fighters to be in line for big paydays, there has to be money available, which in the case of Broner might fall into the category of “money left over.”
The mega-buck deal Mayweather signed with Showtime may have strained Golden Boy’s relationship with HBO, although the extent of their arrangement with Pretty Boy Floyd is that it serves as a “nut and bolts” promoter for his fights in exchange for a fee (reportedly a million dollars). But the natural connection with Showtime comes from a relationship with Stephen Espinoza, who was hired in November as Showtime’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of Sports and Event Programming. Espinoza had previously been legal counsel for Golden Boy and its founder, Oscar De La Hoya.
There had been a solid, long-standing connection between HBO and De La Hoya, and in fact it was Oscar’s popularity on HBO’s pay-per-view events that gave him the leverage to bolt from Top Rank, form his own company and grow it, with much help from HBO (in the way of giving him dates) into a major promotional player. Of course, much of that happened as De La Hoya was still fighting, or harboring possibilities of fighting, and he has resisted all overtures to make a comeback as he enters his 40’s.
From Ken Hershman, president of HBO Sports (and former Showtime exec) it was simply a cold statement. Part of it was “we’ve decided to focus our efforts and resources on those strategic relationships where we better share common goals and business philosophies.”
That may be another way of saying “If you’re not with us you’re against us.”