Stephen Espinoza Gives His Take on The Atlanta Market, Al Haymon Advice, His Top 5 MCs and More
By: Hans Themistode
Superstar boxers are a rare commodity these days. There are currently only a handful in the sport today. Manny Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez are the first two who come to mind. You can easily make the case for both Heavyweight champions Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua, but they haven’t quite crossed over to the mainstream just yet.
We do have a few boxers who are right on the cusp of stardom, in Welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr and his chief rival Terence Crawford. However, they still have more work to do.
With the emergence of the undefeated Gervonta Davis, many in the boxing industry believe that he isn’t just on his way, but instead, that he is already there.
Before the 2019 boxing calendar rolled around, naming Davis as a star in boxing would have been a laughable statement. Yet, now with three appearances this year and every single one of them ending with a highlight level knockout and not to mention a sold out crowd, no one is laughing anymore.
Just take a look at what Davis was able to accomplish in his last ring appearance on December 28th, 2019.
Davis did what he was supposed to do on the night. Somewhat.
Long faded former champion Yuriorkis Gamboa was chosen as the first opponent for Davis as he moved up to the Lightweight division. The contest was supposed to be nothing more than a beatdown at the hands of Davis. Instead, it turned into one of the most difficult fight of his life.
The performance of Davis wasn’t one of his best, but that is beyond the point.
If you happened to be glued to the television screen on the night, then you would have noticed a star studded crowd in attendance. It wasn’t just your typical famous boxers who are often on site at these big shows. No, the stars truly came out to support Davis for his fight which took place at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta Georgia.
NBA hall of famer Shaquille O’Neal, rapper TI, reality television show actress and Instagram model Alexis Sky was amongst the crowd.
Seeing a star or two at attendance for a big fight isn’t a big deal. It’s actually pretty normal. But this contest hardly qualified as a big fight. In fact, not only was this contest viewed as noncompetitive but it was also in an Atlanta market that although it used to be a hotbed for big time fights, it had been a long time since championship boxing came back to the city.
It was a big risk to say the least for promoter Stephen Espinoza, but luckily for him, he had someone he could depend on to help him promote the fight the right way.
“I relied on someone with more experience than me,” said Espinoza. “Me and Al Haymon. He explained to me that whenever in Atlanta, in particular whenever the calendar fell so that there was a weekend between Christmas and New Years, he always did big concert business in Atlanta. Because people might have some days off and are looking for something to do, they’ve been at home with family and might be looking to get out. So when there is a weekend between Christmas and New Years it’s generally been a good weekend in the market. Now it hasn’t been a boxing weekend so it’s a bit of a risk but so far that knowledge has transferred over. A good concert weekend is also a good boxing weekend as it turns out.”
Attention all promoters. Please take note and follow suit. Al Haymon just gave the blueprint on how to be successful in a market such as Atlanta. If this game plan can work there, then there should be no doubt that it can work just about anywhere else.
Espinoza and Haymon might be good friends but make no mistake about it, there are several promoters and rivals who are the exact opposite. With three sold out shows for Davis in 2019, Espinoza would be kidding himself if he believed that his competition aren’t going to attempt to steal Davis from his roster of fighters.
“There’s always competition. Whether it’s HBO or FOX or who knows what it’s going to be in the future. The reality is that Showtime Boxing has been around for almost 35 years. We would love to work with fighters for their entire career. Badou Jack has basically been nowhere other than Showtime, Tank has been nowhere other than Showtime so we hope to keep it that way.”
Keeping Tank on Showtime shouldn’t be a huge problem but keeping him on regular cable television is another story entirely. CEO of Mayweather promotions Leonard Ellerbe doesn’t think that Davis will be a huge pay-per-view star, he knows it. According to Ellerbe, Davis is set to make his debut on the paid platform in the first quarter of 2020.
Even if you are loaded with money, no one is jumping at the idea of shelling out roughly $75-$100 for a fight. With that being said, if the quality comes along with the price tag, then most people will be willing to stomach the cost.
“I think the right number is probably a couple of pay-per-views. Sometimes there are grumblings from pay-per-views but I think in general people don’t mind paying it when it’s deserved. You have a bunch of friends over and they bring the beer and you buy the fight and just everybody chips in. Yes, it’s $75 and that’s not an easy expense all the time but if you are getting a big fight and a quality card then I think it’s the right tool. The problem is when you start using that as a financial clutch. Towards the end, for example, HBO started putting a bunch of cards on pay-per-view because they did not have the budget to put them on regular HBO. No. If its not a quality card then it shouldn’t be on pay-per-view. It’s to make fights happen that otherwise couldn’t.”
If boxing fans can get the exact matchup that they are looking for then the complaints of pay-per-view would seemingly dissipate. Yet, like always in boxing, there are other issues that could come in the way as well.
In the early 80s and 90s boxers entered the ring sometimes four or five times per year. Fast forward to today and that seems like an arduous schedule for a fighter. To sum it up, fighters get paid more for less work.
Kudos to the fighters who are able to pull this off. More money for less work? Where do I sign up? But for promoters such as Espinoza it can become a pain.
“I don’t think there is a problem with fighters not fighting enough, especially at the championship level. We seen Errol Spence Jr and Shawn Porter in an absolute war for 12 rounds. So put the car crash aside, if you ask me for their health, they shouldn’t be in the ring for another 6 months. Look, if you’re fighting 2 wars like that then twice a year is plenty. I would rather air on the side of being more cautious than not. So on the championship level I don’t have a problem with a guy fighting twice a year or Tank fighting three times a year.”
That explains one part of the problem which deals with the inactivity of fighters today, but an even bigger issue could be the ridiculous amount of money that is constantly being thrown at them. You can opt to take the money if you want, but it might not lead to the best results in terms of their long term career.
“We now have other outlets that are getting into the sport and they are making offers simply because they need fighters and they need content. You get an offer that says hey here’s 7 million dollars, you can fight whoever. Literally whoever you want. The problem with that is that it makes my job harder. My offer is you can fight for a million dollars but you have to take a real meaningful fight. So if there is only one guy in the business doing that then it becomes harder. When fights are not competitive and are not meaningful, they are like a tree falling in a forest. If you are fighting mismatch after mismatch then no one is going to pay attention. In terms of career development and exposure that certainly is not the way to go in my opinion.”
Figuring out a happy medium between paying fighters what they believe they are worth, along with managing a fighters schedule is a difficult ask. What’s not so difficult, however, is figuring out who Espinoza loves to listen to when he needs to relax and make these fantasy matchups happen. If you are one of our more younger readers then his list of top 5 favorite MCs might be before your time.
“This is gonna date me,” said Espinoza chuckling. “You’re gonna know exactly what generation I came from. I gotta go with KRS, Nas. Neither Biggie or Pac is in my top 5. It’s hard to put Jay-z in the same category as those two. I’ll go with Rakim. This one will be a surprising one. I think LL Cool J is under appreciated. And I gotta go with Chuck D.”
No Biggie, Pac or Jay?
Espinoza is one of the very best promoters in the world, but his taste in music is a bit questionable.
Toka Kahn Clary Picks Up Easy Win; Napoleon-Espinoza Retains Title
By: Robert Aaron Contreras
The main event well underway, the bell clanged to end the ninth round and that soft lull hung above the ring—that fleeting moment when both fighters simultaneously stop, their oscillating arms suddenly at a standstill. Toka Khan Clary turned away from his opponent and toward his daughter in the crowd. He blew her a kiss. This night was theirs.
With the the esteemed Freddie Roach in his corner, Clary (27-2, 18 KO) was too sharp and too fast for his opponent Irvin Gonzalez (12-1. 9 KO), winning across the board by scores of 99-91, 99-91, and 98-92. After the fight, Roach chimed in with his summary of the fight.
“He was in and out,” Roach said. “A couple rounds he took off and let the guy steal a couple. But he fought a great fight. Speed is a great asset.”
The win earned Clary the NABA super featherweight title, just a makeshift regional strap but at least made his presence felt in the 130-pound class, leaving the featherweight ranks behind for good.
“I want to thank God and my family. I want to thank Freddie and the whole Wild Card team,” Clary said after the fight. “Gonzalez is tough. I’m happy I got the win… I sill got a six pack, I’m staying here—126 be killing me.”
Clary’s gameplan was clear. He secured the center of the ring, getting off punches before Gonzalez knew what hit him. Gonzalez was too limited to keep up with Clary’s fencing work, consistently pawing out a southpaw jab before spearing a left cross down the middle.
With the approach, Clary built up an early lead and carried it across the finish line. Gonzalez had infrequent opportunities to bang up close. But after some brief exchanges in the middle part of the fight, Clary became more patient in the latter half and by this point had Gonzalez’s timing down. When the Massachusetts resident plowed forward, Clary changed levels and tossed an overhand left across his man’s chin.
The rest of the way, Clary’s pressure had Gonzalez on the ropes: sticking out a right hand and following it up sweeping right and left hooks. Sometime in the tenth round, the ref had to separate the choppy smothering going on but there was no doubt who the fight belonged to.
Clary has now won back-to-back fights—both under Lou DiBella’s promotional banner—including eight of his last nine since a shocking KO defeat in 2016 to Pinoy sparkplug Jhon Gemino. He has been dealt just one more loss since then, a points defeat last year to Kid Galahad in what was a title eliminator.
Still only 27, his trek to a world title at 130 pounds is now underway.
Alicia Napolean-Espinoza def. Schemelle Baldwin by fourth-round TKO
Alivia Napoleon-Espinoza (12-1, 7 KO) is still the WBA champion after defending her title over Schemelle Baldwin (3-1-1, 2 KO), routing the challenger in four rounds.
The super middleweight champion since a decision victory over Hannah Rankin, “The Empress” Espinoza extended her winning streak to five straight and showed off her punching power in the process.
To Baldwin’s credit, with just four fights under her belt, she immediately took the center of the ring in the opening frame. She looked slick, sitting behind her shoulder ala Floyd Mayweather, but Espinoza’s stickler of a jab closed distance and rattling left hooks easily gave the defending champion the round.
Espinoza took control early in the second round, opening with a long body jab. She hooked off her jab well, stepping to her left almost simultaneously to avoid return fire. It would become clear that attrition is her game, boxing wonderfully to start before eventually forcing her opponent to succumb to her imposing physicality.
As such, Espinoza’ really poured in on in the third and fourth rounds. At 1:30 of the fateful fourth round, punches clinked off Baldwin who could not muster up any offense of her own and referee Al LoBianco waves things off, stepping between the lioness and her prey.
Napolean-Espinoza continues to be a real attraction in the Tri-State area, competing between Queens, Brooklyn, New York, and now Connecticut.
Another Connecticut favorite in Helen Joseph, by way of Nigeria, also triumphed over her competition. Joseph (17-3-2, 10 KO) pitched a shutout over six rounds, winning 60-53 three times over, defeating a young Hungarian by the name of Martina Horgasz (5-4, 4 KO). She is now unbeaten in her last six bouts.
Stephen Espinoza Believes Mayweather vs. Pacquiao 2 Will Happen
By: Michael Kane
Stephen Espinoza, the President of Showtime Sports, has suggested that the Mayweather v Pacquiao rematch is very likely.
Mayweather faced Pacquiao on the 2nd of May 2015 in what was being billed ‘The Fight Of The Century’ and ‘The Battle for Greatness’.
However the event never lived up to the pre match hype and probably came too late in the career of both boxers.
Mayweather (50-0) won an unanimous decision 116-112, 116-112 and 118-110.
Pacquiao (60-7) went on to win the WBO International welterweight title, defeating Timothy Bradley Jr almost a year after the Mayweather fight.
— Boxing Insider.com (@BoxingInsider) October 2, 2018
Pacquiao then added the WBO world title, defeating Jessie Vargas, later in 2016, only to lose that title to Jeff Horn last year.
He currently holds the WBA Regular world title after beating Lucas Martin Matthysse in July 2018.
Mayweather last fought in August 2017 against UFC champion Conor McGregor, winning by stoppage in the 10th round, a fight that moved him to 50-0 and then told the world he was retired.
How much appeal a rematch between the two greats has, can and will be debated.
“Floyd Mayweather is very serious about the fight, from everything I’ve seen and heard Manny Pacquiao is serious about it as well.” Espinoza said in a media scrum today.
“There is a lot that needs to be done, this year would be a big challenge. Not that we haven’t pulled off stuff in a short time. Like we did with Mayweather – McGregor.
“But I do think we will be seeing the rematch, Mayweather – Pacquiao in short order. I understand people doubted it because of the way it was announced, so to speak, in a viral video but I think that was just Floyd taking advantage of an opportunity in marketing and the way he markets things.”
When asked how does 2019 sound.
“2019 sounds perfect. That way I get a little sleep after this event then we go at Mayweather – Pacquiao 2 right away!”
It would seem the fight is a lot closer than people originally thought.
Potential Thurman-Garcia Bout Raises Interesting Questions
Potential Thurman-Garcia Bout Raises Interesting Questions
By: Sean Crose
Word is out – via RingTV.com – that Showtime honcho Stephen Espinoza is hoping that Danny Garcia will face Keith Thurman in a high end matchup early next year. Think of it as a welterweight unification of sorts…one that will eventually make its way around…. maybe. The truth is that there’s something frustrating about having to wait roughly six months for a fight that could realistically go down in around twelve weeks or so (though – in fairness – Thurman is said to have received damage from cuts recently – presumably from his bout with Shawn Porter). Fans can be accused of being over-eager, immature, or simply clueless as to the reality of things, but there’s no denying most anyone who follows boxing would like to see a Garcia-Thurman bout sooner rather than later.
After all, these are two undefeated pros who may well be entering their primes, fighters who bring quality resumes and real excitement to their bouts. To be made to wait, only to find out the fight may never happen at all, is truly frustrating. It’s also indicative of why boxing isn’t as popular as it could be – never mind used to be. People simply like things in a timely manner. It’s not impatience. To the contrary, it’s the expectation of professionalism on behalf of promoters, managers, networks and fighters. The fact that the UFC now delivers major card after major card only serves to make boxing look less than functional in contrast.
Then again, perhaps it isn’t boxing that’s making the big mistake here. Take the UFCs two biggest stars of the past year. Ronda Rousey was said to be the toughest fighter on the planet. What’s more, there was the feeling that if one didn’t agree with that ridiculous assertion then one was somehow a chauvinist (talk about brilliant marketing!). Yet Rousey ended up getting beat in her 13th fight – not just badly, savagely – roughly three months after her previous bout.
Then, of course, there was Conor McGregor, the mouthy Irishman who bullied his way to an impressive record and much fame. Fellow UFC fighter Nate Diaz claimed McGregor was given special treatment by the organization, but no one wanted to listen – until, of course Diaz gave McGregor a real beatdown last March – roughly three months after McGregor’s previous bout. The point to all this? That perhaps the UFC does a better job with its own brand than it does with the brands of its individual fighters, which is something to think about.
Say what you will about guru Al Haymon, there’s little doubt he makes sure his top fighters are well paid. Just how much, one may wonder, did McGregor and Rousey really earn from fighting so frequently in the past twelve months? Probably nowhere near what boxing’s top fighter, Floyd Mayweather, made in the twelve months previous to those. Boxing fans are mad that they’re made to wait. Yet will either Rousey or McGregor ultimately have as successful career as Mayweather? Or Pacquiao? Or Thurman? Or Garcia?
It’s hard to tell, really. And that’s rather telling in and of itself.
Even though it’s frustrating not seeing fights like Thurman-Porter and GGG-Canelo arrive in a timely manner, none of those four guys risk ultimately becoming flashes in a very large pan. Still, couldn’t things speed up a little so long as a fighter’s individual health isn’t on the line? Boxing is largely a consumer based business, after all…and, generally speaking, the customer has some legitimate complaints right now.