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.
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.
Keep An Eye on Philadelphia’s Stephen “Scooter” Fulton
By: Ken Hissner
Philadelphia featherweight Stephen “Scooter” Fulton had an outstanding amateur career. He was a Ringside, National Golden Gloves and Junior National Golden Gloves and Silver Gloves Champion.
Fulton was working out at the James Shuler Memorial Gym in Philly when I approached him about a story. I have seen him box professionally about eight times. His trainer since day one is Hamza Muhammad. He is managed by Al Haymon.
Photo Credit: Stephen Fulton’s Twitter Account
Fulton has had the nickname “Scooter” for some time but on the belt of his trunks you can see “Cool Boy Steph”. He’s been in camp with former WBA Super World Featherweight and now interim WBO World Featherweight champion Carl “The Jackal” Frampton in the UK helping him get ready for his last fight against Nonito Donaire in April of this year.
Fulton is a “classic Philly boxer” who will been turning 24 in July. Of his twelve wins he defeated five unbeaten opponents in his last six fights. His upcoming bout June 16th will be on the undercard of IBF World Welterweight champion Errol Spence, Jr. and Carlos Ocampo at the Ford Center at the Star, in Frisco, Texas, on USA Showtime in Fulton’s first ten round bout.
Fulton’s next opponent will be Mexico’s Jesus “La cobra” Ahumada, 14-1, with 9 stoppages making his US debut. After four bouts at four rounds Fulton had six bouts at six rounds before his last two bouts at eight rounds. He hasn’t fought since December of 2017 in Hialeah, FL, winning a majority decision over Adam “Bluenose” Lopez, then 8-0, who has won two fights since his loss to Fulton.
Fulton also won a majority four round decision over Joshua Greer, Jr., in 2015 and came off the canvas to stop Adalberto Zorrilla, 6-0, in the fourth of a scheduled 6 in 2016. This will be Fulton’s ninth Spanish opponent. In 2017 along with the win over Lopez he defeated Luis Rosario, 8-0-1, over 8 rounds at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA. Nine of his twelve wins have been in PA.
Fulton turned professional in October of 2014 on the undercard of IBF World Super Featherweight champion Rances Bathelemy’s defense against Fernando Saucedo at Foxwoods Resorts, Mashantucket, CT, stopping Issac Badger in two rounds. Fulton had wins in each of the next three months defeating Damen Wood in November, Benjamin Burgos in December and Eric Gotay in January. He had four more fights that year but in 2016 and 2017 he only fought twice each year.
“I could make 122 but it seems I can get more fights at featherweight so I will stay there for now,” said Fulton. He is looking very sharp in the gym and definitely one to “keep an eye on!”
On Saturday Fulton will be seeking his thirteenth win on the undercard of the IBF World welterweight champion Errol Spence, Jr., 23-0 (20), defending his title against Mexican Carlos Ocampo, 22-0 (13) card at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas. Fulton will be in his first 10 round bout taking on Jesus “La cobra” Ahumada, 14-1 (9), of Sonorea, MEX, on USA Showtime promoted by Tom Brown’s TGB Promotions.
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.
Showtime World Championship Boxing Preview: Pedraza vs. Smith, Hyland vs. Russell
Showtime World Championship Boxing Preview: Pedraza vs. Smith, Hyland vs. Russell
By: William Holmes
On Saturday night the Foxwoods Resort Casino will televised two world title fights live on Showtime as Gary Russell Jr. defends his WBC Featherweight Title against Patrick Hyland in the main event of the evening and Jose Pedraza defends his IBF Junior Lightweight Title against Stephen Smith.
Other noted boxers will appear on the undercard including Antonio Russell in the bantamweight division as well as former light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson facing Cornelius White. Only two fights are currently scheduled to be televised on Showtime, but highlights of the undercard may be shown.
The following is a preview of both the televised championship fights.
Jose Pedraza (21-0) vs. Stephen Smith (23-1); IBF Junior Lightweight Title
Jose “The Sniper” Pedraza had some considerable hype when he turned a professional for he represented Puerto Rico in the 2008 Summer Olympics and medaled in several international events. He is the current IBF Junior Lightweight title holder and has a significant edge in amateur experience over his opponent Stephen Smith, despite the fact Smith won the gold medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Games as an amateur.
Neither boxer is known for their power, as Pedraza has twelve knockouts on his record while Smith has thirteen. Pedraza is four years younger than Smith at twenty six years old. He will also have about a two inch height advantage as well as a four and a half inch reach advantage.
Smith has never fought outside of the United Kingdom and Saturday will be his first fight in the United States. Smith’s resume is lacking in big name victories, and his biggest wins to date were over Devis Boschiero, Mauricio Munoz, and Gary Buckland. Smith’s lone loss was by TKO to Lee Selby back in 2011.
Pedraza’s last victory was against Edner Cherry which he won by split decision. Other notable victories include Andrey Klimov, Michael Farenas, and Sergio Reyes.
This is a bout that Pedraza should win, quite easily. However, Pedraza has shown that he may have difficulty against crafty veterans as was evident in his bout against Edner Cherry. Unfortunately for Smith, he does not appear to have the power to catch Pedraza by surprise and he was stopped the last time he faced a big name opponent.
Gary Russell Jr. (26-1) vs. Patrick Hyland (31-1); WBC Featherweight Title
Gary Russell Jr. has a reputation for fighting boxers that are way overmatched, and Saturday night appears to be another fight that he should win easily.
Patrick Hyland is one half of the Hyland brothers and is more famous for his previous management deal with Snooki of MTV’s the Real World than for his actual boxing ability. Patrick was the better of the two Hyland brothers, but it appears he no longer has a working relationship with Snooki.
Both Hyland and Russell have fifteen knockouts on their resume. Hyland will have a significant height advantage as he is three and a half inches taller than Russell. Russell, however, is five years younger than Hyland.
Russell also holds an edge over Hyland in amateur experience. Russell qualified for the United States in the 2008 Olympics but failed to compete due to missing weight.
Despite the fact Russell has a reputation for fighting inferior opponents, he has a vastly better resume than Hyland. He has defeated the likes of Jhonny Gonzalez, Christopher Martin, Vyacheslav Gusev, and Christopher Perez. His lone loss was the current world champion and amateur standout Vasyl Lomachenko. Russell has two stoppage wins in his past five fights.
Hyland’s only notable victories came against Emmanuel Lucero and Frankie Arhculetta. His lone loss was to Javier Fortuna in 2012.
Hyland is the type of opponent that Russell should dispatch of easily. Russell does have problems when he’s facing someone that can match him in hand speed as was evident in his bout with Lomachenko, but Hyland will be outmatched in hand speed.
This is a bout that Russell should look incredible in, and it’s hard to envision a scenario where Hyland pulls off the upset.