By Steve Kim: For weeks, the question posed by those interested was: Given the changing landscape of the boxing business (in the form of Floyd Mayweather going across the street to Showtime), would HBO stay in the Adrien Broner business moving forward? Like Mayweather, Broner is under the Golden Boy Promotions banner and advised by the influential Al Haymon. Broner is scheduled to face WBA welterweight beltholder Paulie Malignaggi on June 22nd at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn,New York.
But on Monday afternoon, HBO made a rather bold public declaration. Not only would Broner no longer be its “Problem” but for the time being, the rest of the Golden Boy stable would not appear on their airwaves.
A statement from HBO Sports President Ken Hershman read, “In order to achieve our goal of the best fighters in the most compelling matchups, we’ve decided to focus our efforts and resources on those strategic relationships where we better share common goals and business philosophies.”
So there it is; a promotional company that once had an exclusive output deal with HBO is now basically persona non grata.
When Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer was asked by Maxboxing if the turn of events surprised him, he answered, “Yes and no. The reason why I say yes is because [HBO] issued a statement that they want to focus on the best fights and fighters in the best weight classes and then they’re walking away from an Adrien Broner and want to shut the door on other fighters. Whether it’s ‘Canelo’ [Saul Alvarez], Danny Garcia, Amir Khan, Andre Berto, Lucas Matthysse, Abner Mares, Leo Santa Cruz, Keith Thurman, Marcos Maidana, Devon Alexander, Paulie Malignaggi, Lamont Peterson and on and on and on. That’s not consistent with the statement they issued. So yeah, I’m surprised from that point.
“But I am not surprised because the fact is I haven’t had any conversations with Ken Hershman, the HBO Sports president, going back to last November or December. But to put this very clearly, this is the aftermath of the biggest name in the sports world, Floyd Mayweather, leaving HBO for Showtime. So yeah, they’re upset at Al Haymon; they’re upset at me and I guess this is their way of getting back at us.”
As Schaefer points out, Golden Boy has one of the deepest and most talented rosters in all of boxing. Now they will all be shipped to Showtime (which has done nothing featured fight cards promoted by Golden Boy since last November on its “Championship Boxing” platform). The question is, does Showtime have a big enough warehouse for all of its clientele? The reality is there are a finite amount of dates and money for boxing on this or any other network.
“Yeah, we have a deep stable and the interesting thing is the diversity in age, 40s, 30s and 20s are represented and you look at the demographic diversity, the best urban fighters, Anglo fighters, the general market, Hispanic and so on. So this is obviously a network’s dream because it is the best names in the sport and they are a diversified group of fighters and you’ve seen how Showtime stepped up over the last 12-to-18 months as it relates to getting these big fights and the number of shows they are doing and so on. So if you are a network and the question is, ‘Hey, are you interested in Adrien Broner?’ What do you think they’re going to say? This is like an early Christmas in March. So that’s not going to be a problem,” said Schaefer, who was unintentionally punny.
The game was already divided among the two super-powers (Golden Boy and Top Rank), who are in the midst of a long-running “Cold War” that sees them living in separate universes. Now this business seems more fragmented than ever with Golden Boy joining Showtime and HBO, which will now, more than ever, rely on Top Rank as its main content provider. If you look at the upcoming schedules for both networks moving forward, both entities have an attractive line-up of fights and there is a clear pattern. Top Rank is doing business exclusively with HBO at this level and Showtime is airing nothing but Golden Boy product. So in essence, what we have is a series of in-house promotions in place. You have to wonder how long this can sustain itself in the long run.
Schaefer doesn’t seem too concerned. “I look at the strength of our fights, our upcoming schedule; again, you look at the depth of our stable, I’m not so overly concerned as it relates to the kind of quality fights and match-ups Golden Boy is going to deliver and continue to deliver.”
And those fights will all be under the Showtime/CBS umbrella for the time being.
“The loser here is really the HBO subscribers, which are now going to miss out on some of those big fights,” said Schaefer, “but having said that, I don’t want to say anything about HBO. I have friends over there, whether it’s a Mark Taffet or Kery Davis or Richard Plepler. Those are terrific guys and then there are some people there who frankly don’t know between Floyd Mayweather and Jessie Vargas and some of those people are taking positions which are really, I think at the end of the day, not in the best interest of their subscribers and of their company.”
Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports reported that Broner, a key chess piece moving forward, could be a free agent in April (sports.yahoo.com/news/boxing--with-hbo-no-longer-doing-business-with-golden-boy--stars-continuning-migration-to-showtime-165423186.html). But Schaefer is adamant in claiming that to be false information.
“Adrien is part of a long-term deal with us and he has a long-term deal with Al Haymon as well. So I don’t know who’s spreading those rumors but whoever is doing that is probably 50 Cent. He better be careful because he’s a guy who really doesn’t know what he’s doing. He might be a talented music guy but as a businessman, you have to look at his record. I mean, the Vitamin Water, that was like sheer luck. It was not because of his brains he got involved and you look at his record label, how many guys does he still have signed? When did he do his last concert? C’mon, now this guy wants to get into boxing?
“And now he’s trying to go after our fighters? Good luck,” said Schaefer, who now joins Ja Rule and Fat Joe as those who have had beefs with “Fiddy.”
Well, you’ve had the AFL-NFL and the ABA-NBA battles in other sports where there wasn’t so much competition but really, separation till the leagues merged. Yeah, I don’t see Golden Boy and Top Rank breaking bread anytime soon and with networks aligning themselves so openly with them, they can subsist without doing business with each other. Perhaps this is more like the WCW-WWE feud of the ‘90s in pro rasslin’.
I see a lot of black-and-white statements being thrown around about this latest turn of events. Honestly, there are a lot of gray areas in this and the real impact of all this won’t be known for a few years. At the same time, in many ways, this is history repeating itself. As I’ve pointed out before, the ‘90s saw a similar situation that had Showtime in an exclusive deal with Don King (whose main attractions were Mike Tyson and Julio Cesar Chavez) and Top Rank associated with HBO. The more things change, the more they stay the same. And it was during this stretch that HBO had perhaps its most glorious decade led by the likes of Oscar De la Hoya, Lennox Lewis, Roy Jones, Arturo Gatti and a new series called “Boxing After Dark.”
But again, that was with the likes of Seth Abraham and Lou DiBella running their boxing franchise. They aren’t walking through that door anytime soon.
Also, the landscape has now changed in this business. Yes, it’s true that HBO has certain inherent advantages (such as more subscribers and better name brand recognition) but that paradigm could be changing because it’s clear that CBS President and CEO Les Moonves has clearly made it a personal mission to have his network become a more prominent player in this industry. There is clear evidence in terms of Nielsen ratings and pay-per-view buys that you simply can’t nurture a star on Showtime. Time will tell if that changes.
HBO was certainly bold in its edict (and perhaps justifiably so) but some industry insiders wonder if being so public with its rather punitive actions toward Golden Boy was so wise. It says here that they made the right move in rejecting Broner’s bout against the feather-fisted Malignaggi but you must wonder if the superior tact would have been to just merely pass on this fight but always leave the door open for his return if, say, Broner faces the likes of Lucas Matthysse. Golden Boy is here to stay; they aren’t going anywhere soon. And this latest action now puts HBO in a position to be more reliant than ever on Bob Arum and Top Rank to be its main content provider. Top Rank certainly has a long and storied track record of developing attractions but there is a danger of giving any one company or man too much power.
Isn’t that how HBO, during the Ross Greenburg era, got themselves into the predicament they did, as they basically empowered the likes of Golden Boy and one Al Haymon for the past decade? And speaking of Haymon, you can question how HBO dealt with Golden Boy but it’s clear his power and influence had to be mitigated. For years, Haymon had this ability to get incredibly favorable deals that, while great for his clients, were terrible for HBO’s subscribers. But once he no longer had the ability to flex his “Mayweather Muscles” (as they are dubbed in the boxing world), he lost much of his leverage with them. And perhaps HBO decided that while Broner is talented - if not just troubled (looks like he caught another case in Miami recently: distilleryimage4.instagram.com/4dfa95f8902311e2830722000a1f9d75_7.jpg) - this was simply the time to move on and start anew. Remember this: Haymon’s game plan doesn’t really include actually putting his fighters in all that much danger. It’s why Broner is Bob Beamon-ing over a loaded 140-pound division.
And it’s why Orlando Lora got on this network.
The Haymon tail that wagged the HBO dog for so long into an endless string of forgettable Andre Berto and Keith Thurman fights needed to be docked.
Word is there was an intense, internal debate at HBO over this decision. There is a belief that certain jobs at the network are directly tied to being in business with Golden Boy and Haymon. To decipher which side some were on, well, refer back to Schaefer’s quote naming certain HBO executives. Regardless, it’s not clear if any real changes will be made to HBO’s front office.
It’s being said that this development is a boon to the likes of Main Events, Goossen Tutor, Banner Promotions, DiBella Entertainment and the like but the reality is that as the migration of Golden Boy talent has taken place over the past year or so, HBO had become less and less “Golden” in that time frame. It’s not as if 15 dates had suddenly opened up but perhaps the few dates that did might have gone to Broner. What this really means is those aforementioned promoters suddenly become very valuable as third parties who can play on both sides of the street. While they may not get dates of their own, per se, if they develop their own fighters who are valuable commodities (such as Ruslan Provodnikov, promoted by Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions) they, unlike a Brandon Rios (who can’t realistically face anyone from Golden Boy) actually have more options. Top Rank and Golden Boy can be insular for only so long within a given weight class; the intramurals would have to end at some point.
So how will all this affect the boxing business? Talk to me in 2015.
But as I tweeted on Monday, what is this world coming to? First, we have Tim Bradley, of all people, in a “Fight of the Year” candidate and now Golden Boy expunged from HBO.
According to Schaefer, a junior welterweight tussle between Matthysse and Lamont Peterson is coming together for May 18th. “We are working on finalizing that,” he says. And it’s part of a bigger picture for Golden Boy at 140.
“Obviously, what I can foresee and what I have discussed with the relevant parties with Peterson, with Matthysse, with Al Haymon as it relates to Danny Garcia, with Amir Khan - what I would like to see this year, Lucas fights Peterson. We know Danny is facing Zab Judah; I would like the winner of those two fights fighting each other and then in November/early December, the winner of that fight, fight Khan.”
So is this boxing’s version of “Kramer vs. Kramer”?...The Bradley-Provodnikov fight at the Home Depot Center sold 2,256 tickets for a gate of $172,914 according to the CSAC...Top Rank prospect Oscar Valdez will return May 11th on UniMas...I’m told that the focus for Leo Santa Cruz on May 4th is newly-minted IBF 122-pound titlist Jonathan Romero. Hopefully, that fight can get done...Seriously, “Bar Rescue” is my newest favorite show...I think it’s safe to say that Andrew Bynum’s knee is more cracked than the Liberty Bell in Philly…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.