It was announced yesterday that HBO, the highest-rated boxing network in the United States, has indefinitely decided not to purchase fights from Golden Boy Promotions. This results in a clearly delineated relationship between networks and promoters that has been brewing for quite some time after Golden Boy began working with Showtime in late 2011.
Since former Golden Boy legal counsel Stephen Espinoza joined Showtime to run its boxing program, several rising stars who had been featured on HBO were suddenly appearing on the rival network. This included Amir Khan, Danny Garcia and Canelo Alvarez. An HBO official told BoxingScene.com that this was a factor in their decision to cease buying Golden Boy fights. Furthermore, a vast majority of other Golden Boy promoted fighters have been exclusively fighting on Showtime throughout 2012.
This alignment was consistent with the manner in which Golden Boy and rival Top Rank operated, as well. Instead of the two promotional companies working together, they have worked against each other. This has resulted in an increased number of head-to-head cards on the competing networks, including the September 15 clash that pitted Golden Boy's Alvarez vs. Josesito Lopez on Showtime against Top Rank's Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Sergio Martinez on HBO pay-per-view, with both events being held in Las Vegas.
There is an upcoming "split-site" head-to-head card scheduled for April 27 with Showtime televising Amir Khan vs. Julio Diaz from the UK followed by WBA/WBC light welterweight champion Danny Garcia vs. Zab Judah that evening at the Barclays Center. Meanwhile, HBO will be broadcasting a heavyweight title elimination bout between Chris Arreola vs. Bermane Stiverne in California before airing a doubleheader in Buenos Aires, Argentina featuring WBC middleweight king Sergio Martinez vs. Martin Murray in the main event.
It has been Golden Boy/Showtime vs. Top Rank/HBO.
This became rather obvious when Top Rank's Bob Arum pointed to his allegiance to HBO as a reason for rejecting the Nonito Donaire vs Abner Mares unification bout proposed by Golden Boy in January.
The handwriting on the wall became even clearer when pay-per-view king Floyd Mayweather Jr signed a lucrative multi-fight deal with Showtime last month, leaving HBO where he virtually fought his entire career and earned the moniker "Mr. HBO".
HBO announced at the time of Mayweather's departure that it was "proud of the roster of superstar fighters and emerging stars who are scheduled to appear on the multiple HBO television platforms this year." This included WBC lightweight champion Adrien Broner whom the network had been building into their next star while tolerating one weak match-up after another, most recently one against Welshman Gavin Rees. Many felt Broner, a Golden Boy promoted fighter, would lead the charge and become the new "Mr. HBO" after Mayweather's defection.
This was put to the test when serious discussions began earlier this month surrounding a fight targeted for June between Broner and WBA welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi, whereby Broner would be moving up two weight classes to face his fellow Golden Boy stable mate. It was a highly unusual match-up that had many scratching their heads as to why Broner would jump over a stacked 140-pound division to challenge Malignaggi, who also just so happens to be a boxing commentator for Showtime.
A report by RingTV.com four days ago indicated that a date of June 22 was being considered for Broner-Malignaggi which conflicted with the return of Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. When asked if the fight was taking place on HBO, Broner was quoted as saying "Of course. I'm Mr. HBO, man. You know what network I'm fighting on."
In light of the recent announcement by HBO, that is not going to happen. Well, not as long as Broner is under contract with Golden Boy. Yahoo!Sports' Kevin Iole reports that Broner's contract with Golden Boy and adviser Al Haymon reportedly expires in April and that Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson has reportedly made an offer to the 23-year old fighter to join his company, SMS Promotions, when the current deal lapses. This would open up Broner to face fighters promoted by Top Rank, including Brandon Rios, Mike Alvarado and Timothy Bradley. Whether he actually chooses to fight any of them is another matter entirely.
Until then, it will be Showtime's issue to deal with the antics of Schaefer, Haymon and Broner (who was reportedly arrested yesterday morning and charged with battery), as well as the associated financial implications of doing business with the cast of characters under the Golden Boy umbrella. All the while, the network will be relying on the Mayweather signing to reap the benefits necessary to meet their obligation on a deal with the pound-for-pound great that is reportedly estimated to be upwards of $250 million.
This s*** is chess, it ain't checkers.
If Broner-Malignaggi does in fact come to fruition, we can likely expect another Golden Boy/Showtime and Top Rank/HBO head-to-head card with Chavez's return going up against it. Given the wild popularity of this troubled son of a Mexican legend, it could put some real pressure on Broner's coming out party on a new network and be a hit to his massive ego if the ratings of this rather curious fight do not live up to those generated while he was at HBO.
Another somewhat alarming signal came during Bernard Hopkins' recent post-fight interview after defeating Tavoris Cloud on an HBO televised fight on March 9. The record-breaking world champion, who is also a minority partner with Golden Boy, gave a shout out to "the other network" that he "needs a home" even though HBO aired Hopkins' last four fights, including a pay-per-view event in his first meeting with Chad Dawson in October 2011.
While we obviously would prefer everyone work together as that would yield the best results for all involved, the decision to cut Golden Boy (and Broner) loose for the time being just mirrors the reality we have been experiencing over the past year. Whether the decision was emotionally charged or politically driven, it may not have the devastatingly crushing blow on boxing that some may suspect as the big fights we wanted to see involving fighters from these two top promotional companies were not going to happen anyway.
If anything, this arrangement could potentially force better match-ups between the top fighters within each stable to ensure competitiveness and widen the net to expose fighters from other promoters such as Gennady Golovkin, Andre Ward, Sergio Martinez, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Gabriel Rosado and Ruslan Provodnikov, all of whom have provided excitement on the HBO airwaves against quality opponents.
Let the search for a new "Mr. HBO" begin.
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