Oscar De La Hoya is trying to solve Golden Boy Promotions issues
Well, Oscar De La Hoya: Thanks for that.
Late Wednesday night, the embattled Golden Boy Promotions president released a terse, 37-word statement that (we think) was a response to his former friend/CEO Richard Schaefer's abrupt resignation from the company.
"Golden Boy Promotions is moving ahead on all fronts," De La Hoya said. "We look forward to continuing and expanding our key position in the boxing world and to providing the public with the very best the sport has to offer."
Golden Boy is a mess, and De La Hoya's statement offered little insight into what he plans to do to clean it up. It just lost its CEO and will probably lose its Chief Operating Officer, Bruce Binkow, in the coming weeks. Binkow is a close ally of Schaefer's and it's hard to see him sticking around this dumpster fire any longer than he has to. More likely, Binkow will eventually wriggle free and team up with Schaefer. As could David Itskowitch, Binkow's predecessor who left the company last year. Itskowitch was spotted at Wednesday's press conference promoting this weekend's Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez fight.
Schaefer, Binkow and Itskowitch sounds like a New York law firm, but together they form a formidable force in the boxing industry.
That's where this is headed. You know it is. Schaefer isn't going to move to Europe and resume a role in the banking industry. He's not a banker anymore. He's a promoter, and a damn good one. De La Hoya was the founder of Golden Boy, the face of it, but it was Schaefer who took the company to new heights. He wielded De La Hoya's popularity like a sledgehammer when Oscar was fighting, bullying HBO into handing over a lucrative output deal. Later, Schaefer brokered sponsorship agreements, tied Golden Boy to buildings like the Barclays Center, and convinced Fox Sports 1 to give him a boxing series that would enable the company to showcase its young fighters regularly.
What has De La Hoya been doing? Hard to say. De La Hoya's battles with personal demons are well known, but even when he was right he was never actively involved with the day-to-day operations of the company. He was an absentee landlord, seemingly content to get rich off of his name and Schaefer's work.
That's not to say Schaefer is clean in this. For some time Schaefer has been promoting fighters who have not formally been signed to Golden Boy, but were managed by Al Haymon, the shadowy advisor who Schaefer has a close relationship with. This arrangement stinks. No other major promoter would build a company around fighters they don't have contracts with. Why would they? The point of building a star is to reap the rewards that come when they are stars. Top Rank, Main Events, Lou DiBella, they all get that. If Haymon suddenly guts Golden Boy of many of its fighters and takes them to another company, Schaefer could have a nasty lawsuit on his hands. There are many in the industry who believe he will anyway.
How De La Hoya reacts to Schaefer's departure is critical to the company's future. In the short term, De La Hoya may turn to Binkow or some of the current staffers to keep the trains running. Golden Boy has a huge pay-per-view next month headlined by Saul Alvarez-Erislandy Lara and will need all of its brainpower to promote the event. After that, De La Hoya could do more co-promotions with Top Rank, reuniting with his former promoter/mortal enemy/best bud Bob Arum to run the show. Arum enjoys those types of arrangements. For years, Arum co-promoted shows with Don King. King wanted to speak at the press conference before the fight and count the money after it. He let Arum handle everything in between.
Eventually, De La Hoya is going to have to replace Schaefer. And it must be with someone good. Minus the Haymon-only fighters, it's still an appealing company. Alvarez is boxing's biggest young star and De La Hoya is still a well-known figure among Americans who grew up watching him win a gold medal in the Olympics and fight wars in the ring as a pro. Maybe De La Hoya should approach DiBella — a smart, well-connected former HBO executive who has a firm foothold in New York. His Broadway Boxing series are arguably the best-run club shows in the country. He's a little nutty (sorry, Lou) and would need to put together a strong staff around him, but DiBella has the skills to run a major company. So, too, does Kathy Duva, the Main Events boss, who has decades of experience in the business.
Oh, and none of this is good for boxing. If Haymon winds up raiding Golden Boy's roster, it's hard to see De La Hoya wanting to do business with him again. Floyd Mayweather has already indicated he was done working with Golden Boy, though Mayweather Promotions' roster is weak anyway. The promoter wars in boxing, once limited to Golden Boy vs. Top Rank, could have a whole bunch of new players.
At a time when boxing needs to band together, that could be disastrous. Purists love to point to the big events as an indicator of boxing's health. But saying the 80,000 fans who packed Wembley Stadium for Carl Froch-George Groves last weekend or the rabid crowd that will pile into Madison Square Garden for Cotto-Martinez this weekend prove boxing is healthy is like saying the NFL is thriving if after a season of mismatches played in front of sparse crowds the league had good playoffs. Boxing will be defined by its ability to connect with fans on a regular basis. And at this point, it hasn't made a strong enough connection.
Don't believe me? Look at the demographics. Boxing broadcasts continue to skew older, further and further away from the 18-34 year old sweet spot advertisers love and network executives badly need to keep programming going. "Boxing is dying" isn't just a cliché. It's literally dying.
Maybe this will all work itself out. Maybe De La Hoya and Schaefer will go their separate ways amicably, maybe there won't be a dogfight for Golden Boy's best assets, and maybe the eased tension between Golden Boy and Top Rank will lead to fights like Manny Pacquiao-Danny Garcia being made. I think there is a better chance of a unicorn galloping by my office, but who knows? Stranger things have happened.
Not much stranger though.