Earlier today HBO Sports president Ken Hershman, who previously headed up Showtime Boxing, issued a statement to the press, effectively ending his network’s working relationship with Golden Boy Promotions.
“In order to achieve our goal of the best fighters in the most compelling match-ups, we’ve decided to focus our efforts and resources on those strategic relationships where we better share common goals and business philosophies,” Hershman said in the statement.
The move was a bit like shutting the barn door after the horses had already escaped, though, since most of Golden Boy’s biggest stars had already moved to premium cable rival, Showtime, now headed by former Golden Boy legal counsel, Stephen Espinoza. However, the mostly-symbolic public gesture from Hershman does also shake the deck considerably, forcing Golden Boy stars like Adrien Broner and Bernard Hopkins, who do still fight under the network’s banner, into the waiting arms of Showtime.
The move comes just weeks after Showtime announced the signing of Floyd Mayweather Jr. to an exclusive six-fight deal. Mayweather doesn’t work for Golden Boy, but has partnered with them on each of his events since his 2007 blockbuster with Oscar De la Hoya. On May 4 Mayweather faces yet another Golden Boy fighter in Robert Guerrero.
The HBO decision essentially puts them in the hands of Golden Boy’s chief promotional rival, Top Rank, since very few other promoters can provide the type of talent needed to fill out a full, high-profile schedule.
Top Rank founder Bob Arum was, as expected, not displeased with the move.
“It seemed to me that they were being played by [Richard] Schaefer (Golden Boy CEO) and (manager/adviser) [Al] Haymon ,” Arum told Boxingscene, “and they put a stop to it…You can’t do appearance fights anymore. You can’t do [Andre] Berto fights, like they did for years, anymore. You can’t do that. It’s a waste of money and it doesn’t give the people an opportunity to see exciting action…I think people will now say HBO is helping to make boxing relevant again by making tremendous matches.”
Golden Boy President, Oscar De la Hoya also didn’t seem to be too troubled by the announcement.
“Game on!!” De la Hoya said through his personal Twitter account. “I am so pumped to bring all the great fights to @SHOsports and CBS. Good luck with your captain sailing you through the Dead Sea.”
All in all, though, this bit of publicity just serves to turn an unspoken rule of non-cooperation between the rival promotional companies into an actual contractual barrier as HBO and Showtime further divvy up the sport into what’s turning out to be two completely separate factions.
The bad news for HBO, though, is that they may be in for an uphill battle in the sport’s current hot zone weight range of 140-154 lbs. While Top Rank can deliver stars like Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, Timothy Bradley, and Brandon Rios, Golden Boy has a much deeper, fresher roster as well as their friendly arrangement with Mayweather. Golden Boy’s depth of talent in that weight range is also bringing fighters like Austin Trout (vs. Saul Alvarez on April 20), Zab Judah (vs. Danny Garcia on April 27), and Kell Brook (challenging vs. Devon Alexander on May 18) to Showtime’s door.
Of the fighters unaffected by the banishment of Golden Boy, HBO still has deals in place with Andre Ward and Sergio Martinez, as well as Top Rank’s Nonito Donaire and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (among many more). HBO won’t be going broke by any stretch of the imagination, but the loss of Mayweather and burgeoning superstars like Saul Alvarez and Adrien Broner will definitely be felt.
Could this be the beginning of two separate boxing leagues? Will this competition, in the long run, be a good thing for the long-suffering boxing fans?