A lot has been written on how this affects other promoters (such as Top Rank), fighters (like Adrien Broner) and advisers (namely, Al Haymon) but, in my opinion, not enough has been talked about perhaps the most important group of people - the fans.
The contingent that supports the business and whose interest keeps the sport alive. Here's what a pair of them had to say about this latest development. In this edition of “The Soapbox,” we have two viewpoints, one that is very analytical and another that is more the layman's perspective.
First up is a familiar name to “The Soapbox,” Brian Swider, a professor at Georgia Tech (best known for Bobby Cremins and some really good point guards)...
Big Losers: GBP. Fewer dates available mean lower licensing fees they can generate across the board. Furthermore, it also makes it much easier for TR to counter program their shows. In a simple game theory scenario, if you know all of you opponents’ options and outcomes, you can make the more effective decisions. Expect this process to only escalate as networks no longer need to keep both GBP and TR happy to operate.
OK, and now stepping up to the plate is a longtime reader of Maxboxing and the President of the Glen Johnson Fan Club...
Hi Steve, it's been ages since I last emailed you, but having just read your article on the HBO/Golden Boy situation, I wanted to throw in my 2 cents! I'm sure, like a lot of people, I was surprised by HBO's announcement yesterday about breaking ties with GB/Haymon. I thought they were so enamored with Broner, that they would never make a move like that. But you know, I kind of like the brass they showed in making this call. Over the years, I've come to really loathe the Haymon influence on our sport. Don't get me wrong; he does great as a manager, getting great deals for his guys at top pay. But it has been longtime pay channel subscribers like myself who paid the freight for these sweet deals and for our bucks, we got mismatches most of the time. When it came to Haymon's stable, a lot of what HBO bought and aired was not exactly Pryor/Arguello! That Orange Bowl clash was my first HBO fight and I still measure everything they put on by that barometer. Of course not everything can be that great and historic, but there was a time when an “HBO World Championship Boxing” telecast would really get your juices going. Not so much anymore.
Gentlemen, thanks for your contributions. All I can say is this: yes, competition is great. If this forces Golden Boy/Showtime and Top Rank/HBO to really put their best feet forward on a consistent basis, then boxing fans win. And as I've pointed out before, if you look at the next few months, I really like the cards on both sides of the street. From Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado II, Saul Alvarez-Austin Trout, Mikkel Kessler-Carl Froch II and Marcos Maidana-Josesito Lopez, among many other solid fights, both factions are serving up some strong stuff. However, there is a difference between competition and separation. And honestly, I wonder how long both sides can sustain this if they (specifically, Golden Boy and Top Rank) simply refuse to do business with each other.
In a perfect world, you get the best fights, not the best fights each network can get from a specific company. And yes, perhaps Golden Boy, with its deep stable between 140-147, can make a whole set of entertaining fights for a period of time. But at the end of the day, the fact we can never realistically hope for Brandon Rios to face Lucas Matthysse is depressing for boxing aficionados. And go back to the match-up that didn't happen between Abner Mares and Nonito Donaire. Now, Mares is facing Daniel Ponce de Leon and Donaire is taking on Guillermo Rigondeaux. Two very intriguing fights but let's be honest; they are consolation prizes for both the fighters and fans. And the announcement on Monday may have forever shut the window of opportunity for this to ever come to fruition.
In the past, while the “Cold War” was waged, the networks have at least stayed out of it (even though they had clear preferences). Now the division is more clear than ever. They are now directly involved in this whole quagmire (and I don't mean “Glen”). Top Rank product will not be on Showtime (and hasn't been in over a year) and HBO will not have anyone represented by Golden Boy on its airwaves.
But this isn't necessarily something exclusive to the United States or just Bob Arum and Richard Schaefer. In the U.K., you have the conflicts between Eddie Hearn (who controls SKY) and Frank Warren (and BoxNation). In Mexico, you have Azteca and Televisa (who have exclusive relationships with Top Rank and Golden Boy, respectively) and in the past, Germany was bogged down by the allegiances with ZDF (with Universum) and ARD (who was associated with Sauerland). It shows you how fragmented this sport is all around the world.
Right now, the fans win in the short-term. As both sides will be fighting tooth-and-nail for market share (and the dynamic that has really changed recently is that no longer is HBO the only 800-pound gorilla who can sit where they please) Showtime, under the leadership of Les Moonves and the direction of Stephen Espinoza, will no longer be bullied and squashed by HBO. You can expect a high level of fights - and a good dose of counterprogramming from both sides, where fingers will be pointed in each direction - and unfortunately, a lot of fights the fans can only fantasize about at the most.
Yes, HBO's edict made it official: the “Cold War” has gone nuclear.
And what do they say about nuclear war? It's M.A.D.
Mutually assured destruction.
Now, this is only boxing; I think that's a bit dramatic; but I do wonder if the sport can really grow with this type of schism in the long run. Professional football got better after the NFL and AFL merged. Basketball benefited from the ABA being merged into the NBA. I don't see anything like that taking place in boxing, which is the last vestige of the Wild, Wild West, where allegiances can change at any moment and so can alliances. Remember, it wasn't all that long ago when HBO was engaged in an exclusive output deal with Golden Boy and Top Rank was screaming bloody murder. And a couple of decades ago, HBO found itself in a situation where Don King took the services of all his clients - including “Iron” Mike Tyson - to Showtime, where they proceeded to have perhaps their most glorious era.
So the more things change, the more they stay the same.
And in this crazy racket, the more things stay the same, the more they change.
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