Golden Relationship By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (March 17, 2011) Special to Doghouse Boxing - Tweet
On Friday night, manager Frank Espinoza will have a pair of his boxers, Antonio Orozco and Luis Ramos, on Golden Boy’s card at the Hangar at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, California. On April 1st, Martin Castillo takes on Eric Morel at the Fantasy Springs Casino near Palm Springs and then on April 23rd at the Club Nokia at L.A. Live, two more of his clients, Abner Mares and Carlos Molina are in action. Yes, there’s no doubt about it; the Espinoza Boxing Club has hitched its wagon to Golden Boy Promotions.
Throughout the years, the respected Espinoza has worked with a wide range of promotional companies as he moved the likes of world champions Enrique Sanchez and Israel Vazquez, among others, but right now, he feels at home with Golden Boy.
"There’s no doubt about that," he told Maxboxing last week. "I just feel real comfortable with this company and I really like the fact that they do local shows at the Club Nokia and have a busy schedule overall with their “Solo Boxeo” series and, of course, they put on big shows all over. But also, I really have a good relationship with Richard Schaefer, who has treated me and my fighters very well. And the thing that I really like is that because they are based out here in Los Angeles, I can only go in and meet with him face-to-face. Not saying I don’t enjoy good relationships with other promoters but I really like working with Golden Boy."
The feeling is mutual.
Schaefer, the CEO of Golden Boy, says, "Frank is a pro and what I started to realize- and I didn’t know this when I got into boxing; I didn’t really know the role of promoters and managers and all those things- but Frank is one of the pros in the sport and when it comes to managing fighters and taking care of all these important things outside the ring. So we have really developed a nice comfort level. We get along very well. I think he respects me and I can tell you I respect him. I think he has a proven track record. He’s a pleasure to work with."
Espinoza, who also manages former world champion Yonnhy Perez (who is co-promoted by Thompson Boxing Promotions and Gary Shaw) has consistently been able to mine relatively unknown talent and help develop them into world-class fighters. He’s the type of manager who isn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers and go against the grain. While Golden Boy has taken much criticism for its track record in developing its own talent, Espinoza says, "Listen, it’s still a relatively new company if you think about it. They haven’t been around all that long and part of my job is helping them along as it relates to matchmaking and stuff like that. I admit, I’m a guy who is involved; if I didn’t want to be, I wouldn’t invest my own money into this. It’s that simple. But if you judge me by my actions, yeah, I trust this company and so far, they’ve done well by me."
If you look across the landscape of boxing, there are certain managers that consistently procure talent.
"I think you probably have less than a handful of managers which have a proven track record in scouting and developing talent. I think Frank is one of them; of course, Cameron Dunkin has an amazing eye and a great stable of fighters. So there’s a few. Shelly Finkel was one of them," Schaefer pointed out. The goal of the promoter is simple- move his fighters in a responsible manner in conjunction with their managers.
"I think it’s important because you’re absolutely right; we’re focusing in on developing these kids and giving them the opportunities to grow and the more established fighters to get them on HBO or Showtime or pay-per-view, so that’s where our focus is. Basically, make them the most money we can and I think the managers, their role is to make sure their fighters are ready, that they’re taken care of in training camp and all the other things, which are important to satisfy the fighters," Schaefer continued. "Because a fighter has to get into a fight without any headaches and that he knows he has a team around him which he can trust and the team starts with the fighter and ends with the fighter. But in-between, there are important components and I think the promoters are important. I think the manager is important; the trainer is important; the nutritionist is important. There’s a whole team of people but the manager is certainly an important piece, right up there with the promoter."
When asked if having a cordial- if not downright friendly- relationship aids in making deals, Schaefer, who comes from the banking business, answered, "Well, yes and no. Sometimes if you have a pleasant relationship, obviously, it helps but sometimes you don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye. You might disagree on a purse; you might disagree on this or that. Sometimes it might hurt that if you have a nice relationship that it can end up in heated discussions, each side thinking that they are right. Sometimes when you’re too close with somebody, that’s not necessarily a good thing either. But I think the most important thing is- in any business- [is asking] what is the key to success? The key to success is: honesty, hard work and, most importantly, it is smarts.
"I like to deal with smart people and your chances to succeed in any business, if you surround yourself with smart people, are substantially better than if you surround yourself with idiots. It seems to be logical but I have to tell you; there’s a bunch of idiots in boxing."
Espinoza says, "I know I have a job to do; I know Richard has a job to do but I know that at the end of the day, we can be hardline in our stances but also be reasonable. But more than that, I like the fact we don’t make it personal or affect our relationship and we never let disagreements cloud how we feel about each other. Richard has always treated me with great respect and, to me, that means a lot."
The manager-promoter dynamic is unique one because while the manager is entrusted to look after the fiduciary interest of the fighter against the promoter, the latter’s job is to maximize his income and protect his own investment. While, at times, they will be on opposite sides of the table, they are trying to move in the same direction for the benefit of the fighter. Oftentimes, it isn’t just about the black-and-white but finding a gray area that is amenable to both parties.
"Look," said Schaefer, "the fact is we have exactly the same goals. We have the goal that A) our mutual fighters win, B) but is it a competitive fight that is advancing his career? And C), makes the most money and that there’s some sort of plan on where it’s going to lead. We are in the same boat. I think that is important but when I said before about dealing with smart people, if you are a smart manager, he will make sure in that building-up phase. He will realize when I put them on Telefutura or the ’Fight Night Club’ or ESPN or things like that, that is most likely a loss-leader for us and it’s really an investment in the fighter and it takes a manager who realizes and understands that and knows how to explain it to the fighter as well.
"And then when the time comes when a fighter is going to be on a Showtime, a pay-per-view or an HBO, that they’re going to realize the money which we have invested in the fighter and they’re not going to go and bust our balls when it comes to somehow making some of the money back. And I think that is the partnership, the relationship and the trust which has to exist between a manager and promoter."
It’s a give-and-take relationship, one that Espinoza says he’s happy to be in, as it relates to Golden Boy.
"I look forward to having a long and prosperous future with them. It’s the company I want to be with," he says.
On Wednesday afternoon, Golden Boy released a statement announcing they had added Nonito Donaire to their roster. This is another gunshot to the feud that exists between boxing’s version of Death Row and Bad Boy Records, as this basically makes it official that the Cold War between promotional titans Golden Boy and Top Rank has gone nuclear. While Golden Boy believes that the “Filipino Flash” was free and clear of any contractual obligations, Bob Arum believes he has a contract that binds him for another couple of years. What’s interesting is that in the mediation that involved Manny Pacquiao a few years ago, there was a “no-poaching” clause specified for both sides, although it hasn’t kept fighters like Victor Ortiz from switching allegiances.
All this will be argued by the likes of high-priced attorneys like Judd Burstein and Daniel Petrocelli. It’s not clear just how quickly this issue can be resolved but the last thing the streaking Donaire needs is protracted litigation that will keep him out of the ring for any real length of time. While this development might have surprised some folks, this had been brewing for quite awhile and like many other issues, it isn’t as cut-and-dried as it looks.
One of the issues that has bothered the Donaires is that they believed that Top Rank reneged on promises to showcase him on Manny Pacquiao undercards and groom him as the “Pac-Man’s” heir apparent. Instead, as they signed on with Top Rank not long after his big victory over Vic Darchinyan, they were never put on these big shows (word is that unless he was under the banner of Pacquiao’s promotional company, Donaire was basically banished from the Pacquiao’s cards) and for a period of a few years, he faced the likes of Rafael Concepcion on small, independent pay-per-view cards. Now, there are several ways to look at this. First, Top Rank did invest its own money in financing these “Pinoy Power” cards. On the flipside, they could’ve been called “Pinoy Purgatory” because the reality is not many folks were watching these shows and much of the momentum from the Darchinyan victory faded as time went on.
Another factor is that Donaire believed that under the Top Rank banner, they would always be overshadowed by Pacquiao. However, regardless of who promotes them, isn’t Pacquiao going to basically overshadow every single fighter in the world, save one Floyd Joy Mayweather Jr.? And as it relates to the Filipino market share, it’s still Manny- and everybody else but they believe they are on the precipice of carving out their own significant niche within the Fil-Am populace. It’s hard to argue that point; right now, Donaire is trending as upward as the next fighter. Top Rank will argue they helped get him to this point. The Donaire camp believes it took too damn long and they did it in spite of Top Rank’s efforts.
After his emphatic victory over Fernando Montiel in February, the Donaires (and yes, his wife, Rachel, has a large say in this) were said to be a bit peeved that he was offered just his contracted minimum (which was then upped to a reported half-million bucks) for a fight on May 28th. While there was a lot of talk from Arum about Donaire facing WBA bantamweight king Anselmo Moreno, in the aftermath of the Montiel fight, motions were being set in place for Donaire to depart Top Rank.
The bomb was dropped yesterday.
In the short term, it now opens up the possibility of a Donaire-Mares showdown (should the latter topple the difficult Joseph Agbeko on April 23rd), which is certainly an attractive fight. But down the line, if you have any hopes of seeing Donaire matched against the likes of Steve Molitor, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa, as they say back east, “Fugeddaboutit,” because that quartet of boxers is represented by Top Rank. As for the immediate future, Schaefer told me that he is in New York and he will be meeting with HBO in hopes of securing the earliest available date for his newest client.
Folks, this is gonna get ugly (or is it uglier?) because really, this isn’t just about a disgruntled boxer but the growing chasm between two of the most powerful promotional outfits in the world who go to battle everywhere, except where it really counts- inside the ring.
Seriously, haven’t we done this before? The only thing missing is a steakhouse and a briefcase full of money from Oscar De La Hoya.
COLD WAR FLURRIES
Just wondering, is the next countermove from Top Rank going to be Juan Manuel Marquez?...Also on this week’s edition of “Solo Boxeo,” James Kirkland faces Jhon Berrio. After that, he is scheduled to fight on Golden Boy’s April 9th pay-per-view show in Las Vegas...The March 25th edition of “Solo Boxeo” is a good one as featherweights Antonio Escalante and Alejandro Perez are scheduled to collide...Other future Telefutura main events look like this: April 1st: Eric Morel vs. Martin Castillo, April 8th: Jesse Vargas vs. Mauricio Herrera, April 15th: Eloy Perez vs. Daniel Jimenez and April 29th: Jesse Brinkley vs. Peter Quillin....