Star Wars on September 15th
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (July 18, 2012) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor)
Josesito Lopez - Saul “Canelo” Alvarez
On Tuesday afternoon, while Top Rank was concluding its media tour in Mexico City to promote its September 15th showdown between WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Sergio Martinez, Golden Boy was officially kicking off its promotion featuring Josesito Lopez's challenge of WBC junior middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, taking place from the aforementioned fight just a few blocks away at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In the lunacy that is the boxing business, we have two competing shows taking place just a couple of minutes from each other.
Folks, the “Cold War” has officially gone nuclear between Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank. And they aren't giving peace a chance.
There's no doubt in Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer's mind that they have the superior show on this date. He said on this sunny Los Angeles day at La Placita Olvera that, “In typical Golden Boy fashion, if people liked what they've seen with Victor Ortiz and Josesito Lopez or with Lucas Matthysse and Humberto Soto or Danny Garcia and Amir Khan- just to mention the last three; I could go further back- if they like toe-to-toe action fights where, going into it, it can be ‘Fight of the Year,’ then there's no question where they are going to be- at the MGM Grand on September the 15th.” Also on this card is a match-up between WBC featherweight beltholder Jhonny Gonzalez and Daniel Ponce de Leon and a welterweight scrap between Marcos Maidana and Jesus Soto-Karass. “Those three fights we announced today, there can be no dispute they are ‘Fight of the Year’ candidates. These are going to be toe-to-toe battles. That's what people want to see; that's what Mexicans want to see. That's what fight fans want to see and that's why this is the card you want to be at.”
What's problematic to many pundits and observers is that Lopez, for all his grit and toughness, is basically a career junior welterweight moving up to junior middleweight. But the other two fights put together by Golden Boy look very appetizing. On many nights, this card (which still has a fourth feature to be announced) would be the focus of the boxing world. If you haven't heard by now, it will be a quadruple-header on Showtime while Chavez-Martinez will be distributed by HBO Pay-Per-View.
And this conflict could be one continuing for years to come because looking at the landscape, Chavez and “Canelo”- both young Mexican stars with broad fan bases- are just entering the primes of their careers. HBO and Showtime aren't getting out of the boxing business anytime soon and certainly, Golden Boy and Top Rank aren't going anywhere. So yeah, for the foreseeable future, we could see this dispute over the Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day weekend pay-per-view slots be a recurring issue.
“I hope not; I hope this is a rare occurrence, sort of a bump in the road and that we'll be able to coordinate better,” said Stephen Espinoza, head of Showtime Sports, who admits this current scenario is problematic and not good for the overall long-term health of the business. “Through this year, Showtime and HBO have been able to avoid date conflicts till really this event and I think that's the way I would like for it to continue for the good of the sport. But you're right; it's a conundrum. You've got the two biggest Mexican stars [going head-to-head].”
Regarding this situation, Schaefer stated, “Well, you have to ask [Bob] Arum that question. We feel that we have great fights; we have the right fighters which fit these dates and we are going to do what we feel is the right thing. So I'm not going to be influenced by what Top Rank and Bob Arum is doing. We have our business; he has his business. And we run our business the way we want to run our business.”
It seemed for awhile that both cards would be pay-per-view events in what wouldn't be an unprecedented event involving the rivalry between the two promotional titans. Back in 2006, while Golden Boy staged Bernard Hopkins vs. Antonio Tarver from Atlantic City on HBO Pay-Per-View, Top Rank did an independently distributed card from Madison Square Garden featuring Miguel Cotto vs. Paulie Malignaggi. This time around, with Top Rank having the superior main event (and one that was in place well before a final dance partner could be secured for Alvarez), it was Top Rank that had the upper hand (and the support of the cable systems and pay-per-view providers) which most likely led to Golden Boy placing this show on Showtime (“Free-Per-View” is how Schaefer describes it now, although Alvarez's aborted bouts against Paul Williams, James Kirkland and Ortiz were headed to pay-per-view).
There was even talk that this fight would land on CBS. There is still hope that in the future, the “Sweet Science” will find its way back to this network which televised the sport for years. “I have no question about it,” said Schaefer with great confidence. “We had conversations with Showtime and CBS about multiple, different opportunities and so on. And that's what we do; we discuss opportunities and deals and we just wanted to put together a strong card, top-to-bottom, with exciting fights and whether it's going to be on CBS or Showtime, it didn't really matter. We just wanted to put on a great card. And I know eventually boxing will be on CBS.” Espinoza said, “I hope so; we discussed all the various platforms, obviously, pay-per-view, CBS, Showtime. The reality is that this card has gone through so many incarnations that it was only natural that it segued to different platforms. But is it possible in the long run? I certainly hope so. I like what NBC has done and they've made a commitment and I believe CBS is open to the commitment with the right circumstances.”
For now, boxing at the world-class levels in the States is seen almost exclusively on HBO and Showtime. It seems like alliances are being formed between promotional factions and these network entities which, in effect, separate and divide the sport almost into two different leagues. It's clear the networks must be agnostic and buy the best possible content, not just the best possible content from within a promotional company. “I don't think it's a good development at all. It's not my desire to do anything but get the best fights and, the reality is, I'm open to criticism about the fights that I put on the air,” said Espinoza, who added this caveat, “but not who I get them from. So for me, what people should be looking at is- am I getting the best quality fights? That should be HBO's concern as well.”
It will be Espinoza’s job to tell the promoters that whatever conflicts that may exist between rival promoter isn't really his- or his subscribers’- problem.
“That's absolutely right,” agreed Espinoza. “[Abner] Mares-[Nonito] Donaire is a good example. That's a fight I've been pushing both sides for for months and without getting into specifics, it didn't happen. But that's one where I said, ‘Look, I know very well the dynamic but that doesn't change my desire for our network in what is really an exciting fight.”
Regardless, he likes the way this card is shaping up on his network. “I do; our goal here is to provide a high-quality card from top to bottom without asking people to pony up extra money and we want a solid three, four hours of boxing through the whole night in the action from start to finish.”
And don't tell Schaefer that Lopez, “The Riverside Rocky,” is nothing more than just a blown-up 140-pounder (who weighed 144.75 pounds versus Ortiz and began his career as a junior lightweight back in 2003). “All these boxing writers and media members, they are like ‘Mr. Know-It-All’ and are very opinionated. Are they ever going to learn? I was hoping they were going to learn after the [Oscar] De la Hoya-[Manny] Pacquiao fight when everybody said it was a circus; the commission should intervene, that this was not right, a smaller guy going against De la Hoya and they were obviously all proven wrong. And again, a couple weeks ago, Josesito Lopez went in against Victor Ortiz. They were all proven wrong again and when I say ‘all,’ I mean ‘all.’ And you saw the same again last weekend with Khan and Garcia; you could check it out- not one person gave Garcia a chance.
“And it's funny; you see the same here again, people giving no chance to Josesito Lopez. So I do hope that boxing writers are going to be a little less opinionated and they're going to learn a little but that this is boxing and one punch can change it all.”
(For the record, Richard, I'm also getting sick of these boxing scribes who are so opinionated and always give their two cents...)
For those wanting to attend the Golden Boy card, here is the 411 (from a press release):
Tickets priced at $400, $300, $200, $100, $50 and $25, not including applicable service charges and taxes, go on sale Friday, July 20 at Noon PT.  Ticket sales are limited to ten (10) per person.  To charge by phone with a major credit card, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000.
Speaking of Danny Garcia, Schaefer made it clear that there was no rematch clause in his contract to face Amir Khan last week at the Mandalay Bay, where he stopped Khan in four. 
“There are different possibilities for Danny,” said Schaefer, who didn't rule out a rematch but mentioned, “He can fight a Zab Judah; he could fight an Erik Morales rematch. One fight I've been thinking about is Yuriorkis Gamboa. So there's plenty of opportunities out there, big fights for Danny Garcia. It's going to be up to him and his father.”
Schaefer also confirmed that Lucas Matthysse vs. Ajose Olusegun will open up the Showtime broadcast on Sept. 8th before Randall Bailey puts his IBF welterweight belt on the line against Devon Alexander.
Gary Gittelsohn, who handles the career of WBO flyweight king Brian Viloria, firmly believes he can make a fight for “The Hawaiian Punch” against WBA flyweight titlist Hernan “Tyson” Marquez and also deliver a fight pitting WBA junior flyweight dynamo Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez versus Donnie Nietes, who holds the WBO strap. This card could take place on September 29th at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. What he's looking for is an American television network to televise it.
Honestly, I love this doubleheader. There was a time when a series like “Boxing After Dark” would have gladly showcased fights like this. Unfortunately, in the programming world, there is a belief that as you get to the lower weight classes (say, anything below the bantamweights), only the real hardcore fans are interested in such bouts. I won’t argue that but at the same time, you could make this doubleheader at a fraction of the fraction of the price that other supposedly “important” fights fetch. Bottom line, these are two very good match-ups that could lead to bigger things for the winners of these fights. It would be a shame if they were not televised in the States.
Perhaps you couldn't headline with these two fights but tell me they wouldn't make for two highly anticipated warm-up bouts before a main event featuring two larger fighters. I've thought for awhile that the undercards are for the real fans (who would care about such bouts) while the main events are often for the casual ones.
Let’s hope something can be worked out.
Heavyweight Seth Mitchell will not be part of the Alvarez-Lopez card, I'm told...On Sept. 15th, Showtime Extreme will once again televise two undercard bouts before the featured bouts on Showtime...On Thursday, Sept. 13th, ESPN2 will televise a card from the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas featuring some Top Rank prospects...Johan Perez faces Pablo Cesar Cano this Saturday night in Mexico on a card televised by Fox Deportes...HBO has picked up the delay rights for the Vitali Klitschko-Manuel Charr fight on Sept. 8th...Is Dez Bryant worth the hassle?...So did the Lakers get Antawn Jamison or not?...Biggest event of Sept. 15th? No doubt about it, the Miami Hurricanes facing Bethune-Cookman...Can't wait for the return of “Boardwalk Empire” but right now, “The Newsroom” is more than filling the void for me on HBO...

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