Oscar De La Hoya Wants to Live in a Gold-In-House By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Sept 29, 2010) Special to Doghouse Boxing
I'm sure you've heard by now that Oscar De La Hoya created more than just a few waves by stating that his company, Golden Boy Promotions, should have complete control over the sport. In this interview (Broadcastingcable.com) De La Hoya expressed a desire to completely drive out his promotional rivals in an effort to revive the boxing business.
Some of his comments included "We are not a sport that is an organized sport or a unified sport like the NBA or baseball or MLS; we have many promoters in the business, which is obviously a negative. So it's very difficult to make the right fights but Golden Boy has been able to sign big fighters, to now be the primary sponsor for HBO, and we do all the exclusive shows on Univision-about 50 a year."
(De La Hoya said “sponsor” but what he really meant was “content provider” to Home Box Office)
And when asked if boxing needed one commission or organizing body, he would state, “The Don Kings and Bob Arums have had a chokehold on this sport for the last 40 years. They've been able to put great fights on; they've been able to promote the sport, yes, but I believe the days are long past of the way they promote. Now, we have to think outside the box; we have to think like the NBA and MLB and have one commission and one major promoter in the sport."
Following that answer, he was asked point blank if he felt that Golden Boy should replace them. "Absolutely. We need to sign all the talent and get all the TV dates; then you can have your own agenda and have a schedule for the fans and the sport. You can do a monthly PPV, a bi-weekly HBO fight; you can have the best fighters fight each other. When you have five or six promoters, it's very difficult."
When asked if his plan was to take over boxing, De La Hoya answered rather dubiously. "My plan is not to take over boxing but really do what no other promoter was able to do and that is have unified rules and one commissioner and make sure the fighter is taken care of and is not cheated out of anything."
Well, that's a rather strange answer from De La Hoya. For a guy to say he doesn't want to take over boxing exclusively, while at the same time he speaks of signing every fighter and controlling every significant television date and putting on all the major shows and driving out all his competitors. If it walks like a monopoly, talks like a monopoly and quacks like a monopoly- it's probably going to be a monopoly. And the term “antitrust” has been thrown around a lot in the last day or two in reaction to De La Hoya's most recent comments.
And it's also worth mentioning that while they have stated their intentions from the very inception of their company to protect and serve their fighters, we still don't know where that spare, unaccounted-for half-million bucks went from the May 15th card that featured a doubleheader of Amir Khan-Paulie Malignaggi and Victor Ortiz-Nate Cambpell. Also, if pay-per-view shows featuring the likes of Shane Mosley and Sergio Mora are the type of monthly fare he is planning on providing for 50 bucks a pop, no thanks.
But the bottom line is simple; monopolies don't work and last I checked, this was America; we have a capitalistic society. Does boxing need more structure? Probably. But boxing's biggest problems aren't that there are multiple sanctioning bodies or no centralized commission. The much bigger ailment is that in the age of the television packagers and network brokers who call themselves promoters, you don't have enough authentic promoters who know how to build and cultivate attractions. Boxing doesn't need one centralized promoter or become like the UFC. To the contrary, it needs more entities like Kathy Duva's Main Events and Bob Arum's Top Rank, who have proven that they can build ticket sellers and create markets without being at the complete mercy of the premium cable networks.
Let's be brutally honest; Golden Boy has never developed their own attractions. What they do is take built or made fighters from other promoters who started them from scratch and then, using the leverage they have with HBO- where they enjoy an exclusive output deal- they are able to poach boxers like Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe and Amir Khan, from the likes of Frank Warren. By being able to get a set number of dates per year off the top, they hold a distinct advantage over their competitors, who don't enjoy such a luxury.
The thing is, what Oscar said is not a pie-in-the-sky statement. In fact, it's rooted in reality. HBO long ago facilitated this vision. It's no secret that not only do they give their “strategic partner” (which is how Richard Schaefer describes the Golden Boy-HBO union) specific dates but industry insiders will tell you that free agents are essentially steered to Golden Boy (after all, they have slots available on the network). And with those said dates, they are, in essence, afforded the opportunity to create their own league within their own roster of boxers.
Promoter Gary Shaw says, "I do believe that HBO has been complicit in helping Golden Boy and I warned HBO about it." Citing a specific example, he points out, "Look, the 140-pound division, I think, is a glaring example of where HBO had the power to do something to help boxing and they didn't. Instead of forcing Devon Alexander and Tim Bradley (to fight one another), they should have said to Golden Boy, 'Either you put Ortiz, Khan and Maidana in or they're not going to be on our air till they're willing to fight these guys.' Then you would've had a real single-elimination, great tournament and something the fans really would have bit on and could have helped boxing.
"But instead, they give them their own dates. They stay on Don King and I to keep this going."
See, you can rip Oscar all you want (and I'm beginning to think that perhaps for the sake of Golden Boy and HBO that a gag order should be placed on him) but the truth is that HBO, under the “leadership” of one Ross Greenburg years before, has tried to drive traditional promoters out of the sport. It was under their boxing franchise that certain individual boxers were allowed to create shell promotional companies and cut out the trouble that can be in dealing with those pesky promoters and all their machinations. The fatal flaw in that plan is that while it made it easier for HBO to deal with the likes of Naseem Hamed, Roy Jones, the Klitschkos and other established boxers-turned-promoters, they weren't in the business of building other boxers for the future but just getting the absolute highest percentage they could from their HBO license fee.
In truth, HBO became a promoter a long time ago and now, through Golden Boy, is doing their best to eradicate the traditional promoter and only deal with select entities, whether they’re clients of Al Haymon or Golden Boy. Only problem here is they’re poor promoters.
Just look at their results. They pretty much speak for themselves.
Sorry, but getting rid of King and Arum is not the solution. To be truthful, at one time, those two guys had virtual monopolies on the regular, over-the-air networks and their misdeeds are well-known, from tampering with the rankings to crooked tournaments and generally damaging the sport with their tactics against each other and everyone else. They were never saints, just cold-blooded businessmen.
But ya' know what? The era of King, Arum and Main Events being a three-headed monster was pretty damn good for boxing.
Before he got into the promotional realm, Shaw worked as an inspector for nearly 30 years for the New Jersey Athletic Control Commission. He said of that period, when boxing was still considered mainstream, "It was very prosperous; everybody fought one another. Even Cedric Kushner was involved in that with some of the opponents and I just don't understand it."
Back then, Main Events was run by Dan Duva, who, before his untimely death in 1996, had built this small, family-run business that ran regular local shows at the Totowa Ice World to a promotional powerhouse that staged the historic first bout between Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns in 1981. The company then developed the likes of Pernell Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor and Evander Holyfield, among many others. Now, the company is run by his widow, Kathy, who said of De La Hoya's comments, "I mean, isn't it kind of silly? All the great fights that have taken place in the past when there were multiple promoters and now all of a sudden- they never happen. They [Golden Boy] literally have an intramural program going over there and that's fine if that's what they want to do. But my God, to go there and claim that's somehow the solution is absurd."
But again, is Oscar that far off, given his and Golden Boy’s cozy relationship with HBO? Duva, in order to get Zab Judah a slot on the November 6th “Boxing After Dark” telecast at their home base at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, had to give up significant concessions to Golden Boy, who controlled that date.
"I guess so," she agreed, laughing loudly at the thought. "I'm just kind of shocked that the idea in this day and age, somebody is proposing a monopoly being a better alternative to capitalism. And y' know, if they ever had to compete in the market with everybody else on a level playing field, we'd have a very different situation here."
Shaw says of De La Hoya's comments, "I think he's lost his mind; he's got rocks between his two ears and it's absurd to think that way. A lot of people before him thought about changing the sport- nobody has succeeded yet. But to say he's going to get every fighter and every date and kick Arum and King out, it's nonsense."
And you know I just had to ask Arum his thoughts (Did you really think I wouldn't?).
"I mean, there's one word to describe the article and to describe Oscar and that's ‘pathetic’," said the veteran promoter on Monday afternoon from his offices in Las Vegas. "I mean, it's just pathetic. It defies any rational response."
While he tried to get over on King as much as he could, Arum states he never yearned for a monopoly.
"Well, as somebody who believes in the free enterprise system, I always assumed that having vigorous competition meant that the product was better and the consumer was better served and certainly the fighters are better off with competition because there are promoters competing for their services," said Arum, perhaps making the most important point in this discussion. The boxers themselves, who Golden Boy professes to protect at all costs, would suffer economically in this system being favored by De La Hoya.
"But if the little wet dreamer envisions himself as the czar, "continued Arum," y' know, that's probably something that he dreams about and wishes for."
So Top Rank will not be closing up shop per Oscar's proclamations?
"Well," said Arum, "I called Gary Shaw up and I said, 'Let's all get together and have a bonfire where we throw our promoters’ licenses in the fire.'" When Shaw was asked if he was shutting things down, he joked, "Yeah, but I'm sending in my résumé to Golden Boy'."
I think a boxing insider summed this up best in an email by stating, "I am absolutely stunned by Oscar’s argument in favor of monopoly and against competition. That’s precisely the same argument that AT&T tried to make when the government broke them up in the mid ‘70s. Had AT&T gotten their way back then, our phones would still be attached to the walls in our homes. He is completely ridiculous. I’m so comforted to know that, despite all the time he is devoting to building his empire, Oscar still has time to save boxing."
Sorry, Oscar, but don't pass go; don't collect $200. And most importantly, be prepared for a big “no” to a Golden Monopoly.