Thawing the Cold War - The Soapbox Edition
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Thawing the Cold War - The Soapbox Edition
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing on Doghouse Boxing (Feb 14, 2014)

Cold war by icheehuahua, Doghouse Boxing
Image by © Chee, Doghouse Boxing Inc.
A few days ago I was tweeting (which I do quite a bit) on the recent situation regarding Erislandy Lara's calling out of Gennady Golovkin. It's certainly a solid match-up. Lara is one of the sports premiere 154-pounders and Golovkin has developed a reputation as one of the most feared fighters in the game as the WBA middleweight titlist. In a perfect world, this fight would occur but we all know we currently live in the “Cold War” era of boxing. Because of Lara's association with Golden Boy Promotions (and furthermore, Showtime) and Golovkin's relationship with HBO, this fight is simply a non-starter.

More and more fights nowadays aren't so much consummated because they are the best match-ups that can be had but really, the best that can be facilitated within the framework of this fractured business. Depending on whether you’re aligned with Golden Boy/Showtime or HBO (which is more spread out among the likes of Top Rank Promotions, K2 and Main Events among others getting dates), this will determine which pool of bouts you are really eligible for.

Golovkin facing WBO beltholder Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin seems like a natural fight but with Quillin being promoted by Golden Boy, it's nothing more than a fight of fantasy. “GGG” looks destined to face Andy Lee on April 26th. Meanwhile, Lara will most likely be relegated to facing other fighters under his same promotional banner (such as Austin Trout and Alfredo Angulo).

That said, Matt Swider, a semi-frequent contributor to “The Soapbox,” chimed in with his solution - from a network perspective - on how to thaw the “Cold War” and at least bring some detente between the two super-powers, Top Rank and Golden Boy:

There's so little innovation in boxing television but...
I see Steve tweets about the “Cold War.” Ray and I were talking on the phone last month of all the great match-ups at 140-147 that could be made.
The only solution to the problem? Guaranteed money.
In a real world, Top Rank/Golden Boy would have to design something similar to the RFPs (request for proposal) you see for, say, “Thursday Night Football.” In boxing, since they work backwards, HBO (or SHO or ESPN or whoever), needs to bid or create the right offer on the following content (or something similar) and assign a financial value:
Three-year deal, 12 shows (all doubleheaders, so 24 fights).
One show a quarter.
Golden Boy vs. Top Rank in both fights on each show.
Exclusivity in the match-ups between the companies.
Have a proposed “A” list of which both promoters and network approves.
Have a flexible “B” list, which is all fighters under each promotional umbrella are considered but must be approved by all parties as they develop during the deal.

An exclusive six-month window to negotiate an extension of the current deal.

Let’s say the offer commenced and it was worth $4 million a show ($2 million to each side) for a total of $48 million over three years ($8 million to each company per year split right down the middle).
Two examples of types of shows this is designed to produce:
Main Event: Abner Mares (Golden Boy) vs. Nonito Donaire (Top Rank)
Co-Feature: Andy Ruiz (Top Rank) vs. Deontay Wilder (Golden Boy)
Main Event: Timothy Bradley (Top Rank) vs. Danny Garcia (Golden Boy)
Co-Feature: Leo Santa Cruz (Golden Boy) vs. Evgeny Gradovich (Top Rank)
All fights makeable and right within (and frankly exceeding) the current financial landscape.

This deal would not tie a fighter/promoter exclusively to a network i.e. if, say, Danny Garcia (Golden Boy) fights Tim Bradley (Top Rank), which is the type of “A” fights you are creating in this RFP, each fighter can fight whoever and for however on any other network next with the exception of the next possible “crossover” opponent. Golden Boy vs. Top Rank fights are only exclusive to this network. Not each company, not each fighter.

The TV network ensures 12 primo cards, once a quarter to satisfy its subscriber as well as possibly attract new ones. Surely a fighter can ascend to a pay-per-view level and certain match-ups fall by the wayside as a result (though I’m sure language could and would be created to ensure Top Rank vs. Golden Boy PPV exclusivity as well) but this ensures GREAT, exclusive content. It can’t solve all that ails the sport.
It works the promoter/fighter because while a certain exclusivity exists, the winners and star-makers can use it to springboard past the current duopoly setup with obvious leverage. As well, the next contract (or extension) could greatly inflate with early success.
Guaranteed money is the solution. How many shows have a TV license fee of $4 million? Very few if any. This type of deal allows these two companies to hit their high minimums to certain fighters in many cases. And this deal provides a structure for these companies to work together to further enhance their returns with live gate, sponsors, etc.
Guarantee the money and the “Cold War” ends. The aforementioned is a rough sketch of how it should look and what the people in charge should be outlining. That’s, of course, if they want change and progression, which frankly hasn't been a priority for over 30 years in boxing.
It’s not good for the outside promotional companies, no doubt. But they frankly haven't done a good enough job in the current structure. And as a rights holder, their well-being shouldn't be considered, only the consumers and subscribers.

Matt, as always thanks for the submission. I'm not sure how the Kathy Duvas, Lou DiBellas, Dan Goossens, Artie Pelullos and Gary Shaws of the world feel about your last paragraph but if you promote the likes of Sergey Kovalev, Sergio Martinez and Andre Ward, I'm sure they will find a place on the network for them. At the end of the day, it's about having the best and most marketable talent on your airwaves. K2 has proven this with Golovkin (who made three appearances on HBO last year and will probably make the same amount in 2014).

That said, I love your proposal but right now, you have two promotional outfits that are finding safe and lucrative harbor (for now) at Showtime and HBO (who are anything but agnostic). But while that's good for them and their bottom lines, it's not necessarily great for the fans, who quite frankly don't care about the personal animus between the two companies or the politics involved. Although, I will say the fans of today are probably more well-versed on the dynamics that determine what eventually takes place inside the ring. However, it doesn't make what they are served up at times any more palatable.

I said this last year; while 2013 was a very strong year for the sport of boxing in which you got good fights, some great action and solid TV ratings at both premium cable giants, it was much too soon to declare anyone a winner in this stand-off or to state it was actually good for boxing since it created competition. That old saying that a rising tide lifts all vessels seemed to become reality last year but already you are seeing that this division is proving to be problematic. Case in point is Ruslan Provodnikov, who defeated Mike Alvarado last year in a thriller and now has a one-fight option with Top Rank (which means his next outing will be televised on HBO). And right now, it hasn't been easy to find a suitable dance partner for him with some of the marquee names under the Top Rank banner going in different directions.

On the other side of the street at Golden Boy/Showtime, you have the likes of Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse and Lamont Peterson, who simply cannot be in the mix at this current moment. Provodnikov will be back on the HBO airwaves sometime this spring but unless he's facing Brandon Rios, it will be a far cry from any of these match-ups.

So is this real competition or merely separation?

But that's the world we live in right now. The reality is networks and promotional divisions are hampering more potential fights than the sanctioning bodies.


Here's the latest episode of “The Next Round” hosted by Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly with special guest Larry Merchant:


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