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Mexican Standoff

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In a national conference call by Golden Boy Promotions last week, it was announced that should Victor Ortiz defeat Josesito Lopez this Saturday night at the Staples Center, he would then be in line to face WBC junior middleweight titlist Saul Alvarez on pay-per-view. After Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s emphatic victory over Andy Lee on Saturday night, Top Rank made its intentions clear that the WBC middleweight titlist was on a collision course to face lineal champ Sergio Martinez. Two very anticipated fights featuring four noted fighters- but there’s one not-so-small problem.
 
As of now, both fights are scheduled for September 15th on the coveted (and now traditional) Mexican Independence Day pay-per-view slot.
 
Yeah, what we have here is a Mexican standoff. And neither side is showing any sign of budging.

To make matters worse- or perhaps even more farcical- both cards will be scheduled just a few blocks from each other. Alvarez-Ortiz is slated to take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas while Chavez-Martinez is bound for the Thomas and Mack Center.
 
You could make the argument that Coke and Pepsi are sold side-by-side in stores all across America or Burger Kings and McDonald’s reside on the same blocks and food courts. In sports, you see leagues put on games all across their schedules that conflict with each other all the time. All of this is true. But it should be pointed out that in those instances, those industries have a much bigger market to pool from. Boxing, being a niche sport, simply doesn’t have that luxury. Sure, you have nights when both HBO and Showtime have cards on the same weekend but there’s a huge difference between setting up your DVR to record one set of fights and watching the other later on and paying an extra $130 on your cable bill. That’s insanity (but let’s be honest; for some folks, that means getting another laptop to find an illegal stream).
 
No, this is not unprecedented. Back on the night of June 10th, 2006, we had dueling pay-per-view cards which saw Miguel Cotto take on Paulie Malignaggi from the Madison Square Garden in New York and in Atlantic City, Bernard Hopkins faced Antonio Tarver. And it was once again the same cast of characters involved, Top Rank and Golden Boy, whose animosity toward each other has only intensified in recent years. In boxing’s version of the “Cold War,” we are now past the Bay of Pigs stage and it seems like missiles are pointed directly at each other (and excuse me if I go all Rick Reilly here by rehashing a point I made years ago regarding the night in 2006 but situations like this are M.A.D.- mutually assured disaster- where nobody really wins).
 
So what will happen here? Most likely, one of the shows will move off pay-per-view, if not the date entirely. But each side has seemingly dug in its heels. Months ago, Top Rank notified those in the cable industry that they planned a pay-per-view card on September 15th. Last week’s announcement by Golden Boy was a preemptive strike to beat Top Rank to the punch. The only problem is that Ortiz still has to win this weekend to clear the way for his crack at Alvarez. Chavez took care of any remaining hurdles by defeating Lee last week in impressive fashion in El Paso. Top Rank’s argument is very simple: not only did we reserve this slot long ago, we also have a bona fide match-up to present to the public. This was what Golden Boy argued earlier this year as it related to May 5th when they had Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto locked in. And they believe that they have the better, more meaningful fight. Of course, Golden Boy believes it has the superior product to offer but neither Bob Arum nor Richard Schaefer can say with a clear conscience that, should this come to fruition, it is good for either of their businesses or for the good of boxing in general.
 
This isn’t the first time this type of skirmish has broken out between the two factions. Every year, there are certain dates that are viewed as ideal pay-per-view landing spots and there is a constant battle to acquire them. And the Cinco de Mayo weekend on the first weekend of May and now the third Saturday of September are Park Place and Boardwalk on this Monopoly board. Given that both Top Rank and Golden Boy are both so heavily invested in Latin boxers and that respective market, don’t look for the battles for these prime slots to subside anytime soon.
 
Going all the way back to the history of these two particular pay-per-view slots, it originally took off when Don King started showcasing the great Julio Cesar Chavez in the early-to-mid ‘90s as Mike Tyson was imprisoned. Then this tradition was moved along, ironically, by Bob Arum, who regularly showcased Oscar De la Hoya to great success in these months. Nowadays, the first weekend of May is such a regular pay-per-view destination that it doesn’t even take a fighter of Mexican descent to headline the show, as Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao have proven. These two particular dates were about having major shows such as De la Hoya against the likes of Fernando Vargas or Manny Pacquiao taking on Ricky Hatton. But more and more in recent years, we’ve unfortunately seen main events like Shane Mosley-Sergio Mora, Juan Manuel Marquez-Robbie Peden and Marco Antonio Barrera-Rocky Juarez II.
 
Several years ago, Golden Boy had a pact (some in the industry deemed it collusion) with the MGM Grand and HBO where it would host pay-per-view shows on these dates, in essence, boxing out anyone else who wanted to do major cards on this prime piece of property. And for the most part (save for Pacquiao’s bout against Mosley last year), it’s been Golden Boy who has landed these spots in one form or fashion. While this happened, Arum stewed and now he believes he has an event made for this date (given that it does feature Chavez in his most anticipated fight ever) and has the backing of the influential Steve Wynn and his casino properties. He’s made it clear that while he can do big numbers at the Alamodome with this fight, where Chavez-Martinez really packs a financial punch is in Vegas. But Schaefer and Golden Boy know that “Canelo” himself is a noted Mexican franchise and brings in his own sizable fan-base.
 
So who breaks this deadlock? Well, perhaps Lopez, a hard-trying lad from Riverside, upsets Ortiz and makes it easier on everyone by upsetting the apple cart. But keep this in mind; there’s a reason why Golden Boy chose him. If all goes according to plan on Saturday night, we have two factions who are hell-bent on proving a point.
 
Industry insiders say that what will take place is cable/satellite operators- who play a key role in marketing and advertising these events- simply will not let this lunacy take place. It says here that they will have to play the role of Henry Kissinger and tell Top Rank and Golden Boy which show they prefer to showcase on this day and make the other move off. It’s that simple. Let those who have a vested interest in the success of these ventures make the final call and force a resolution.
 
Because you know that left to their own devices, it simply won’t happen on its own with Top Rank and Golden Boy.
 
NSAC
 
OK, this is a worst-case scenario: let’s say these two cards go off on the same date just a few miles from each other. Would this be a logistical nightmare for the Nevada State Athletic Commission?
 
“Not really,” said Keith Kizer, its Executive Director. “What we do is we put an extra onus on the promoters. Get the medical records for the fights in earlier. You can’t make any changes to the card; the weigh-in is the last time you can make any changes. So we say a couple of hours before the weigh-in, ‘We need everything set in stone.’ We’d probably make it like an extra day before, then the day before the weigh-in. Everything would have to be set in stone. So we do things like that and we’ll have to bring in some inspectors from Reno. We’re going to have to bring in judges from outside the state and they’ll have to pay the cost of that. 
 
“So there’s additional hurdles we have but usually it’s not a problem. Usually, the only time it is, is like a Pacquiao fight or a Mayweather fight or, back in the day, a De la Hoya or a Tyson- then there’s no way we can do more than one fight that night. Because as you know, there’s so many side events that are really in and of themselves events. Every boxing card has a weigh-in but those weigh-ins are events in themselves. The numerous press conferences, all that stuff, comes into play. May 5th, when Mayweather fought Cotto, there’s no way we could’ve done a second fight [card] that night. But something like this would be tough but with the additional personnel, [we] should be able.”
 
Kizer points out that on July 14th, they have two separate cards in their jurisdiction, the Amir Khan-Danny Garcia showdown and a card featuring Anthony Mundine vs. Bronco McKart. Kizer says the NSAC has requested both promotional entities schedule shorter undercards. “I think we can handle it,” Kizer said of the potential snafu that exists for September the 15th. “The key will be covering the press conferences- and not for our sake but for your sake.”
 
According to Kizer, Golden Boy’s show was approved at the June 14th NSAC meeting and that Top Rank put in their request for the date on Monday the 18th.
 
FRIGID
 
Again, when it’s all said and done, I think Chavez-Martinez and Alvarez-Ortiz will be separated. But the fact that this conflict has even gotten to this point, in my mind, really points out that the schism between Top Rank and Golden Boy is wider than ever. Whatever detente they may have reached several years ago has completely evaporated. And call me crazy (I’ve been called worse) but I think this divide is worse for the sport of boxing than Pacquiao and Mayweather not getting together for a fight.
 
Simply put, the failure of not putting together a Pacquiao-Mayweather bout is perhaps much deeper than any “Cold War” and really affects only two fighters. The Top Rank-Golden Boy dispute, as a whole, affects a whole generation of fighters who see their opportunities to face marquee opponents shrink, based merely on promotional affiliations. A hypothetical bout between Nonito Donaire and Abner Mares is just one example but think about it. You have two bright young stars in their prime of their careers, each at the peak of his powers, who bring fan-friendly styles and have the potential to make a very entertaining affair. The stakes would be high and the anticipation from the fans would be palpable. I’ve talked to the camps of both Donaire and Mares, who have made it abundantly clear that they are interested in the fight. Executives at both Showtime and HBO have told me in no uncertain terms (on and off-the-record) that they want this bout on their network and both fighters have expressed a clear interest in facing one another.
 
But because of the current animus that exists between the two promotional firms, it’s a non-starter.
 
Yeah, not having a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight is significant but really, at this point, it’s the casual fan who still really yearns for it. In many respects, the hardcore followers of the sport have moved on and resigned themselves to never seeing it. But they stick around and watch this crazy sport and the least you can do is at least give them fights like Donaire-Mares.
 
Right now, this dispute reminds me of a really ugly divorce where the fans are treated like the kids in the midst of a really ugly custody battle. And there comes a certain point where it isn’t about what’s best for them but spiting the other side.
 
MIDWEEK FLURRIES
 
Don’t think it hasn’t gone unnoticed in the business (and by HBO) that two fighters HBO invested heavily in (Alvarez and Ortiz) are now at Showtime. This growing divide may now encompass network entities too...Duane Ford did himself no favor by stating on “The Fight Game with Jim Lampley” that he basically judged Manny Pacquiao against previous editions of Pacquiao in his fight with Tim Bradley. That’s the most illogical thing I’ve ever heard...On this weekend’s edition of “Showtime Championship Boxing” (which has the Ortiz-Lopez bout from the Staples Center in Los Angeles), a tribute to Johnny Tapia will be aired...It looks more and more like the HBO broadcast on July 14th will have just the Khan-Garcia bout...I’ve never been in the “Boxing is dying” crowd but seriously, just because two boxers (Manny and Floyd) are listed among the highest paid athletes in the world, it doesn’t mean boxing is in such great health. That’s like saying because Warren Buffett is doing well, the U.S. economy has nothing to fret about...So just how much is Ramon Sessions worth to the Lakers?...OK, so did the Saints really have this big bounty system or not?...I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing.



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