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Schaefer Sees no Thaw in the Cold War

K9 - 'Cold War' (Image by icheehuahua, MaxBoxing)
K9 - 'Cold War' (Image by icheehuahua, MaxBoxing)


Another year in boxing has come and gone and while it was very eventful, it saw the continued “Cold War” between its superpowers, Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank Promotions (who - once again - did not cross paths and co-promote any events in 2013) thrive. They have managed to coexist by existing in separate universes (Showtime and HBO, respectively).
 
And guess what? Don’t expect to see any thaw in 2014.
 
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told Maxboxing on Friday afternoon, “This divide is greater than ever. I feel that [Top Rank Founder] Bob [Arum] wants to work with us when it’s convenient for Bob and when it’s not convenient, he’s basically just, ‘Forget it.’ It’s a very one-sided approach. I think the way Bob has treated us and talked to us and has basically treated us, I have no interest whatsoever to work with him. Zip. Zero.

“For me, they can do whatever they want to do over there at Top Rank. I couldn’t care less but I have no interest to work with them.”
 
However, it’s interesting that a few days ago, Oscar De la Hoya and Arum had this exchange on Twitter:
 
 @BobArum 18 Dec: Thank you Oscar. Wish you and Millie a merry Christmas RT @oscardelahoya: Mr. Arum on behalf of my family and I, we wish you happy holidays
 
But largely, the “Golden Boy” is a figurehead of the company that bears his silhouette as its logo. It’s Schaefer who really runs the company on a day-to-day basis and makes the big decisions. In the past, Schaefer had talked of working with Top Rank on certain fights. Nobody is saying these companies have to like each other. Certainly Arum and Don King never saw eye-to-eye on many things in the past but when it benefited them financially, they would co-promote events. So when did Schaefer come to this realization that Top Rank is persona non grata to him?
 
“Well, when you try to fix a relationship and you reach out - and I have written Bob letters in the past. I have reached out to him and treated him with respect because, y’ know, because I’m told that you have to treat the older people with respect and I did that - but then you keep trying and trying and trying but you’re being ignored and treated like sh*t, at one point you sort of say, ‘Oh, OK; I get it,’” explained Schaefer. “The guy doesn’t want to have a relationship with us so let’s just move on. It’s sort of like three strikes and you’re out and that’s sort of a business philosophy of mine too: three strikes and you’re out.
 
Schaefer continued, “If somebody does something negative or hurtful or against you, then OK, maybe it was a mistake and then if they do it, again, then you say, ‘Well, let’s give them another chance.’ But then after the third time, you have to realize that it’s just not a person you want to be associated with or you want to do business with because they just don’t have the integrity you have and at one point, you have to move on. And even if it’s people where you say, ‘Actually, the guy’s a fun guy to be around,’ or whatever - which Arum is - but it’s just not somebody I want to be associated with or have anything to do with because it’s three strikes and you’re out.
 
“And with him, I think it’s more like five strikes or 10 strikes.”
 
Yeah, this Swiss banker is anything but neutral when it comes to this issue or when it comes to any possibility of a fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. “Mayweather just gave an interview to FightHype.com (http://fighthype.com/news/article15840.html) where he was very clear - and he’s been clear before - all of these people who ignore that Mayweather is his own boss. Mayweather says when, where and what and all those people keep ignoring him and are drinking the Top Rank Kool-Aid and when Arum comes up with these stories that how great of a relationship that he and [Top Rank President] Todd [duBoef] have with Floyd. I mean, this is bullsh*t. I said it before that [Mayweather] has no intention to ever work with Top Rank and Arum again and he said it again. He made it very clear he will never work with them again and so what does that mean?”
 
It probably means any talk of this fight, for now, is just mental masturbation.
 
“What that means is that a Pacquiao fight can only happen if Pacquiao is a free agent and if he is a free agent, I believe such a fight can happen easily. I have no idea what his contract is but as long as he is not, it’s not going to happen,” stated Schaefer, forcefully.
 
Recently, Arum has made comments saying a long-awaited Mayweather-Pacquiao fight could be negotiated. Perhaps he’s saying this with the realization that his well of possible “Pac-Man” opponents at Top Rank has run dry. On the flipside, it could easily be argued that if Mayweather/Showtime/Golden Boy is propping up Amir Khan as their next B-side, perhaps they are also running a bit low in that department.
 
But nobody can deny that this past year has been a good one for boxing fans. Solid fights have taken place and both networks had solid campaigns (http://www.maxboxing.com/news/max-boxing-news/the-ratings-game) and it can be argued that this divide created competition benefiting the fans.
 
“Yes, absolutely,” agreed Schaefer. “I think HBO has done great fights; Showtime has clearly caught up.” They were so behind HBO and in the opinion of many networks and fight fans, overtaken HBO. Maybe not as it relates to viewership numbers and HBO’s hanging their hats on those viewership numbers and I would hope that they have higher viewership numbers because they still have a subscription base which is 25-to-30 percent bigger than Showtime’s subscription base. But there was actually an interesting article in Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2013/12/13/floyd-mayweather-sparks-blockbuster-year-for-showtime/), which stated that if you look from 2008 to now, Showtime’s subscription base has gone up by like nine million while HBO has stayed flat.
 
“So there’s obviously a shift going on but both companies have realized that boxing is important to their subscriber base. That many of their subscribers are subscribing to the respective networks because of boxing and as a result, both companies have allocated a significant budget to buy fights. I think that’s great to have two big buyers of boxing at that level. It’s better than having one. So I think that competition is good for the sport. It’s obviously good for the fighters, good for the fight fans and the competition has absolutely led to both networks wanting to outdo each other and the beneficiary is the sport and the fans and the fighters,” continued Schaefer, who also adds that this has been good for everyone’s bottom line.
 
“The same is true not only with the networks with HBO and Showtime but it’s true as well to a certain extent in the foreign marketplace where you have competing networks in markets where you have Televisa and Azteca in Mexico for example. You have BoxNation and SKY in the U.K. and on and on. So you see these competitive environments not only in the U.S. but internationally as well. You see it with the sponsors, Corona against Tecate. So you see it at every level and I think competition is good and you see it obviously with Golden Boy and Top Rank,” reasoned Schaefer. “So there’s nothing wrong with competition. I think you as a media member can see it as well. I think there’s more enthusiasm, more zip, more energy in the sport than it has ever had and that I think is a good thing.”
 
Schaefer makes some salient points. Having more competition in the marketplace is a good thing for everyone involved. Having more entities interested and bidding on the sport is unquestionably a positive development. But the reality is boxing fans ultimately care about the product that’s put into the ring. 2013 saw both sides (Golden Boy/Showtime and Top Rank/HBO) try to put their best feet forward but when the two major carriers of talent simply refuse to ever put their fighters in the ring together, can you really say you are getting the best fights possible over the long run?
 
Boxing is now fractured along the lines of the WCW and WWE, where you essentially have two federations with no hope of interleague play anytime soon. Competition is one thing; separation is another. How sustainable is this business model?
 
Schaefer answers, “Well, you look at our stable, I can give you fights for the next few years which are exciting fights, big fights, fights that fans want to see and you look at 2013, it was arguably one of the best years for boxing and why? Because there were exciting fights happening. And as long as that continues, yes [it’s sustainable].”
 
More than ever, boxers need to be more cognizant of who they sign with, according to Schaefer.
 
“As fighters are becoming free agents and it’s not just on Top Rank’s side - but it’s on our side - as well, fighters might be picking certain promoters because they feel that for their particular weight class, this particular promoter has bigger fights. So I think you might see a shift in that regard,” he points out. “So there might be fighters with Golden Boy who might be leaving Golden Boy because they feel they can get bigger fights in a particular weight class over at Top Rank, DiBella [Entertainment] or whoever. And vice-versa, there might be fighters at Top Rank or at other promoters when they become free agents, they feel that Golden Boy has more opportunities to offer within a respective weight class.
 
“So I think that the free agency market is going to become more important in these years ahead.”
 
Because the more things change, the more they will stay the same, it seems.
 
FINAL FLURRIES
 
 
Thought the latest episode of “The Fight Game with Jim Lampley” was a solid effort...Here’s Oscar Valdez’s fight from this past weekend in Tijuana: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgGHwjPYnmA...As long as there is Russia, Roy Jones might never retire...Is this the end for Rex Ryan in New York? Honestly, I like him. The guy is fun and quotable...“Riverboat” Ron Rivera has gone from being on the Carolina chopping block to perhaps “NFC Coach of the Year”...Really enjoyed ESPN’s “30 for 30: Youngstown Boys.” The personal transformation of Mo Clarett is remarkable...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, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.
 


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