HBO Quits Golden Boy

By Robert Ecksel on March 18, 2013
HBO Quits Golden Boy
One can sing the market’s praises all night long, but none of this is good for boxing.

The writing was on the wall late last year when Showtime hired Stephen Espinoza, lead lawyer for Golden Boy Promotions, to replace Ken Hershman, who had been hired by HBO to fill the vacancy created by the departure of Ross Greenburg.

Since that time, there has been a steady defection of talent from HBO to Showtime. So it comes as no surprise that HBO has decided, for want of a better word, to no longer buy fights from Golden Boy. We do not know what went down behind closed doors. We don’t know who said what to whom. We therefore have little choice but to accept the official explanation, albeit at face value.

According to Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, Hershman “made the decision to part ways with Golden Boy after running into issues with company executives.” What and who those issues and company executives are remain a mystery. Instead of clarifying, Hershman released a boilerplate statement which said, “In order to achieve our goal of the best fighters in the most compelling matchups, we’ve decided to focus our efforts and resources on those strategic relationships where we better share common goals and business philosophies.”

I don’t know what that means in plain English, but I gather that’s the idea.

Only two Golden Boy fighters are still with HBO, Adrien Broner and Bernard Hopkins, and both have their eyes on the exit.

HBO will continue to do business with Top Rank, which unfortunately has roster problems of its own. They have Nonito Donaire, Brandon Rios, Juan Manuel Marquez, Timothy Bradley, and Mikey Garcia, as well as damaged goods like Manny Pacquiao and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. But the talent pool is not deep, certainly not as deep as it is at Golden Boy, under whose banner Canelo Alvarez, Abner Mares, Danny Garcia, Lamont Peterson, Lucas Matthysse, Marcos Maidana, Alfredo Angulo, Gary Russell Jr., Daniel Ponce De Leon, Leo Santa Cruz, and the wild card Floyd Mayweather fight.

One can sing the market’s praises all night long if one so chooses, but none of this is good for boxing. HBO Boxing has been a mainstay forever, and has contributed so much to our sport, that this can only have long-term negative consequences. We have no dog in this fight. We want HBO and Showtime to flourish. We want Golden Boy and Top Rank to flourish as well. Monopoly capitalism aside, we believe there are enough resources to spread around. The inane desire to destroy the competition and any and all costs, while inadvertently chipping away at boxing’s vitality, is nothing about which to cheer, nothing about which to celebrate.

It is, if anything, something for which to mourn.

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  1. nicolas 04:18pm, 03/18/2013

    Some of the earliest fight I can remember being on HBO are Tyson against Berbick, and even one before with Tyson, and that was in 1986. I remember one weekend back then on regular TV I saw Mathew Hilton against Wilfredo Benitez on I think CBS, and then later on Wide World Of Sports, Barry McGuigan defending his featherweight title from Ireland. The next day Sunday, Mike Weaver stopped Carl Williams, and Tyson stopped Jessie Ferguson. Boxing tanking at that time, I don’t think so. I think also HBO was getting involved before 86, but certainly the sport as popular entertainment in the US was far greater than it had been in the 60’s, and early 70’s. Whether regular TV would have jumped ship without the invasion of HBO is debatable. One problem that I did see was that they started to show fights on these channels that would never have been on TV before, fighters who were probably not even top ten fighting. . It was probably over saturation. I think it might be true, that with HBO, if a boxer was presented on their boxing shows, it made a greater income for that fighter. . Also HBO has kept the sport alive, but my analogy might be the kidnapper keeping the victim alive for the big money.

  2. bk don 01:21pm, 03/18/2013

    Let’s hold off on saying whether this is a bad or good thing for the sport of boxing, b/c the writing isn’t on the wall yet. There are certainly some negatives that come with this decision but also some positives. There is no way Showtime is going to be able to pony up the kind of money that HBO did for boxing, with less available funds. So, either GB is going to have to find more outlets to put their fights on, or they’re going to have to make their guys take pay cuts and actually receive the kind of compensation they deserve based on their market appeal. Top rank doesn’t have the kind of stable that can provide HBO with a constant stream of programming so it gives mid-tier promoters like Gary Shaw, Lou DiBella, Kathy Duva and a host of others the opportunity to showcase their fighters and stage cards. Lastly, i think certain fighters who have been able to make a name for themselves in the sport will start to look at not signing long term deals w/promotional companies and doing fight by fight contracts. There are rumors that Broner’s deal is up w/GB next month. You’re telling me that a young star who wants to become a superstar, is going to snub his nose at the company with the biggest platform in the sport?

  3. Clarence George 12:55pm, 03/18/2013

    Not good news for the sport, as Robert argues.  But then…when is there?  Boxing is sport’s luckless and hapless uncle to whom good things don’t happen.

  4. Robert Ecksel 12:22pm, 03/18/2013

    I’m not sure I agree, Nicolas. Boxing had been tanking for years before HBO got involved. If anything, it has kept the sport in the spotlight when regular TV jumped ship. There have been missteps along the way. Boxing is a cutthroat business, which means throats of necessity get cut. But HBO, no matter the parent company’s distaste for boxing, has helped keep the sport alive. The MMA issue is something separate and apart. Let’s just say it’s a better reflection of the ultra-violent times in which we live than the highly ritualized “gentlemanly art of self defense” with its roots in Regency England.

  5. nicolas 12:08pm, 03/18/2013

    Robert, your comment that HBO has been a mainstay of the sport is correct. But I think their contribution has left a lot to be desired. HBO made a good decision to have boxing as part of their programming, Seth Abraham I believe was the force behind it. However, while HBO is watched by many, they really were I feel a contributing factor of taking boxing out of the mainstream. I remember the days of the 70’s and 80’s when boxing was on regular TV. People began to know the starts. I remember a guy at work talking to another guy and saying did you see that Harry Arroyo fight. It is so bad now that many Americans don’t know who the heavyweight champ is today. I also believe that many if they saw Floyd Mayweather walking down the street, they really would not know who he is by face. By also making it a minority sport compared to other sports, it allowed for the further erosion of boxing to be invaded my MMA, so that many young people are not involved in boxing as an entertainment, or sport as they might have once been. Also, I don’t remember network television having contracts with certain promotional groups, which seems to have also given us fights that we really were not so interested in seeing. Showtime also has some of this blame to share, as well as ESPN, though perhaps they are trying to change that, though I wonder in ESPN’s case, is it too late?

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