SBD/Issue 5/Events & Attractions

Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer Bullish On Mayweather-Marquez

Schaefer Believes Boxing Helps
UFC, And Vice Versa
In founding Golden Boy Promotions with Oscar de la Hoya in '04, Richard Schaefer sought to bring an outsider's perspective to boxing, using the experience from leading UBS' operations in the western U.S. Schaefer since has seen Golden Boy become one of the top promoters in the sport, with Saturday's Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez fight the latest in a string of marquee events. Golden Boy has led a $20M marketing push behind the fight, with activation including HBO's "24/7" series and ads airing nationwide in movie theaters. In addition, the fight itself will air live in 170 theaters Saturday night. In advance of the bout at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Schaefer spoke with Staff Writer William Cooper.

Q: What led to the decision to take Mayweather-Marquez to the big screen?

Schaefer: It's sort of like back to the future. In the old days, fights were shown only on closed-circuit before the emergence of the pay-per-view. I think you can group the consumer who buys the pay-per-view in three groups. One of them are those who are going to restaurants and bars across the country, which are buying the closed-circuit feed, and they are able to go and watch there. And then you have those who are staying at home, who are watching it from the comfort of their home and having a party, a barbecue, a get-together with friends, which I think is by far the largest group.

The third group, which has sort of been ignored by the big events promoters, is the moviegoers, those people that religiously go out Saturday night with their wife or girlfriend and maybe go and have dinner and then they go and catch a movie, usually couples. That is another avenue, another potential consumer, and so we are really looking at this as another distribution platform. That really is what prompted me to put together a deal with some of these movie chains. ... It is more on a trial basis, and we picked some theaters across the nation in different demographics to really get an understanding and a sense if this is going to become another distribution avenue.

Q: With the fight going up against UFC 103, how do you foresee boxing and the UFC, and MMA in general, working together going forward?

Schaefer: The last three years, I think UFC has really taken off. It's really interesting if you look at what happened in the last three years in boxing; the last three years in boxing pay-per-view have been the largest pay-per-view years in history. ... I think boxing helps UFC, and UFC helps boxing, because what it does is it drives consumers to the same category we are in and that is contact sports. I think it just builds the category of contact sports for all of us. I think what we need to do though, and what we should do, is there should be a closer working relationship between UFC and the boxing promoters. That is certainly something that I would be more than happy to sit down with Dana White and the Fertittas to see if we can avoid this kind of date conflict.

There was really no reason for UFC to go on the Mexican Independence weekend, which traditionally has been a big boxing weekend because of the Hispanic market, and go with a card which is really not that Hispanic-geared like ours is. I think we do a disservice to ourselves, I think we do a disservice to the fight fan, and I think there should be a little bit more coordination.

Q: Has holding Mayweather-Marquez the same date as UFC 103 impacted the buzz for your event?

Schaefer: If you picked up [Wednesday's] USA Today, it sums it up best. The coverage we got for our undercard is bigger than what they got for their entire event, let alone the coverage we got for the main event, for Marquez and Mayweather. We are doing extremely well with this event, our ticket gate is already at over $6M, which is already bigger than UFC's biggest event ever, UFC 100. It's not a competition --we don't look it at it as a competition -- and I don't think UFC should look at it as a competition.

Schaefer Says Boxing
A "Star-Driven Sport"
Q: What's the biggest misperception of boxing by the sponsorship and sports business community today?

Schaefer: Boxing, just like other sports, is a star-driven sport, and sometimes you have more stars in a particular sport, and sometimes you have less. If you look at, for example, the Tour de France, a year ago they didn't have Lance Armstrong, their ratings were poor, nobody really wrote about it. And then you have Lance Armstrong come back and the Tour de France is probably the hit event. The same you see in tennis, if the Williams sisters wouldn't be playing, women's tennis wouldn't be where it is. The same when Michael Jordan retired from basketball. What would happen if Tiger Woods would not play golf anymore? ... Boxing is no exception there. When you have some of the big-name stars, like Oscar de la Hoya, who are recently retired, it takes a little while for the next generation, for somebody to carry the sport. But somehow that always happens, and I think we are right now at that point. I think Floyd Mayweather is that next guy who is going to carry the sport, and this is his opportunity, it's his window. Just like when Oscar took over the sport, from a pay-per-view point of view, once Tyson retired and Lennox Lewis retired, it was Oscar who carried the pay-per-view. In a way, I think this fight here is really the first one where you're going to see Mayweather emerging as the next face of the pay-per-view business.

Q: What has De La Hoya's retirement meant for Golden Boy Promotions?

Schaefer: We started Golden Boy in 2004 and we knew the day was going to come when Oscar was going to retire. So what we wanted to do was to take the time from the foundation of Golden Boy up until his retirement earlier this year, we wanted to build the foundation and establish a stable of fighters that are going to be able to carry the sport. We have achieved that, and we are today one of the leading boxing promotion firms in the world, and Golden Boy is thriving even though Oscar is retired.

Q: What is one thing that you stress about boxing to sponsors that differentiates it from other sports?

Schaefer: Back in 2004, I realized there was one big thing missing, and that is Fortune 100 or even Fortune 500 companies supporting the sport. In any other sport, you have these big-time sponsors aligning their brands, and that was obviously something missing in boxing. You had the beer companies, but you didn't really have anyone else. I felt that if you want to develop the next generation of stars, grooming these kids, you need to do what Oscar frankly did, he turned pro on national television. But how can you be on national television if you don't have this corporate support, corporate sponsors? It's like a chain. You somewhere have to start and build link-by-link, and that's exactly what we started to set out. We put a tremendous amount of effort into developing sponsorship relationships. ... We now have AT&T, Quaker State, DeWalt Tools, Tecate, Southwest Airlines. ... We really have built these relationships and partnerships, and in many cases, frankly, friendships with these sponsors, and I think that is the first step to bring boxing back on network television.

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