Connecting With A Jab: HBO Decides To Cut Ties With Golden Boy For The Time Being
HBO yesterday decided “not to buy fights from Golden Boy Promotions, one of the sport's two biggest promoters, for the foreseeable future,” according to Kevin Iole of YAHOO SPORTS. That will mean the “exodus of a number of Golden Boy stars,” including Adrien Broner and Bernard Hopkins. The “irony in this decision is that Golden Boy was founded in large part because of the close relationship between the network” and Golden Boy President Oscar De La Hoya. HBO Sports President Ken Hershman, who formerly ran the boxing operations at Showtime, made the decision "to part ways with Golden Boy after running into issues” with Golden Boy execs. Showtime in November '11 hired Stephen Espinoza, the “former Golden Boy legal counsel, to run its boxing program after Hershman left for HBO.” Since Espinoza joined Showtime, the “vast majority of its televised boxing offerings have come from Golden Boy.” Boxers Amir Khan, Danny Garcia and Canelo Alvarez are promoted by Golden Boy, and “all made the move from HBO to Showtime." Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer “reacted philosophically to Hershman's decision.” He said that with the “breadth and depth of Golden Boy's roster, it is a mistake for HBO to walk away from it.” Iole noted Khan, Garcia and Alvarez “have done far better ratings on HBO than Showtime.” But Schaefer said that those numbers “don't concern him.” He pointed out that Showtime's ratings are “improving and have been since Golden Boy began providing it with the bulk of its boxing content” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/18).
WRITING ON THE WALL: ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael reported Hershman called Schaefer yesterday morning “to inform him of the decision.” Schaefer said, “I'm hardly surprised. I cannot be surprised, and I am not surprised. The president of HBO Sports did not have any conversations with me since last November or December about anything.” Schaefer added, "It's an ill-advised strategy because the only ones that are getting hurt are the HBO subscribers, which were used to seeing the best fighters on HBO.” Sources said that HBO had “grown tired of demands from Schaefer for specific dates and matchups and constant threats to take fighters to Showtime if he did not get his way.” The relationship “hit bottom last month” when Floyd Mayweather Jr. “left career-long television home HBO and signed a multi-year deal with Showtime” (ESPN.com, 3/18). After being notified by Hershman of HBO’s stance yesterday, Schaefer phoned Espinoza to ask whether Showtime would be interested in a planned June 22 bout between Broner and Paulie Malignaggi, previously assumed to be headed to HBO. Schaefer said, "I told him what happened and his answer was brief: 'Count me in.’ There was no hesitation. If you are a network which is involved in boxing and you get the opportunity to be involved with Adrien Broner, it's like Christmas in March" (Bill King, Senior Staff Writer). An HBO official said, “We just felt it was best to align ourselves with people who share the same common goals as us. ... We are just not on the same page right now (with Golden Boy). But this is boxing, so you never say never” (Long Beach PRESS-TELEGRAM, 3/19).
GOING MANO A MANO: In N.Y., George Willis writes the situation is “a game of chicken.” HBO is “hoping its status and healthy subscriber base will hurt Golden Boy’s recruitment and marketing of fighters, who want to be seen by the largest audience.” The “last thing HBO wants is for Showtime to become the place for boxing.” But this “split gives Showtime a real shot” (N.Y. POST, 3/19). Also in N.Y., Tim Smith writes it “seems almost inconceivable that HBO, with its 32 million subscriber base and branding itself as the gold standard of boxing broadcasting, would not deal with a promoter that has one of the biggest inventories of stars in the sport” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/19). SI.com’s Chris Mannix wrote, “If this signals a shift in philosophy at HBO, well, it's about time.” For years the net “catered to” Golden Boy adviser Al Haymon, “paying millions for mismatches.” HBO “built stars before.” And with 29 million subscribers and ratings “that significantly exceed Showtime's, it can do it again” (SI.com, 3/18).