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Volume 20 No. 42
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CBS deal part of busy times at Golden Boy

The first Golden Boy Promotions fight card that was televised nationally aired nine years ago on HBO Latino, emanating from the Olympic Auditorium, a historic venue that since has been converted into a Korean-American church.

Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer was flipping through a stack of old fight credentials last month when he came upon one from that night.

“To go from there to where we are now is amazing to think about,” said Schaefer, who on Saturday finally celebrated a nibble of what Oscar De La Hoya’s company has sought since its inception, the return of boxing to major network television. “Here we are, bringing boxing back to CBS, with events on multiple [networks], the most active promoter in the world by a large margin. That’s a long way to go in a short time.”

The Miguel Cotto-Floyd Mayweather fight in May was Golden Boy Promotions’ only pay-per-view fight this year, a significant drop from the four to six PPV fights in previous years.
It has been eight years since boxing last appeared on one of the major terrestrial networks and 14 years since it last ran there with any consistency. Now, in the span of two weeks, it returns to both CBS and NBC, the latter of which will air a card promoted by Main Events at 4 p.m. Saturday.

NBC has committed two slots to Main Events in each of the next two years as part of a larger deal to provide fights for NBC Sports Network. Schaefer said Golden Boy has no such commitment from CBS, but he is optimistic that the network will deliver more slots, largely because it’s a sensible way to expose mainstream sports fans to the fighters who later will appear on the CBS-owned premium network Showtime.

After dealing exclusively with HBO on the premium TV side from 2003 to 2009 and putting 75 percent of its premium shows on the network from 2010 to 2011, Golden Boy swung heavily toward Showtime this year, with 17 dates, compared with seven on HBO.

Schaefer conceded one obvious factor in the shift: The hiring of former Golden Boy attorney Stephen Espinoza to run Showtime’s sports division. But he said that increased rights fees offered by Showtime, which has increased its boxing budget as its subscriber base has grown, were a far larger factor. While the networks will not discuss their budgets publicly, sources say the gap has narrowed to within 20 percent, with HBO spending about $35 million this year and Showtime at about $30 million.

“The emergence of Showtime as a major player clearly has been the biggest thing to happen in boxing in 2012,” Schaefer said. “For years, it was one player: HBO. Now, it’s a competition. And competition is good.”

Whether driven by competition for content, as Schaefer suggests, or fueled by the need to keep its large roster of fighters busy, the increase in output at Golden Boy has been striking. The company launched in 2002, when De La Hoya bought the operation of longtime Southern California promoter Roy Englebrecht. Golden Boy went national in earnest with a monthly series on HBO’s Spanish-language channel in 2003. It also handled a handful of co-promotions on ESPN2 and Telefutura that year. But its initial growth came slowly.

The big jump came in 2010, when Golden Boy produced 60 live shows broadcast in the U.S. or Mexico, up from 34 the year before. That number rose to 78 in 2011 and 79 in 2012.

The breakdown for 2012, based on data provided by Golden Boy: Along with the 24 on premium cable, the CBS fight and one HBO pay-per-view, there were 25 on Telefutura; eight on Fox Deportes, Fox Sports Net or Fuel; and 20 broadcast in Mexico on Televisa. Golden Boy’s current deal with the Fox channels, signed in April, has the promoter providing 12 of its shows from the U.S., 12 of its shows from Mexico and another 12 shows from Mexico acquired from other promoters.

The single pay-per-view — Floyd Mayweather’s defeat of Miguel Cotto in May — marks the first time the company has promoted fewer than three pay-per-views in a year since 2004. Golden Boy ran either four or six pay-per-views every year from 2005 to 2010.

“There were too many pay-per-views,” Schaefer said. “I’m not saying that we should move away from them totally. But the direction we’ve gone — us and other promoters — to do fewer of them is healthy for the sport. We have the product. What we need is the exposure.”