By Keith Idec
Bob Arum wasn’t surprised Monday to learn that HBO Sports executives had decided to stop doing business with Golden Boy Promotions.
“It seemed to me that they were being played by [Richard] Schaefer and [Al] Haymon,” Arum said, “and they put a stop to it.”
Arum’s Top Rank Inc. is the promotional company that stands to benefit the most from the disintegration of what was once a strong strategic partnership between HBO Sports and Golden Boy Promotions, Top Rank’s rival.
“As far as we’re concerned,” Arum said, “we’re a big supplier of product to HBO and as long as we keep giving them events like last Saturday’s event, we’ll continue to be a big supplier.”
Arum referred to the HBO “World Championship Boxing” doubleheader Saturday night that featured a spectacular slugfest between Timothy Bradley (30-0, 12 KOs, 1 NC) and Ruslan Provodnikov (22-2, 15 KOs).
Bradley was hurt in the first, second, sixth and 12th rounds against the rugged Russian, but withstood Provodnikov’s power and a 12th-round knockdown to win a unanimous decision at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Welterweight Jessie Vargas (22-0, 9 KOs) also overcame a second-round knockdown to top previously unbeaten Wale Omotoso (23-1, 19 KOs) by unanimous decision in an entertaining, co-featured fight Saturday night.
Arum admitted that producing compelling fights such as those two “is totally critical” to HBO maintaining its presence as boxing’s premier provider among premium-cable channels.
“You can’t do appearance fights anymore,” Arum said. “You can’t do [Andre] Berto fights, like they did for years, anymore. You can’t do that. It’s a waste of money and it doesn’t give the people an opportunity to see exciting action.
“You’ve got to give them fights which, at least on paper, look like they’re going to be the kind of battles like we saw on Saturday night. And if you look at the next fights we have on HBO, the Rios-Alvarado fight, well, we know that’s a war. And then Donaire and Rigondeaux ought to be a classic.”
Top Rank is the promoter of three of the four cards on HBO’s schedule through April 27, including an HBO2 telecast April 6 from Macau, China. Top Rank promoted two of the first four HBO cards this year, the same amount as Golden Boy, which agitated HBO Sports executives by brokering Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s departure to Showtime and threatening to take other high-profile fighters, most notably Adrien Broner, to Showtime.
“I think people will now say HBO is helping to make boxing relevant again by making tremendous matches,” Arum said. “And it’s not only with Top Rank, but with other promoters. They have quality fighters. This guy that K2 has, [Gennady] Golovkin, God, he’s a terrific middleweight. You can make a lot of good matches with him.
“And some of these Russian kids that are coming up, Provodnikov and [Evgeny] Gradovich, they’re all really exciting, hard-nosed kids that come to fight. So I think you’re going to see a lot more of that, instead of the old recycling of Devon Alexander. Imagine if you put Devon Alexander in the ring with Provodnikov? He would kill him. So who wants to see those guys? Keith Thurman? Who wants to see him anymore?”
Arum essentially sees what occurred Monday between HBO and Golden Boy Promotions as the same thing that happened between Showtime and Top Rank when Showtime hired former Golden Boy attorney Stephen Espinoza to run its sports division. Showtime didn’t release a statement to acknowledge the companies wouldn’t work together, but HBO’s rival hasn’t committed to paying a license fee to televise a Top Rank-promoted card since Showtime hired Espinoza in November 2011 (the network was contractually committed to airing the Orlando Salido-Juan Manuel Lopez rematch in March 2012 before Espinoza was hired).
“Anybody can ask Showtime how come no other promoters promote fights [on Showtime] other than Golden Boy,” Arum said. “Showtime will say, ‘Oh, that’s not true. Blah, blah, blah.’ But everybody knows that it’s true. HBO came out and said whatever their policy is. They announced it, and that’s that.”
Editor's Note: Golden Boy's CEO Richard Schaefer discussed HBO's decision in full detail with BoxingScene.com earlier today, Click Here To Read .
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.