By Rick Reeno
The following was received as an exclusive to BoxingScene from Jay Larkin, who is Showtime's VP of Boxing Operations and Programming. It appears that an article printed yesterday on our website, containing comments from Kathy Duva and Carl Moretti of Main Events, Arturo Gatti's promoters, struck a nerve with Showtime. Kathy Duva of Main Events stated a Gatti-Tszyu bout "would not happen in our lifetime". Both Duva and Moretti said the main reason that a Gatti-Tszyu bout will never come off is because both fighters are under exclusive contracts to rival cable networks. Main Events were very willing on the other hand, to match Vivian Harris (another fighter under their flag), against Kostya Tszyu. The camp of Tszyu has already stated that a bout with Harris is not in their plans, the matchup is not lucrative enough due to the fact that Harris is not a big player in the division and is virtually unknown to the Boxing public. Kostya Tszyu only wants big fights with big names, he doesn't want to waste anymore time on lesser name opponents. Tszyu has already made it clear that he wants Mayweather, Gatti, Hatton, Cotto and even Cory Spinks, should he choose to move up in weight.
Larkin stated to BoxingScene that Showtime made several attempts to make this fight while Gatti was a free agent and Main Events wanted no part of matching Gatti with Tszyu.
It is important to note that several attempts were made for Gatti to fight Tszyu while Gatti did not have a conflicting contract and was in fact a free agent. Those offers resulted in Main Events rushing to close a deal with HBO that effectively makes this fight impossible to take place. It is also important to note that for a brief moment, Gatti was the number one mandatory challenger to Tszyu. When it became apparent to the Gatti management team that it was not in their long term best interests, Gatti mysteriously was taken out of the number one spot and was replaced by the unknown and undeserving Gianluca Branco whom Tszyu appropriately refused to fight and whom we appropriately refused to pay for (although we did offer Tszyu the option of fighting Branco outside of his contract with us). Tszyu was therefore stripped of his title. At that point, Gatti, the next highest available contender behind Branco, fought Branco for the vacated WBC title. Now, we hear from Main Events comments like "not in my lifetime" as it relates to Tszyu v Gatti.
Gatti is a true fighter and I agree with Carl Moretti that he will in fact fight anyone. However, Main Events and Gatti's management are motivated by business decisions. I cannot speak for my colleagues at HBO but my personal experiences in co-producing Lewis vs.Tyson with them were entirely positive. We would happily co-produce Tszyu vs. Gatti. However, I believe the fight will never happen in the lifetime of the Main Events promotional agreement with Gatti and I am led to understand that that agreement pretty much coincides with the rest of Gatti's life as a viable fighter.
As for Tszyu vs. Vivian Harris, another Main Events fighter who benefited from Tszyu's medical lay-off when Tszyu was stripped of the WBA belt at Main Events' petition, it is curious that this fight can be so easily made. Perhaps the fact that Harris has fought a total of four times in past 2 years and two of those fights were back-to-back defenses against Oktay Urkal might make it more bearable for Main Events to work with us, particularly in a fight were Harris would stand to make far more money than he has ever made before.
As I said, it all comes down to business.
Sincerely, Jay Larkin