By Rick Reeno
IBF/WBA light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins is now in a very interesting position with Richard Schaefer's recent departure from Golden Boy Promotions. After months of internal friction between Schaefer, the longtime company CEO, and Golden Boy President and majority shareholder Oscar De La Hoya - Schaefer announced his resignation from the company on Monday.
Hopkins, who is good friends with both Schaefer and De La Hoya, is also a partner/shareholder in Golden Boy.
"As far as my situation, I'm still a shareholder with Golden Boy. Richard is still a shareholder with Golden Boy, and he still has a stake with Golden Boy, just not as the CEO. It affects me in two ways. I'm a partner and I'm still involved and I'm still a shareholder - and I'm still a live dog, a very live dog in the ring," Hopkins told BoxingScene.com.
"Nevertheless Rick, I think whatever Richard will do he will be successful. He can not be replaced...of that magnitude. I know there are a lot of smart people out there, but there are very few honest people out there. And I've been through enough people in the game of boxing, in the business of boxing. And I'm not saying this off the record, I'm saying this on the record - he held up everything he suggested, promised and delivered for Bernard Hopkins."
"I'm going to tell you that Richard Schaefer's presence is going to be felt sooner than later and I guarantee you that. And what I mean when I say his presence, its running the company the way it was ran. Case in point, beyond July there are no fights scheduled. When you have you seen that [with Golden Boy] since you've been covering boxing? Is this the first of the domino effect? I think that's the question that everyone is asking and waiting for everything to play out."
During his CEO run, Schaefer handled the majority of the business decisions. He secured numerous television deals, put together record-breaking events, secured lucrative venue deals and brought in a lot of revenue from major sponsors. De La Hoya, who spent years battling his addictions to drugs, sex and alcohol, was seen by most as nothing more than a figurehead for the company.
"At the end of the day, you become a figurehead when you war not physically active in the business, which means the office...the day by day negotiations, signing fighters, making fights, dealing with the ups and downs, dealing with the shenanigans, the rumors...all things that come with being on the frontline as the CEO, who has to manage the operation. Everyone knows, everyone knows, it's no secret. Oscar would have to be honest on who ran the company. Oscar would admit that he had some ups and downs, more downs that affected him from being in the office, but that's not Richard's fault," Hopkins said.
"And that's where Richard's credibility comes in, because he didn't keep the company just afloat, he kept it on top and there's a difference. Again, it's going to be very hard for anybody to say that Richard Schaefer, from the day he began with the company until the day he announced his exit, was not one of the key promoters of our time. That's going to be hard for anyone to discredit him for that."
The big issue for De La Hoya to sort out is the exact number of fighters who are actually under contract with Golden Boy. There are numerous fighters who are not under contract with Golden Boy but they are consistently showcased by Golden Boy.
The bulk of Golden Boy's roster, whether it's fighters who are actually under contract or being showcased as free agents, are all contractually signed by powerful adviser/manager Al Haymon.
"Its better to have a fighter under contract than not under contract. They have representation and their representation is going to get the best deal for their client. Oscar has his hands full and he has to figure it out. He's now the CEO and the owner of the company and now he has to perform on a level that he's not used to. Its very difficult in this sport to play Monday morning catch-up on the day of," Hopkins said.
As far as Hopkins' future with Golden Boy, that scenario is still being worked out internally between Hopkins and his team. It's no secret that Hopkins was much closer to Schaefer than he was to De La Hoya. It's also no secret that Hopkins himself is not contractually bound to Golden Boy as a fighter. There are rumors running like wildfire all over the industry that Schaefer and Haymon are going to be involved in a new promotional company. Since Schaefer's departure from Golden Boy, Floyd Mayweather Jr. has already cut his business ties - as it relates to Golden Boy co-promoting his fights.
Hopkins has left the door open for staying with Golden Boy, and he also left the door open for exploring opportunities outside of Golden Boy.
"My team and I clearly will have a meeting soon and map out a strategy for my interests. It's about me and it's not about me. I'm attached to it whether I love it or want to be in it or not. When its good I'm part of it. When it has a cloud over the company [I'm part of it]. Right now there is a cloud over the company, but I see sun light and I see a lot of sun light, because I'm still a major player on the physical side and I still want to be able to, some way and somehow, to guide young talent," Hopkins said.
"The best way to learn [on the business side] is to be around the best. If I'm a young fighter I want to suck this sponge up, I'll go to a Bernard Hopkins or a Floyd Mayweather, or an Oscar De La Hoya or a Felix Trinidad or a Joe Calzaghe. The point of me saying that is this - I know who ran the company and I know how it benefited from that. Why would I not want to set my allegiance to people who I know for sure that I could trust and that is Richard Schaefer and Al Haymon."
"One thing that is no secret, people are now convinced that I'm no fool. And if they think I'm a fool then they're a bigger fool. The decisions that I've made, the good outweigh the bad with the decisions that I've made in life and that I've made in my career. I've got the utmost respect for Richard and Al Haymon. I've known Al Haymon since the Vernon Forrest days. I've known Al Haymon before he even got into boxing or the boxing scene. I'm not a betting man, but I would bet that Vernon was his first project in boxing. And me and the later Vernon Forrest were very close, That's how far we go back. And even on the other side, when Al represented Jermain Taylor. I'm going to have my team and I....I called yesterday to have a meeting for this week right before the Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York.