By Robert Morales
First Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Inc. - the world's top two promotional companies - weren't doing business unless forced to.
Now HBO drops Golden Boy from its list of clients.
What it could mean is that fights that were already tough to make because of the ongoing beef between the Golden Boy and Top Rank, probably just got tougher.
Instead of one separation of powers, now we have another. Golden Boy will play only with Showtime on the big stage, Top Rank only with HBO because Showtime hasn't been giving it the business anyway.
And don't think those with big stakes in the industry aren't concerned with the latest bombshell dropped by HBO on Monday morning. Robert Garcia, who trains the likes of world-class fighters Nonito Donaire, Brandon Rios and Mikey Garcia, is one of them.
"We definitely have to worry about it because there's so many big fights, so many big things that should be happening and we might never see them," Garcia said.
"Right now, I could say, 'OK, I have Brandon, I have Mikey, I have Nonito.' Those are all HBO fighters, so I could say, 'More dates for us.'
"But then there's also those dates that we might never see against those other guys that are fighting for Showtime. It's sad to see that. But there's nothing I can do about it. It would be Bob Arum and Oscar De La Hoya working something out, and I don't see that happening, either."
Garcia is concerned for at least two of those aforementioned fighters.
"I've just gotta think about my fighters and what's best for them with Bob Arum, what they have available with Mikey, with Nonito, with Brandon," he said of the Top Rank-promoted trio. "With Brandon, luckily we do have a few, four, five big names that fight for Top Rank that could give Brandon some good fights.
"But we've gotta do the same thing with Nonito, we've gotta do the same thing with Mikey. And we might not have anything available for them if these guys don't work together."
Frank Ezpinosa Not Too Concerned
One of those most vocal about the feud between Top Rank and Golden Boy has been manager Frank Espinoza, whose stable of fighters includes super bantamweight champion Abner Mares and featherweight champion Daniel Ponce De Leon. (Mares is going to challenge Ponce De Leon for his title May 4 at MGM Grand).
One of Espinoza's biggest complaints has been that the ongoing rift between Top Rank and Golden Boy prevented a fight between Mares and fellow super bantamweight champion Donaire.
We figured Espinoza would be further perturbed about HBO dropping Golden Boy because most of Espinoza's fighters are with Golden Boy; the notable exception is two- time Mexican Olympian Oscar Valdez, who is promoted by Top Rank. Alas, Espinoza threw us a curve ball when queried about the notion that - at least for now - most of his fighters will not be able to fight on HBO unless there is a purse bid or mandatory that forces that situation.
"I think it doesn't really affect me as a manager," Espinoza said. "I have a good relationship with Top Rank and I have talent there that will be exposed on HBO. I have talent with Golden Boy that will be exposed on Showtime. (Golden Boy) has enough shows to showcase my guys. They have Showtime, CBS, Fox Sports, different networks. I think my guys will remain busy."
Garcia, Rios on Bradley-Provodnikov
This past Saturday's rather unexpected hard-hitting classic between welterweight champion Timothy Bradley and Ruslan Provodnikov at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., still had folks buzzing Tuesday at Fortune Gym in Hollywood, where Rios was playing host to a media workout in preparation for his rematch with Mike Alvarado on March 30 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas (on HBO).
Garcia didn't hide being stoked that Bradley came away with the victory.
"I am really glad that the fight turned out the way it did," Garcia said. "Finally, Bradley gets what he deserves. He didn't get credit for his fight against (Manny) Pacquiao and he never got credit before, either, because his fights weren't as exciting as what people want to see in boxing. But he finally got what he deserved and if that fight ever happens (between Rios and Bradley), we're ready for it. He's a hell of a fighter and we would have to come up with a good game plan because he is a very skillful, very tricky, very smart fighter up in the ring."
Rios talked about the decision that went to Bradley.
"I would have given it a draw because they didn't count that first knockdown (of Bradley in the first round that was ruled a slip)," Rios said. "It was a hell of a fight."
Rios said it surprised him that Bradley chose to engage Provodnikov in that kind of fight.
"Yeah, it did," he said. "He came out looking for the knockout. He hurt the Russian a couple of times, but the Russian hurt him a lot. It was one of those fight. I couldn't believe it. It looked like (Provodnikov) barely touched (Bradley) and, 'Ooh, aah.' I guess the Russian hits really hard."
Pondering The Future
Neither Rios nor anyone else on his team would ever look past Alvarado. But the Bradley-Provodnikov thriller spawned thoughts of fights between Rios and Bradley and Rios and Provodnikov.
Rios has already moved up from lightweight to super lightweight. But Garcia said Rios would have no problem moving to welterweight in order to get fights with bigger names.
"He wants to stay at 140 (super lightweight), but the names that Top Rank has - Pacquiao, Marquez, Bradley - at 147 (welterweight), why not?" Garcia said. "It's the same guys anyway; they were all 140 pounds. They're all smaller than Brandon. It will be the same thing at 140, 147. Maybe Brandon might even be stronger at 147 than at 140 because he makes weight more comfortably, as you see, but he still has to make weight.
"At 147, he might be a little bit stronger. We might have to go up because of all the big names Top Rank has at 147. Even the Russian that fought Bradley. All those guys are big names and big fights. We might have to do it."
Rios, at 5-foot-8, is taller than all of those fighters just mentioned. (Provodnikov is promoted by Banner Promotions).
Since it is well-known that Rios likes a wicked fight as much as anyone in boxing, Garcia was asked to ponder what a fight between Rios and the hard-hitting Provodnikov would be like. Garcia smiled in evil-like fashion.
"Oh, man, it would be a fight that Brandon would sign the contract in a heartbeat because he knows that guy's going to be there and he's going to exchange and he's going to get what he wants," Garcia said. "That's the fight that Brandon would put his signature on right away. I know Brandon, and I know Cameron will try to go a different direction, maybe. But if we're ever forced to do it, Brandon will push to sign the contract because he loves those fights."
Cameron Dunkin manages Rios and Bradley. When first asked about Bradley and Rios eventually getting it on, that seemed like a good idea to the veteran manager.
"I'm not going to try and make it, but if it happens and it's the best fight for these guys - both guys - of course, I'm going to do it," Dunkin said. "My job is to get them opportunities, make them the most money, put them in the best position to further their careers. If that's what's best for them, then that's what we do."
And what about a Rios-Provodnikov fight, which has "brutality" written all over it?
"Yeah, well, that's a fight that people have already mentioned," Dunkin said. "But there's also other great fights out there for him (Rios) and I need to make him some money. It always comes down to that."
Rios would welcome it because, as Garcia said, he likes hair-raising fights.
"It just comes from my warrior spirit," Rios said. "I love to fight. That's what I have always loved to do. When I was little I was always in trouble, in and out of jail, because of it. I'd fight a lot. I love to fight, man."
A More Focused Rios
It was less than a year ago that Rios lost his lightweight belt on the scales when he weighed in two pounds over the limit ahead of his fight with Richard Abril on April 14 at Mandalay Bay. Rios won a split-decision over Abril, then moved up in weight to take on Alvarado the first time this past Oct. 13 at Home Depot Center. It was an incredible fight, with Rios stopping a hard-hitting Alvarado in the seventh round of a barnburner.
Rios (31-0-1, 23 KOs) said his renewed dedication is what allowed him to eat the leather he took in that fight and emerge victorious.
"In the gym now, be a little more focused, stop clowning too much in the gym like I was before," Rios said. "That's why I keep my door closed now, to get me training better.
That's why I was able to land those big shots and take those big shots against Alvarado because I was so focused, back to ground level and I feel great."
Robert Morales covers boxing for BoxingScene.com and the Los Angeles Daily News.