By Rick Reeno
The war between the networks is getting down and dirty behind the scenes, according to Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer.
On March 18th, HBO issued a press release which revealed an internal company decision to end their longtime business relationship with Golden Boy.
The tension between HBO and Golden Boy began in late 2011, when former Golden Boy attorney Steven Espinoza replaced Ken Hershman as the Vice President and General Manager of Showtime Sports. Soon after Espinoza's hire, Golden Boy started doing a voluminous amount of business with Showtime. Hershman is now the current President of HBO Sports.
The turning point in the Golden Boy/HBO relationship took place in September 2012. Golden Boy was looking to do a major card on September 15th with WBC junior middleweight champion Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. HBO refused to give Golden Boy the date. The network would instead reserve the previously mentioned September date for a pay-per-view event, which was headlined by Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Sergio Martinez and promoted by Golden Boy's main rival, Top Rank.
In response to HBO's decision on September 15, Canelo jumped ship to Showtime. That move led to the now infamous head-to-head battle of HBO/Showtime events in Las Vegas, with Canelo facing Josesito Lopez at the MGM Grand and Chavez defending his title against Martinez two miles down the road at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Golden Boy/HBO relationship was further strained on February 19th, when the biggest star in the sport, Floyd Mayweather Jr., signed a long term multi-fight agreement with Showtime. Mayweather, while not a Golden Boy fighter, works very closely with the company. Mayweather's adviser, Al Haymon, has nearly all of fighters under the Golden Boy banner.
Schaefer tells BoxingScene that members of HBO's public relations team have been approaching members of the press and "undermining" Golden Boy, and Showtime, with "off the record" comments for print purposes. He also alleges that individuals associated with HBO have made attempts to undermine Golden Boy with some of their contracted fighters and some of the managers who handle those fighters.
A year ago, Schaefer says the network made numerous promises to him and his company, about having an even-playing field with respect to their business relationships - but now he feels the network has turned their back on some of those promises.
"I think it’s a very cowardly approach by HBO, to have their PR guys reach out to the media like this. Because everything gets back to me. I get calls from all of those media guys. I think it's a very cowardly approach by HBO. They are walking on thin ice. If they want to say something, they should be man enough to say it," Schaefer said.
"Once Ross [Greenburg] was gone - what they were telling me, and this includes the highest brass at HBO - they were telling me they are going to have an open door, that they don't want to have double standards, that they want to be dealing with everybody. They said that and a year later, literally a year later, look at what they are doing. That is double standards."
"And then they go, in a sneaky way behind our backs, and talk to all of the media guys and say all of these things - and then go infiltrate fighters and managers - that is what I'm saying when I say they are walking on thin ice. This is a dangerous and a cowardly approach. They have made certain alliances with certain media members and I don't need to tell you who [they are] because they know. We know who they are. All of that stuff comes back to me. If HBO wants to say something, they should be man enough to say it. Don't go behind my back and everybody else's back and go talk to the media."
To avoid the truth being stretched and rumors being spread, Schaefer is willing to sit down with HBO - before the media - and openly discuss the entire situation and the timeline of events which led to the HBO/Golden Boy split.
And that invitation is not only limited to HBO. Schaefer is also willing to sit down, one on one, with Top Rank's CEO Bob Arum, and openly discuss their issues, the entire behind the scenes mudslinging taking place in the present and many of the events which took place behind the scenes in the last few years.
"If [HBO] wants to do a media roundtable with me and them on one table and the media can listen in and then know the truth on what transpired - I'm more than happy to do that. In the meantime, they should just leave us alone - instead of going behind our backs to undermine us with fighters, managers and media members as well. All of that is coming back to me. When this first happened [with HBO], I was cool about it. But now, with that they are doing - slowly but surely they are starting to piss me off," Schaefer said.
"And if Arum wants to do the same, about some of the bullsh*t he pulls and the kind of tricks he plays with his alliance with HBO - if he wants to do a sit-down me and the press - I'll do that as well. Let's talk about the truth. Let's put everything on the table. But I’m sure they don't want that, so they should be well advised to just shut up."
"For an old man to be up there [at the Rios-Alvarado press conference] and make stupid comments like that, this is embarrassing. Not all old people are like this. This guy is a disgrace to his own generation. All of his silly comments. We all know that he likes to smoke weed. He mentioned it in a Sports Illustrated article. He encouraged people to smoke it after the fight. This guy is not an example for young people with his weed smoking comments. And he is not an example for old people because he’s just a moron."
Schaefer is also curious about HBO's decision to consistently release the Nielsen figures to the press. In similar fashion, he would like to have HBO release the pay-per-view figures connected with Manny Pacquiao.
"For ten years, you have not heard about HBO releasing Nielsen ratings and suddenly now every week you get releases with how many viewers they have. What is that? What kind of desperate moves are those? And at least be accurate. Let's go and look at these pay-per-view numbers that they've released for Pacquiao. Let's go and do that. Let's go and pick one of the top three accounting firms. Let's start with telling the truth. But they can't handle the truth," Schaefer said.
"Why is it that suddenly when Showtime started to focus on these other names, which the fans are more familiar with, that Showtime’s ratings are up by double digits. They have double digit growth. HBO let Cotto go, they let Mayweather go, they let Broner go, they let Canelo go, and they have nobody to blame for that."
BoxingScene did reach out to HBO regarding Schaefer's frustrations, and the network is not going to comment at the moment.