By Rick Reeno
For the last few weeks, the biggest story within the boxing industry has been the internal rift within Golden Boy Promotions.
There were once the closest of friends, but now Richard Schaefer and Oscar De La Hoya are no longer seeing eye to eye regarding the future of their company.
Schaefer, the CEO, has been more or less running the company for several years and building their brand into a lucrative powerhouse within the sport.
While Schaefer did his best to run the company - De La Hoya, the company President and major equity shareholder, has unfortunately battled personal demons. At the tail-end of his career, De La Hoya made worldwide headlines when a Russian stripper took photos of him wearing a wig, makeup and fishnet stockings. Following his retirement in 2008, there were several other scandals connected with drugs, hookers and alcohol abuse.
De La Hoya is currently going through rehab, for the second time, to finally close the door on those demons.
Clean, sober and healthy - the former boxer is eager to get more involved with his company and there appears to be a serious difference of opinion with Schaefer's vision for the future of Golden Boy.
One of the issues they disagree on - is reigniting a working relationship with Top Rank's CEO Bob Arum. De La Hoya was promoted by Arum for most of his career, but eventually broke away to form his company with Schaefer at his side. Because of the heated competition, De La Hoya and Arum quickly became business rivals.
But recently De La Hoya reached out to Arum to make peace and discuss the possibility of working together in the future. Their companies have not co-promoted a show in five years.
"We have a difference of opinion on what should happen with Golden Boy," Schaefer said. "To go in the press and say everything is 'peaches and cream' when it's not peaches and cream is not how you resolve issues."
"Oscar is the major shareholder of Golden Boy. I have a significant stake in Golden Boy, but he has a different vision for the business than I do. His vision is something that I've tried many times, which was to make peace with Bob Arum. But I've come to realize that Bob is the way he is. A leopard never changes is spots. I tried so many times and I gave up. I think his entire career, that's what Bob Arum thrives on - these feuds. It used to be with Don King for a long time."
"I don't appreciate being treated like this [by Arum], being called names and being disrespected. Then basically at the switch of a light switch then next day everything is fine. I don't like to be treated like that and I don't like to be working with anyone like that and I don't want to be associated with anyone like that. And like I said before I'll never be working with Bob Arum again."
"You saw a few weeks ago here [at the MGM Grand]. It was a disgrace to the sport of boxing. Look at the name he called Mayweather - Hitler. What do you think an NBA commissioner would do with a guy like that? The guy is a disgrace. I don't want to be associated with them. And then to have Oscar go out there, basically begging for a hug. And I'm not making this sh*t up....[he was] using the words 'I love the guy, I love the guy and I want to give him a hug'"
"I don't know why [De La Hoya's position on Arum] changed. I don't know if its part of the rehab program.....I don't know. The point in the rehab, where you have to forgive everybody. I can appreciate that and I can understand that and I don't have a problem with that. If they want to make peace and they want to make up, but to do business with him again - that's not who I am."
"What are you going to do? Do business with him again and piss on all of the relationship that you have....with Corona and Showtime and CBS. My career is built on relationships and I've done well with that. Loyalty really means something in my book. And I'm going to continue like that, and whether it's with Golden Boy or not with Golden Boy I can't tell you."
When did the issue with De La Hoya begin? Schaefer says the problems have been brewing for a while. And the tension is building to the point where Schaefer is not entirely sure if his future will continue with Golden Boy.
"It has been going on for a while. There are ongoing conversations obviously. Its not like there is nothing going on behind the scenes. There are ongoing conversations and hopefully things can be worked out in a way that works for everybody," Schaefer said.
"I don't know what I'm going to do next. I think I have a pretty good idea. I have responsibilities to my family. I have young kids who are soon going to go to college and you guys know how expensive that is, and I have to think ahead on what I'm going to do but I'm not really worried on whether my next chapter is going to be with Golden Boy or without Golden Boy."
"I feel very secure in myself and what I have accomplished. And who knows, maybe my next chapter is going to be with Golden Boy and if its not - do I believe that I can be successful again [somewhere else]? I have no doubt."
Schaefer does admit that he already received several job offers from non-boxing entities. And even Floyd Mayweather Jr., in an earlier article on BoxingScene.com, was very vocal about his desire to hire Schaefer - if he leaves Golden Boy. But Schaefer, at this point, has not explored his options outside the company.
"Truth be told, I have not had any conversations with Floyd because I don't think that would not be appropriate. I have a job that I'm doing at Golden Boy and I'll continue to do that job. Once I do stay or either not stay, then I will look at whatever opportunities are out there. And as I said earlier with Floyd, whether I am there or not there [with Mayweather Promotions] - I think it has a bright future."
While Schaefer hopes to work out his issues with De La Hoya, he admits the two of them have not had a meaningful conversation in over a month. However, Schaefer has no bad blood with De La Hoya and doesn't consider him an enemy.
"Maybe a month ago or so [we spoke], in a meaningful way where we spent a few hours talking. I'm not going to discuss how it was. I'm not going to go and do that, because I respect Oscar. I have nothing negative to say about Oscar. Oscar is a terrific guy. I wish him the best with the rehab. I know he's going through the programs. I have nothing bad to say and really never want to. I think we have really done a lot together. And who knows..maybe we will continue working together," Schaefer said.
"This is not about Oscar, but sometimes you have a different vision on what you want to do with the business. And its not just this Bob Arum thing. You have a different vision and if I work somewhere and I'm the CEO - the C stands for chief. I have my vision on how to build the business and how to continue to grow the business. And if that vision is different, as it has been in other businesses, not just boxing, when suddenly the major shareholder and the CEO have a difference of opinion on how the business should go - they part ways but that doesn't mean it has to be a nasty split. You have a difference of opinion and everyone moves on."
Some industry insiders have pointed to powerful adviser Al Haymon as the sticking point in the De La Hoya-Schaefer dispute. Haymon has contract agreements with the majority of the fighters in Golden Boy's stable. There are many fighters featured on Golden Boy events who are managed by Haymon but are not actually under contract with Golden Boy.
Schaefer's close relationship with Haymon has led to widespread rumors that he plans to bolt Golden Boy with the Haymon managed fighters to begin a new promotional entity.
"Al and me are friends, we work very well together. We've done good business together. He is a businessman that I highly respect and regard, for his accomplishments not only in boxing but outside of boxing as well. I am not going to discuss now, what my thoughts are regarding my current situation with Golden Boy or my potential future. When I do discuss that I want to make sure that I have everything in order," Schaefer said.
Of course, some of the industry rumors are no laughing matter to Schaefer.
"There are these people out there [saying] that they took my [office] keys away. It's f***ing bullsh*t. I one of the larger shareholders. [And people saying] that I'm not a shareholder - yeah, I am a shareholder. And I am still running Golden Boy. But I understand that when you have these situations then rumors start flying. I want to deal with this as quickly as possible and as efficiently as possible," Schaefer said.
As quickly as possible? Schaefer hopes to resolve this internal dispute - one way or another - in the next few weeks.
"I want to work everything out but I want a resolution one way or the other. The resolution, me staying or my leaving, is going to have to happen within the next few weeks so everybody can move on," Schaefer said.
"As I said, my hope is that Oscar and me, whatever it is, that we can work things out, and that he's not only going to want to give Bob Arum a hug but maybe give me a hug too. And if that's not the case, then that's fine too. But you do it as gentlemen and when you see each other crossing the street you greet each other and you don't have to turn the other way."