By Cliff Rold

In a slow week for domestic boxing news, comments made by future Hall of Famer boxer and current Golden Promotions figurehead Oscar De La Hoya got some attention.  As recounted by BoxingScene’s Mark Vester on Tuesday, De La Hoya stated to Broadcasting Cable that boxing, in essence, needs a new business model.  Boxing has “to think outside the box; we have to think like the NBA and MLB and have one commission and one major promoter in the sport," De La Hoya said. 

Who the one promoter should be is implied.  In separate pieces by longtime boxing scribe Michael Marley, the interview with Broadcasting Cable drew a reaction from fellow promoter Gary Shaw, who in part compared the thinking to the way Mixed Martial Art’s “Ultimate Fighting Championship” does business, and a clarification from De La Hoya himself.

The argument Oscar was making is not a new one.  Many a boxing fan has wondered why boxing can’t be more organized, more like ‘other sports.’  While personal interests in his own promotional firm should color any analysis of what De La Hoya said, the question is fair to ask: would boxing be better off in a hard structure?

Could boxing function as a league endeavor?

Not on the terms of comparison De La Hoya used.  The National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball might have single commissioners but single promoters?

Welcome to the problem of attempting to fit the square peg of boxing into the round hole of league athletics. 

Major professional teams sports and their leagues are not singly promoted.  They are promotional collectives, made up of individual franchises, who make decisions as a unit, to further a shared product for mutual benefit.  Let’s look at the National Football League as an example. 

Jerry Jones opens the Dallas Cowboys coffers to sign the best talent available; Bob Kraft does the same for the New England Patriots.  The spending assists the building of a roster preparing to play a set schedule of sixteen games.  They know if their respective franchises win enough times in those sixteen games, they will be awarded with a playoff appearance. Achieve the most desirable results and their franchises will meet in a “Super” spectacle featuring aging baby boom music icons hitting the stage on their rockers in between halves (so as to spare the spawn of boomers from the horrors of sex, drugs, and rock and roll and Janet Jackson).  

When the final whistle blows, a ‘World’ Champion is crowned.  If the professional football were run like boxing, that structured process would go more like this. 

Jones (or Kraft) would schedule a high school, or maybe a Jr. College, team or two early in the year.  They would play one and two-quarter games before moving to a run of four-quarter games (with no overtime) against four year schools.  Maybe they would sneak in an Arena team or UFL squad before taking on a seasoned but aging major professional franchise.  As they continued wins against the most serious professionals, a little trash talk would start. 

The structured NFL has a revenue sharing system in place.  Professional football in a boxing model would see Jones and Kraft haggling over who should get a bigger share of the gate, the TV money, etc.  If, at the end of a given season they couldn’t reach agreement, they’d just state they would resume talks next year and be content defending their respective titles (let’s use NFC and AFC for sanity’s sake) until then. 

Let’s apply the reverse to boxing.  De La Hoya referred to Don King and Bob Arum as having a “chokehold” on the sport for decades but, in a league scenario, their promotional entities would have to be partners of Golden Boy for everything to work.  So would a Gary Shaw Promotions or a Main Events.

Franchise the sport out and, since this is a global enterprise, the German and Asian markets must be included.  Entities like Teiken Promotions in Japan and Sauerland Events would have their ‘teams’ as well.  They would have to be willing to share revenue across the board and factor that shared revenue in while attempting to add, say, a Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao to a ‘roster.’ Boxing struggles over how to share revenue between individual promoters and fighters on a per-fight basis; revenue sharing on a sport-wide basis is hard to fathom.

This doesn’t even factor in fight locations and site fees or pay-per-view revenues. The point is made enough to say it’s not an apples to apples comparison.  Comparing the NBA, MLB, or NFL to boxing is more like apples to automobiles.

Boxing has its ills but a league-like structure is neither the solution nor even a plausible avenue of discussion.  The UFC model might help but it’s not an entirely new idea.  A boxing promoter consolidating the bulk of the sports talent and controlling the direction of the game has been done in the past.  Jim Norris’s International Boxing Club dominated the 1940s and 50s but was no model for ethics and ultimately imploded.  The restraints on competition in the market were harmful to the game in the end even if profitable for a period of time.  

The UFC clearly isn’t run on an NFL or NBA model.  It’s a brand, the premiere brand, for MMA but the wiggle room it allows for the making of fights and the building of fights remains closer to boxing.  And while it sells UFC as a brand, it still needs individual (and finite) draws.  Brock Lesnar is the UFC’s Mike Tyson, not its Dallas Cowboys.

While boxing may not have a Tyson right now, it does have Mayweather and Pacquiao doing insane revenue while the Heavyweight Klitschko’s fill soccer stadiums overseas without much in the way of viable threats.  It’s nowhere near the deathbed cynics have predicted for pretty much a century.  A cynic will ask what boxing will do when Mayweather and Pacquiao are gone…a rationalist will answer “Didn’t you say a Mayweather or Pacquiao could never fill the void when Oscar De La Hoya was done as a fighter?”  

That doesn’t mean there is nothing positive boxing can take from major sports leagues or from its past.  The sport used to have big fights on days other than Saturday, main events that started earlier than Midnight on the East Coast.  Boxing used to rock out on Saturday afternoons when the core fan base of men are typically home.  Networks aren’t available for that right now but the Internet is; ESPN is proving willing to do afternoon replays to fill programming time on the weekends. 

Boxing also used to allow highlights to be shown on the news.  Here’s one they can borrow from the UFC.  Remember all the hype for James Toney’s cross from the Sweet Science to the loving arms of Randy Couture in the Octagon?  After the tap, ESPN basically replayed the entire fight on its MMA Live show along with multiple clips in loop on Sports Center and on ESPNews.  Subscriber based shows on HBO and Showtime often get replay clips that include knockout or stunning blows but the biggest fights?  Clips might have featured a flurry between Shane Mosley and Floyd Mayweather in May but the best moment of the fight, Mayweather being stunned in round two?  That was at best left in still photos.

Sure, replays have to be protected one could argue, but in the age of On Demand is that really a viable argument anymore?  None of these fixes would alone improve boxing’s niche in the cluttered field of 24/7 sports that exists today but they might help.  

Throwing out the old canard about why boxing can’t be more like other pro sports, or offering up team sports leagues as a point of comparison, is an easy applause line.

When the applause dies down, substance is required, and, um, uh…



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Cliff’s Notes… While not having had the chance to see the fight, by all accounts Dakii Kameda won clean against Takefumi Sakata over the weekend.  In the pre-fight report card for their fight, it was stated that Daiki is less talented than older brother Koki.  With wins now over Denkaosan Kaovichit and Sakata, along with being the lone beltholder in the family, that may prove a hasty statement…Glen Johnson in the Super Six?  It’s an intriguing proposition because, if he were able to stop Alan Green, he might sneak into the semi-finals.  Being stopped by Green seems almost unfathomable and, if Green won on points, it probably wouldn’t impact the tournament outcome because of tiebreakers based on rounds won.  The current foursome of Arthur Abraham, Andre Dirrell, Carl Froch and Andre Ward could end up the final foursome as well.

Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at