By Rick Reeno
Currently, the hottest topic of discussion in the boxing industry is the possibility of dueling pay-per-view events on September 15th in Las Vegas. At the moment, neither side is willing to budge from the date or the city.
With only two miles of driving distance between them, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the most popular rising stars in the sport, are going to headline separate pay-per-view events.
At the MGM Grand, Alvarez will defend his WBC junior middleweight title against former champion Victor Ortiz, provided Ortiz defeats Josesito Lopez this coming Saturday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Golden Boy Promotions will stage the event and Showtime pay-per-view will carry it.
Down the road at the Thomas & Mack Center, Chavez Jr. will defend his WBC middleweight crown against mandatory challenger Sergio Martinez. Top Rank and Lou DiBella will promote the card and HBO pay-per-view is slated to distribute.
Although Golden Boy officially announced Canelo-Ortiz on a June 12th conference call, Canelo's September return was first disclosed during the post-fight press conference to his May 5th victory over Shane Mosley. Top Rank announced Chavez-Martinez during last Saturday's post-fight press conference in El Paso, with rumors of the contest being whispered for the last few months.
The idea of two pay-per-view events going head to head in the same city, on Mexican Independence Day weekend, has obviously set the stage for a very hostile scenario.
BoxingScene.com discussed the escalating situation with Top Rank's CEO Bob Arum and Golden Boy's CEO Richard Schaefer.
BoxingScene: Bob Arum explains his side of the story.
Arum: In February, we reserved the date of September 15th with the pay-per-view industry because we were getting pressure from the WBC to do a Chavez fight with Martinez. We subsequently let HBO and everybody know. We subsequently signed an agreement, the fighters did, with the WBC - [agreeing that] the winner of Chavez-[Andy] Lee would fight Martinez in September.
Now, Golden Boy then went and got a deal with the MGM for a fight on September 15. It was a fight with Canelo, but they had another opponent. They thought that would then kibosh our plans, because we were bound and determined to go in Las Vegas. Schaefer doesn't know about the Runnin' Rebels basketball team. We went to the Thomas and Mack and put a hold on that date but wouldn't announce it because we didn't know if Chavez would beat Andy Lee. Once that fight came out, we went to our friends at the Wynn and concluded the deal with the Thomas & Mack and we're going on the 15th because huge players from both Mexico and Argentina are being talked to, to come in.
That's the story. We didn't step on anybody's date. If anything they stepped on our date because they still don't even have a fight because who knows if Ortiz wins on Saturday or if he wins and gets hurt. We're old school. You don't ask permission to have a fight, which we did with the commission on Monday, until the fight is done.
We have advised everybody. If they want to go the same date, be my guest.....I don't care. But don't say that I'm counter-programming them and being spiteful because that's not the truth. We've always planned for this. I can say that I didn't know if we could pull it off because who knew how good Chavez would become. But that's what we've been planning.
BoxingScene.com: Have you ever been in a situation like this before, with a competing pay-per-view only two miles down the road?
Arum: Not two miles. The closest thing that I remember, is when we were doing a fight in Madison Square Garden before the Puerto Rican Day Parade - Malignaggi and Cotto - and Schaefer, with HBO, they insisted on doing Tarver and Hopkins, a pay-per-view against us. So, obviously we got hurt a little bit, but we still ended up not doing too bad.
BoxingScene.com: Has there been any concern from HBO in terms of going head to head with another pay-per-view?
Arum: Obviously everybody would like the universe to themselves, but we are going to be on the first channel and many cable systems can only take one fight - which means that they will take our fight. So they will lose coverage because we reserved it back in February. Obviously nobody wants two in the same night, that's stupid, but it is what it is. It seems to me that there is no reason why they can't change it to October. The pay-per-view people are delighted because ours is the stronger fight. Alvarez against Ortiz is a fight [but] who would give Ortiz a chance to win? Not many people.
BoxingScene.com: Do you believe their show was booked on this date because nobody thought you were ever serious about making the Chavez-Martinez fight?
Arum: No, now wait a second. They took a gamble. The gamble was 1. , that Lee would beat Chavez or 2. , that Chavez would beat Lee but he would be too banged up and couldn't go - or 3. , that I was f***ing around with putting Chavez in with Martinez because it was a fight that I would never do. So they gambled. In other other words, a lot of things could have happened on Saturday night, which would've made them have a free roll. One, Chavez could have lost. A lot of people were saying that Lee would beat him. Two, it could have been a war and Chavez would have been so beat up that he couldn't come back that quick. Or three, Arum was full of sh*t, he has no intention of having Chavez fight Martinez.
Because remember how you guys were talking about Chavez and Martinez. That Martinez would kill him, that Chavez shouldn't have the title....and that sort of stuff. Until last Saturday, I can understand where you all were coming from. Because without last Saturday's performance - who would give Chavez a shot against Martinez?
BoxingScene.com: Arum's thoughts on why Golden Boy announced Canelo-Ortiz last week.
Arum: If you're Schaefer and you want the date, you roll the dice. You announce the fight before one of the fighters has finished his fight. In other words, Ortiz has a fight this Saturday. So how do you announce the fight unless you say Ortiz is in with a complete bum and it's not really a fight. If so, then why are you selling tickets to it?
They announced it so they could say, if we followed through with September 15th, that we were jumping on their date. Otherwise it made no sense. Nobody in their right mind announces a fight before [the other fight is done]. They could have announced it on Saturday night like we did. They did it in a naive belief that if everything fell into place and Chavez [and] Martinez were in fact going to fight, that they already had put a flag in the ground on that date. That's what it was.
The first thing they thought, is once they got the date from the MGM, they thought that was it - game set and match - because Schaefer doesn't know that there's a basketball arena, Thomas & Mack. He's never done a fight with Thomas & Mack. If I were them, I would take advantage and go in October. Why? Because if Chavez loses, then they could say 'now you're going to see the real Mexican star.' And if Chavez wins, the Mexican fans would be so enthused that it would carry over to Canelo's fight. It's a win-win for them.
BoxingScene.com: Richard Schaefer's reaction to Arum's statements and his position to go forward with Chavez-Martinez on September 15.
Schaefer: First of all, when we reserved the date I was not aware that there was another event. And secondly, even the media was doubting that the fight with Chavez and Martinez was ever going to happen. So how could you possibly hold a date for an event where you don't even know if it's going to happen? Even Arum didn't want to do [Chavez-Martinez] for a long time.
This is pure evil and bad will from a typical old man, Bob Arum. Typical Bob Arum bullsh*t. Why is he going to the same city? What is his excuse there? Why is he doing it in the same city? He is just a miserable old guy who doesn't give a sh*t. And I have to tell you, anybody who aligns themselves with him are being taken for a ride.
And by the way, HBO knows..if they are going to go and play those games, going against a pay-per-view with us, and supporting that kind of behavior, supporting the behavior of going in the same city, all of that.....I'll take notice of that. I just don't understand why people with half a brain would go an align themselves with somebody as miserable as Arum. Because this is pure ill will. There is no reason why he has to go in the same city.
BoxingScene.com: Do you believe that HBO's support of this event has anything to do with Canelo staging his first pay-per-view with Showtime?
Schaefer: HBO knows exactly why Canelo went to Showtime and I'm not going to go and discuss that in the press. They know exactly why and I'm not going to say anything, but when the time comes I will. Arum has been able to get away with bullying everybody, but he knows that he can't bully me. He was never able to and he never will. And he knows that. It is what it is.
He goes and announces that he has an HBO pay-per-view and he doesn't even have HBO on board. He is trying to drag HBO into the middle of this, but I believe that HBO is smarter than that.
BoxingScene.com: If HBO does carry the event, you would take note of that for the future?
Schaefer: Obviously, I would look at this as an act of hostility. There is no question about it. How could you not? And to top it all off, to go on the same date and then go in the same city. This is going to be interesting to see what's going to happen. But I'll tell you one thing - I like our chances. We are young, we are well capitalized and we have the best fighters in the world. Again, I really, really like our chances.
BoxingScene.com: In your opinion, Arum is attempting to bully your event off the date?
Schaefer: Exactly. He takes pleasure out of these things. Why would he otherwise even go in the same city? That's just how he is. He talks all that sh*t about the MGM now...that they don't make tickets available to the other casinos. He's talking sh*t about the MGM again. He's a miserable guy and he always seems to be able to get away with this stuff because you know people, including the media, are so intimidated by the guy, that they are not willing to stand up to him - including other promoters. I am not intimidated by Bob Arum [because] A. we have much better fighters [and] B. We are a much better financed company than he is. We are the future and he is the past. Let's not kid ourselves here. People are intimated by this guy, but I am not.