Will HBO's jilted-lover act permanently split boxing apart?

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | HBO President Ken Hershman's public severing of ties with Golden Boy Promotions was mostly for show -- a sign of defiance in the face of a fate that had already been written in stone.

Golden Boy had long ago taken much of their business over to HBO's premium cable rival Showtime. Ever since former Golden Boy legal counsel, Stephen Espinoza, had been appointed head of Showtime Boxing, it seemed as though Showtime was only interested in dealing in Golden Boy fights. Even their decision to sign Floyd Mayweather Jr. to a big-ticket six-fight deal was to Golden Boy's benefit since Mayweather has done business with the promotion exclusively since his 2007 bout with Oscar De la Hoya.

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WBC middleweight Sergio Martinez is one of the few draws still available for HBO. (AP)

But HBO took the public stand and officially ended the relationship as, perhaps, a bit of a public relations jab at the company headed by Richard Schaefer and De la Hoya. In doing so, they also chased away rising star Adrien Broner and 48-year-old world titlist Bernard Hopkins, two Golden Boy fighters who were fixtures on the HBO boxing schedule. Maybe, two pre-emptive strikes in anticipation of losing both at some point, anyway.

"In order to achieve our goal of the best fighters in the most compelling match-ups, we've decided to focus our efforts and resources on those strategic relationships where we better share common goals and business philosophies," Hershman told Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports.

Now, HBO and Hershman are left with a talent pool that includes Top Rank's stable of fighters as well as main event champions Andre Ward and Sergio Martinez, who aren't aligned with either of the promotional "big two."

[Also: Landmark move to prompt exodus of stars from HBO]

Hershman's decision may have added yet another layer to the deep swamp of boxing politics that already bog down efforts to put together some of the sport's best match-ups. Whereas the past promotional rivalry between Top Rank and Golden Boy may have created an implied policy of non-cooperation, this decision now creates a contractual barrier between the two sides. Battles over exclusive TV deals will kill any proposed cross-promotional fight before real negotiations even take place.

The public severing of ties may have also officially separated the sport into two independently functioning leagues. Always in competition, but never directly, boxing could become akin to the AFL and NFL prior to their merger, where the two leagues run independent of one another. Boxing fans have grown accustomed to the schizophrenia of the modern fight business, but things have been quite so official and permanent before.

For what it's worth, Golden Boy President Oscar De la Hoya is definitely seeing this decision in an "us vs. them" light.

"Game on!!" De la Hoya said via his verified personal Twitter account. "I am so pumped to bring all the great fights to @SHOsports and CBS. Good luck with your captain sailing you through the Dead Sea."

[Also: Former HBO exec Ross Greenburg joins Showtime to hype Mayweather-Guerrero]

In the short term, this may be a good thing for fans as both networks and their respective house promoters will be working overtime to outdo one another. Expect some good, well-matched shows to be announced over the next several months.

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Floyd Mayweather will take on Robert Guerrero on May 4 on Showtime.

But over the long haul, boxing can only suffer as the available talent pool, already dwindling and losing ground to foreign interests, is essentially cut in half and forever split apart. While the promoters will make do with what's available, one can't help but wonder about the fights that will now never get made.

This was a move that didn't have to happen. Ken Hershman did not have to make his public statement. There was no need for the public kick in the pants. Why create drama and ill will when both sides could've just simply gone about their own business?

Boxing has enough barriers separating the fans from the fights they want to see. Why add another?

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Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.

Sources: Yahoo! Boxing, Oscar De la Hoya's Official Twitter Account

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