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I ran into boxing Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard last week in Detroit, which in and of itself isn't newsworthy or unusual. But it was where we met and what we were doing that made it newsworthy.
Leonard is the boxing coordinator for the Shawn Levy-directed film, "Real Steel," a DreamWorks Pictures movie that will be released in November 2011. And I, along with Tim Smith of The Daily News, Ron Borges of the Boston Herald, Bernard Fernandez of the Philadelphia Daily News and Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, get to play boxing writers.
The move stars Hugh Jackman and Evangeline Lilly and is a drama about the relationship between a father and his son with a side plot of robot boxing.
It was a great amount of work and Levy, who pays extraordinary attention to the most minute of details, raved about Leonard's help in making the boxing scenes realistic. "What he actually did on the movie was contribute to the choreography, revise the choreography and coach Hugh in how to move and throw punches like a fighter," Levy said. "He really had a creative input into the boxing matches that people are going to see in the movie."
I can't give anything away about the roles of my boxing-writing compadres and myself other than to say that we probably got as hard of a workout in the day we were on the set as any of us have in quite some time.
Jackman and Levy were very nice and personable (much to Mannix's regret, we didn't meet Lilly) and it was a fun, though very long, day. Now, I just have to cross my fingers for about 15 months and hope I don't end up on the cutting room floor.
With that, let's delve into this week's boxing mailbag, where I address your questions and comments.
Thanks, Paul. The deal runs through the end of 2011. It gives Golden Boy a certain number of guaranteed dates on the network, which no other promoter has. It came about when Golden Boy and HBO were negotiating for Oscar De La Hoya to appear on HBO, which he did when he fought Steve Forbes on May 3, 2008. From a fan standpoint, it's always best to do what you cite that Showtime did under the late Jay Larkin's direction. It was burdened by exclusive long-term contracts with top fighters and often, they didn't get the kind of matches they wanted. So Larkin came up with the "great fights, no rights" concept. Showtime would buy fights it found attractive on a one-off basis. This is still the formula it uses today and it's a reason the quality of its matches have gone up. From a business standpoint, the HBO deal is outstanding for Golden Boy. It's able to land more high-profile fighters because those fighters are confident that they'll get onto HBO. From HBO's standpoint, it's about subscribers and ratings. If in its analysis of the deal it determines that the relationship helped it increase its number of subscribers and improve its ratings, it will probably redo it. If it does not, it will allow it to expire. From a standpoint of guaranteeing the best possible matches, it's always simplest for HBO to tell the industry, 'Hey, we are planning to televise boxing on such-and-such a date. Give us your best fight.' But in the boxing business, as in life, it's not always what you know but who you know that counts.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
You are right, Kelly, in that boxing has taken a tremendous dive in popularity without network television. And a regular series of quality fights on network television would undoubtedly lift its profile enormously. The television networks can't be made to take boxing, though. And advertisers haven't shown a great interest in it as of yet. Some promoters – notably Golden Boy and Top Rank – have had talks with networks, but nothing has come of it. I find it hard to believe it ever will. I wish it were different, but I don't believe it will get back to the time in the 1970s and early 1980s when boxing was so popular on the networks. ABC showed the Muhammad Ali-Leon Spinks rematch on a Friday night in prime time. It showed weekend fights on "Wide World of Sports." CBS aired weekend cards on its "CBS Sports Spectacular." And NBC had a regular series of weekend fights, with Marv Albert and Ferdie Pacheco calling the action. Imagine the cost, though, of putting on a comparable fight in prime time today to Ali-Spinks II. There would be no way.
Ryan, I normally am against pay-per-view in boxing, but this is a case where I am going to take the other side. Neither HBO nor Showtime had a date for the card, so that ruled them out. Yes, they could have put the fight on ESPN, but ESPN's budget for the shows is very small ($50,000 or under). They are trying to build Adamek as a live draw and this is yet another success in that regard, as he sold more than 10,000 tickets at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The promoters had no illusions about selling on pay-per-view and only hoped the sales would cover the production costs. But Adamek and Grant wound up making more on Saturday than they would have had it been on ESPN.
Mill Valley, Calif.
You're right, Michael, that an Adamek-Haye match would be a good one for Adamek and is one that is not out of the realm of possibility. At best, though, Haye is the third-ranked heavyweight between Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko and I was referencing Adamek going against the best in the division. Plus, there will be a lot more money in a Klitschko fight.
Kevin G. Little
Kevin, I believe he knew. Believe. I don't know that he knew. There is a big difference. The two inspectors who were in the room, Che Guevarra [who is the inspector who was overseeing the wrapping and missed the illegal activity in the first place] and Dean Lohuis both testified that he didn't act as if he knew. And Margarito offered his right fist – the one that had the illegal insert in the knuckle pad – and told the inspectors to check it because there was nothing in it. That is the evidence. So you have trainer Javier Capetillo saying he did it on his own. You have Margarito saying he didn't know. You have two commission inspectors saying he acted normally. Thus, I believe it's impossible to prove that he did know. Now, we can have our suspicions and I think you and I are in agreement on that. And I'm not thrilled he's getting the big-money fight either. The way you protest that is by not buying a ticket or the pay-per-view. Believe me, they'll get the picture if enough people do it.