Can boxing's promotional ceasefire last?

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  • Oscar De La Hoya
    Oscar De La Hoya
    American boxer
The current peace between Top Rank and Golden Boy requires people like Bob Arum keeping quiet, something that doesn't often happen

It would be great to believe that the feud between Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions, which has prevented so many great fights from occurring, is truly over.

It would be wonderful to believe that nice words between company executives following an arbitration hearing earlier this month in a retired judge's office will lead to the fights that boxing fans have dreamed of watching.

It would be also be ridiculously naive, as history suggests that there is a better chance of CBS taking back Charlie Sheen than there is of boxing's two largest promoters working harmoniously together long-term.

There is nothing that would be better for the fans and the fighters than for Bob Arum and Todd duBoef of Top Rank, and Richard Schaefer and Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy, to call a permanent cease-fire.

Between the companies, they probably have 80 percent of the world's greatest fighters tied up, as well as an equal amount of the television pie. The list of excellent bouts that could be made by pitting Golden Boy boxers against Top Rank boxers is long and deep.

Each, though, has operated as a promotional monolith over the last year or so, largely excluding other companies from their business. And so, what we have is the equivalent of baseball in the 1960s, separate but equal leagues with one small difference: In this version of the game, the best teams don't meet in the World Series at the end of the year.

The non-boxing media, particularly sports talk-radio types, will predict gloom and doom for the sport on the rare occasion when there is a bout that interests more than the sport's hard-core base. They invariably mention that the sport is dying and speculate whether it can be saved.

Boxing's two big issues, clearly, are the lack of a U.S. network television deal and the failure of promoters to consistently make the best fights possible.

It's that simple. Put boxing on network television, have the best fight the best and boxing immediately becomes a major sport once again.

The reasons for the absence of boxing from U.S. network television are more complicated than the Middle East peace talks. The reason for the failure, though, of the promoters to consistently put their best fighters against the best opposition available is the promoters themselves.

Not all of the blame for that should be laid upon the giants of the industry, but they deserve more than their fair share of it.

There was a glimmer of hope recently that a spring thaw would come across boxing's nuclear winter when Arum, duBoef and Schaefer ran into each other at an arbitration hearing in retired federal judge Daniel Weinstein's office. Weinstein works for JAMS, and his biography on its website refers to him as "one of the premier mediators of complex, multi-party, high-stake cases, both in the United States and abroad."

Weinstein successfully brought a lawsuit between Top Rank and Golden Boy over the rights to promote Manny Pacquiao to a settlement in 2007.

The sides had several issues before Weinstein, which led to friendly chatter between Schaefer, Arum and duBoef. In the last 18 months, that's been as rare as a $2 gallon of gas.

However, they managed to remain civil while working out an agreement to allow Juan Manuel Marquez to sign a deal with Top Rank to face Pacquiao on Nov. 12. Marquez's promotional agreement with Golden Boy had expired, but Golden Boy had the contractual right to match any offer he received until February.

Top Rank offered Marquez enough money for the Nov. 12 fight, with more for the guaranteed rematch should he win, that it was almost like a poison pill. But Schaefer handled the situation with class and Marquez was able to sign the deal.

Arum told the Los Angeles Times that the arbitration meeting ended on May 16 "in a burst of goodwill, with handshakes," and said he expected the companies could again work together. In a later interview with Yahoo! Sports, Arum said he was "hopeful" that would be the case.

The problem is that Arum and De La Hoya are both highly competitive, distrustful of each other and verbally acerbic. And the second something occurs that the other doesn't like, it's going to be back to the feuding.

De La Hoya is in rehab and thus is temporarily, at least, removed from the action. But even last week, while he was in the facility, he was taking a none-too-subtle jab at Top Rank about the pay-per-view sales of the Pacquiao-Shane Mosley fight from May 7.

That total has yet to be released, though Arum insisted it will be above 1.3 million. The total is significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to determine the impact that Top Rank's decision to bring on CBS as a partner to aid in promoting the bout had on the sales.

A year earlier, Mosley fought Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a bout promoted by Golden Boy on HBO Pay-Per-View. That bout sold 1.4 million pay-per-view units. And with Arum's failure to release the figure, there has been furious speculation in the industry that the Pacquiao-Mosley fight didn't sell nearly as well as Mayweather-Mosley.

Several rival promoters are whispering that the Pacquiao-Mosley figure is actually 1.18 million. Arum says that is not the case and said this reporter's prediction that it would settle on 1.375 million "might turn out to be right on the money."

Arum explained the failure to release the numbers as an accounting issue. He said HBO Pay-Per-View's Mark Taffet has a great ability to estimate a show's performance based on the early numbers that come in. Generally, Taffet releases a number for an HBO Pay-Per-View show about five days after the fight.

Arum said neither Top Rank nor Showtime has the ability to predict a number like Taffet does, leading to the reporting delay. He said it could be months before there is one.

On May 20, presumably from rehab, De La Hoya wrote on Twitter, "Does anyone know the official Ppv #for mosley manny fight?"

On the surface, it was a harmless question, but given the belief among many outside of the promotion that Pacquiao-Mosley didn't do as well as Arum said, and not nearly as well as Mayweather-Mosley, it's clearly an attempt to jab at Top Rank.

Little jabs like that tend to infuriate the other side and create bigger issues. History has proven that neither De La Hoya nor Arum is good at biting his tongue.

It would be nice if Top Rank and Golden Boy worked harmoniously together, if for no other reason than to make each other richer. Their rosters mesh beautifully and could present a mind-boggling number of Fight of the Year-type bouts.

I'll believe it when I see it, though. There's always something and nothing suggests that this era of good feeling between the promotional super powers is anything but temporary.