Two of the finest young boxers in the world, complete with large and passionate fan bases, will fight for titles in separate bouts Sept. 15 in Las Vegas.
Ordinarily, that would be cause for celebration within the sport. Big events in boxing do everyone associated with the business good. But this is 2012 and Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank are involved, and because of that, things aren't quite as simple as they should be.
Instead of common sense prevailing and a potentially wondrous event unfolding with both fights on the same card, the night will be colored by the jealousy, arrogance, pettiness and downright stupidity of the sport's largest promoters.
At the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus, Top Rank will feature Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who will meet Sergio Martinez for supremacy in the middleweight division in what will be the biggest fight of Chavez's young life.
Less than two miles west on Tropicana Blvd., another fight will occur at the same time. Golden Boy will stage a show featuring Canelo Alvarez, who will put his World Boxing Council super welterweight title on the line against an opponent to be named later at the MGM Grand Garden.
The two biggest stars in boxing are, unquestionably, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. Both, though, are nearer to the end of their careers than the beginning. The next generation is going to be led, most likely, by Chavez and Alvarez.
Sept. 15 is a big day in Las Vegas because the casinos host a celebration of Mexican Independence Day. There is usually – but not always – a major fight in town on that weekend to cater to the boxing-crazed Hispanic fan base.
Each side sounds self-righteous in explaining why it believes it deserves the date to itself. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer asked for the date from the Nevada Athletic Commission before Top Rank did. He also reserved the MGM Grand Garden for that date before Top Rank had a venue. That is fact.
"That's an important weekend for Las Vegas and we have long planned to bring Canelo in there for that weekend," Schaefer said. "We asked for the date substantially before they did. It's indisputable. That's an important date for our sponsors, for the TV network and for us. And we are going to go on that date."
That sounds reasonable, except when Top Rank president Todd duBoef tells his side of the story.
He said that in early February, after Chavez defeated Marco Antonio Rubio in Texas on Feb. 4, Top Rank planned to have Chavez fight once more and then, if he won, to pit him against Martinez, the widely recognized top middleweight, on Sept. 15.
Toward that end, duBoef said he notified the cable and satellite companies of his intent in February and got the prime pay-per-view channel from inDemand, which represents the cable industry. Alvarez was initially going to fight on pay-per-view, but it changed after a series of opponents fell out.
When Chavez stopped Andy Lee on June 16, the bout with Martinez was on and announced.
"We specifically waited until June 16 before we announced anything, because we didn't want to announce anything if we didn't have a fight," duBoef said. "Everybody knew that was our intention. I'm a little disappointed that it has worked out the way it has."
The problem is, of course, that the promoters are forcing the fans to choose when there is no reason for them to be in that position.
Both fights should be on the same card in an event that would be something of a celebration of the sport. Or, barring that, they should be on different weekends.
That, though, won't happen. What will happen is that there will be two arenas filled with empty seats. Many of those in the buildings will get in for free, as each promoter will want to make the scene look good for television.
Alvarez is going to fight on Showtime, which is quickly becoming the Golden Boy Sports Network under Stephen Espinoza, its executive vice president of sports and event programming.
Espinoza was the lead counsel for Golden Boy prior to being named to the Showtime job last year. And, not so shockingly, Golden Boy has largely abandoned HBO Sports in favor of Showtime since the switch.
Through this weekend, when Showtime broadcasts the Cornelius Bundrage-Cory Spinks super welterweight title fight, Showtime will have broadcast 14 boxing cards. Of those 14, Golden Boy promoted or co-promoted eight of them.
DiBella Entertainment has been involved in three, Top Rank and Gary Shaw Productions have had two and Goossen Tutor Promotions and Mayweather Promotions had one.
The network is an issue because Chavez and Martinez are going to fight on HBO Pay-Per-View.
Schaefer's answer to how fight fans can enjoy both events was devious.
"Our fight will be on Showtime, or maybe even CBS," he said. "So the fans can watch our fight live and then the next week, they can watch the replay [of Chavez-Martinez] on HBO."
Schaefer (and Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, as well as HBO Pay-Per-View executive vice president Mark Taffet) has gone apoplectic in the past whenever a reporter has mentioned that the replay of a pay-per-view bout will be broadcast for free the following weekend.
Yet, in a dig at nothing other than ruining his competitor's event, Schaefer tried to suggest a way fans could see the fight without buying it.
It wasn't just Schaefer being petulant, though. DuBoef pointed out snidely that Golden Boy once promoted a bout between Marco Antonio Barrera and Robbie Peden on Mexican Independence Day weekend, a bout that was hardly huge, even at the time.
"We have the better fight," duBoef said. "As I'm talking to you, they don't even have a fight. I believe this is a special date for Las Vegas and that the event that is best goes on that date. That's not their philosophy. They think they own it. I am committing to you that if I didn't have the best fight, I wouldn't go on that date. But they won't do the same. They think they own both [Mexican Independence and Cinco de Mayo] weekends."
It's going to get uglier before it gets better. Have no doubt that the promoters are going to attempt to threaten to banish reporters from their event if a reporter chooses to cover the other event live.
Don't be shocked to see them acting like the Watergate plumbers and pulling dirty stunts at each other's publicity events.
The public that has kept this sport alive through scandal and tragedy and numerous other issues deserves far better than they're getting from the so-called best promoters in the world.
They need to quit their whining, sit down face-to-face in a conference room and work out their issues.
There is a solution, if both sides want to find one. What's good for boxing is good for boxing promoters, and they are bright enough to understand that.
The dirty little secret here is that neither side wants one. Their contempt for each other is so great, they'd rather see the other fail than to back down.
Until that attitude changes, boxing is never going to shed its reputation as a second-tier business.
It's not the sport of boxing that is bad. It's the business, and the people who run it, that are disgusting.
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