Mailbag: Leonard's new role

Kevin Iole

You can follow Kevin Iole on Twitter at @KevinI

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.

Golden Boy's output deal

Outstanding article on the economics of boxing, Kevin. I really enjoyed it. I have one question. I'm constantly reading about this contractual agreement between HBO and Golden Boy which "guarantees" a certain number of fights/cards per year. Does anyone know how long this contract will go? It seems that when Showtime was locked into a long-term contract with Mike Tyson, we had a similar situation. Once the shackles were free, we got "Great Fights, No Rights." Maybe HBO will be able to up its game if its weren't locked into GBP.

Paul Sanborn
Fairfax, Va.

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.

Free TV is the only answer

Kathy Duva's plan to go back to the old way of promoting boxing is interesting, but it's never going to work. At least, it won't work in terms of building high-profile fighters. The only way to do that is with television – network television. I don't understand why boxing promoters don't come up with some plans to get regular shows back onto NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX. This is the only way that boxing will ever truly regain its place in this country as a major sport.

Kelly Haines
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.

Fight not PPV-worthy

Why in the world was a fight like Saturday's heavyweight bout between Tomasz Adamek and Michael Grant on pay-per-view? This is the problem with boxing. Who outside of hard-core boxing fans know who Adamek is? What is the monetary difference between that PPV, which couldn't have sold that well, and putting the fight on ESPN's Friday Night Fights? There really can't be a huge difference in terms of revenue. I can understand making people pay for a fight when the interest is there, but when it's not, how about putting the fight on cable, gaining a few more fans, and helping to rebuild the sport of boxing?

Ryan Schwartz
Marysville, Calif.

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.

Adamek-Haye a worthy match

In your column on Tomasz Adamek, why didn't you mention a possible matchup between Adamek and David Haye should Adamek get past Michael Grant? That would be an intriguing matchup and should Adamek win the title, it would give him a platform for a unification match with either of the Klitschkos.

Michael Rubin
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.

Margarito had to know

Do you really believe it is plausible that Antonio Margarito did not know what was in his hand wraps before the Shane Mosley fight? Moreover, wouldn't one have to be a fool to believe that this is the first time Margarito ever had an illegal substance in his hand wraps? I am a former amateur boxer and even I can tell you that fighters are super- paranoid about their hands and how they are wrapped for fights. Those are the primary tools of their trade. Fighters, particularly long-time pros, know when anything is amiss with their wraps, so please don't try to tell me Margarito did not know that a clump of plaster was in his wraps. That is just total nonsense. Margarito is an absolute fraud and should never be allowed to box again.

Kevin G. Little
Fresno, Calif.

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.