Oscar De La Hoya seems prepared to guide Golden Boy through difficult waters

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports
Oscar De La Hoya is introduced at the official weigh-in for Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara in July. (Getty)

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Oscar De La Hoya is introduced at the official weigh-in for Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara in July. (Getty)

LAS VEGAS – Friday, for the first time in the more than 10 years since he founded Golden Boy Promotions, Oscar De La Hoya seemed engaged, aware and in charge of what was going on with his company.

In the early days, he was seemingly content to defer to his onetime manager, Richard Schaefer, whom he appointed as Golden Boy's first and only CEO.

De La Hoya was an active boxer and though he'd invested a great deal of money in founding and operating Golden Boy, he seemed content to play a more secondary role.

After his career ended with a drubbing at the hands of Manny Pacquiao in 2008, De La Hoya frequently would say that he'd want to be in charge, but his actions rarely matched his words.

Longtime rivals Bob Arum (L) of Top Rank and Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy are attempting to work together. (Getty)
Longtime rivals Bob Arum (L) of Top Rank and Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy are attempting to work together. (Getty)

He had a drug and alcohol problem, as it turned out, and wasn't really capable of having a meaningful impact upon his company.

He made his first public appearance in July after leaving a rehabilitation center, and held a news conference in which he said all the right things. Still, it came off scripted and he didn't seem fully aware of the complex issues facing him with Schaefer no longer with the company.

On Friday, though, things were different. De La Hoya sat down with a handful of boxing writers in a wide-ranging discussion that showed him alert, aware, in charge and decisive.

It was Oscar in a way that, frankly, I'd never seen him in more than 20 years of being around him.

After the session broke up, I mentioned the dramatic change.

"You know, I want this so badly and when I'm this motivated, I'm hard to beat," De La Hoya said.

What remains to be determined is what he has left of his company. Schaefer did a brilliant job building it into a powerhouse, but in the last year of his term as CEO, questions arose.

Earlier this year, it became public that fighters who once had been signed to Golden Boy promotional contracts were not re-signed by the company. They were signed to managerial or advisory contracts with powerful manager Al Haymon and were no longer on Golden Boy deals.

It's undoubtedly going to take a court to sort out the mess, but it's unclear even at this point which fighters are signed to Golden Boy contracts and which are, in essence, promotional free agents signed only with Haymon.

Those who are signed only with Haymon would, theoretically, be free to fight for any promoter. Those who are under Golden Boy promotional deals would be exclusive to Golden Boy.

The value of a promotional company is the quality of the fighters it has under contract.

The one fighter who Golden Boy has under contract without question is Canelo Alvarez, who is a massive draw and gives Golden Boy significant influence in the sport.

But until a court sorts everything out, in order to make the fights the public wants to see, particularly bouts with fighters from longtime rival Top Rank, De La Hoya is going to have to work well with Haymon.

This is where things get tricky. Haymon's alliances are with Mayweather Promotions, Schaefer and Showtime. He's also reportedly working on a deal to put fights on NBC.

Haymon has been banned from HBO and doesn't do business with Top Rank.

De La Hoya was at Top Rank last week meeting with CEO Bob Arum and president Todd duBoef, and plans to meet with them again in hopes of making an Alvarez-Miguel Cotto fight for early 2015.

Still, the question remains: Can De La Hoya work with Haymon? Given that Haymon played a big role in putting De La Hoya's company in the spot it's in now, scrambling essentially, to take inventory of whom it has and whom it doesn't, that won't be easy.

De La Hoya seems aware of all the land mines and seems confident he can negotiate them.

"There is a manager I am not too fond of who Top Rank works closely with," De La Hoya said, apparently in reference to Cameron Dunkin. "I'm not going to work with him. I'm going to work with Bob [and Bob can deal with him]. I think we're on the right path."

The inference is that he can do the same with Haymon. Haymon is a brilliant man who has been a licensed manager in Nevada since 2002. But he works behind the scenes, never speaks to the media and is rarely seen publicly.

Haymon has been accused in the past of serving as a promoter, as well as a manager, which is prohibited by federal law.

There are gray areas there and Haymon so far has navigated those waters astutely, with no interference from federal authorities.

Golden Boy has promoted every Floyd Mayweather fight since 2007, including Mayweather-Maidana II, but in recent years, Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe insists his company was the one doing most of the work.

But because Mayweather Promotions didn't get a promoter's license in Nevada until July, it needed to hire a company (Golden Boy) that could navigate all the regulatory issues.

Oscar De La Hoya was in the ring Saturday night before Mayweather-Maidana II. (Getty)
Oscar De La Hoya was in the ring Saturday night before Mayweather-Maidana II. (Getty)

"The truth is, we've been promoting ourselves and doing most of the work on these fights for the last couple of years, but Richard was the face of things," Ellerbe said.

Most in the boxing industry believe Haymon to have been the guiding force behind Mayweather Promotions.

But now that Mayweather Promotions is a licensed company, it could use a lot of the stars that Haymon has under contract to promote. Some of those are fighters who were once under contract to Golden Boy.

Schaefer's trusty deputy at Golden Boy, Bruce Binkow, has already been hired by Mayweather Promotions. A slew of former Golden Boy employees, including Schaefer and Raul Jaimes, were at Mayweather-Maidana II. Schaefer is expected to join Mayweather Promotions once his situation with Golden Boy is decided.

When that will be is ultimately going to be up to a court. De La Hoya's lawyer, the formidable Bertram Fields, emailed Yahoo Sports in June to answer a question about Schaefer's future.

He wrote simply, "Golden Boy has a written contract with Richard Schaefer that ends March 2018. The company intends to enforce that contract."

De La Hoya referenced that when he was speaking to the media.

"The truth of the matter is, he has a contract until 2018 that stipulates he can not compete or he can not be involved in boxing [with anyone else]," De La Hoya said. "It's a strong, solid contract that, obviously, I'm standing by 100 percent."

De La Hoya said he was unsure of whether the dispute between Golden Boy and Schaefer could be settled by the parties, short of a court case.

He said things have taken a turn for the worse in that regard recently.

"We were making progress," De La Hoya said of settling the issues with Schaefer. "But it's going to be a fight."

De La Hoya went on to discuss at length his plans. He was much more authoritative and engaged than he's often been.

He seemed to know what needed to be done and, more importantly, how to do it.

He gave off the aura that, finally perhaps, Golden Boy Promotions is, after all, his company.

That's great news for boxing fans. There is a long way to go and many hurdles to overcome.

De La Hoya, of course, will have to avoid the drug and alcohol issues that have harmed him in the past.

But right now, it's the most engaged he's ever been as a businessman.

And that's a very good thing, for the sake of his company and the future of boxing.

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