The battle over May(day) 12
There will be plenty of time to talk about the upcoming “SuperFly 2” card this weekend at the Forum (and, trust me, plenty will be written) but we kick off the week here by talking about a fight that unfortunately will most likely NOT be taking place, for the time being.
The past couple of weeks, starting with Jorge Linares’ successful defense of his WBA lightweight title versus Mercito Gesta back, on January 27, there had been rumblings of a showdown between him and WBO junior lightweight beltholder Vasyl Lomachenko in a bout that would be highly anticipated by the masses. This pairing would undoubtedly be one of the highlights of the 2018 boxing calendar.
Linares is co-promoted by Teiken Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions, while Lomachenko is represented by Top Rank.
Last week as Top Rank – after sorting out the major issues with the head of Teiken (the honorable Mr. Akihiko Honda) – Carl Moretti (Top Rank’s vice president of Boxing Operations) put in a call to GBP President Eric Gomez to work on the final details and put pen to paper, he was told that the proposed date of May 12 for ESPN was simply a non-starter for this or any other fight. It’s something they had made clear from the very beginning.
The reason is because HBO (to whom Golden Boy is closely aligned) will be airing the replay of the previous week’s pay-per-view bout between its cash cow, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, along with a live fight featuring WBO welterweight titlist Sadam Ali. Simply put, by having a high-profile bout on another network at the same time a card was broadcast on HBO would be, in effect, counter-programming themselves.
Even the date of April 28 (when both ESPN and HBO will both air boxing) would not have worked, as HBO will be using that date to promote the pay-per-view on May 5. So it’s clear that the week before – and after any – Canelo fight is a “safe space,” regarding both the network and promotional firm who have so much tied into the Mexican superstar.
But once again, it highlights the problematic nature of the three universes of boxing that currently exist. Yes, it’s great that major networks are investing into the sport the way ESPN, HBO and Showtime have but it comes at a certain cost, as each network has aligned with certain entities. ESPN has entered a multi-year pact with Top Rank, while HBO’s main content provider is Golden Boy and Showtime is squarely aligned with Al Haymon/Premier Boxing Champions.
And at the upper levels of the sport, there is very little co-mingling of talent, when it comes to the fights. You’re either right in the thick of certain fights in a particular weight class (like the junior middleweight class, on Showtime, or the smaller weight classes with HBO) or you’re on the outside looking in. It’s why Daniel Jacobs (long a PBC staple) jumped ship to HBO and Matchroom Boxing/Eddie Hearn last year.
Linares-Lomachenko would have been that rare match-up of marquee talents who would have met, despite these hurdles. It’s the most elegant and stylish match-up to to be made in all of boxing and it would have capped off a stretch in which Canelo-GGG, Murat Gassiev-Oleksandr Usyk and then this bout would have taken place.
But alas, boxing being boxing is going to keep this from coming to fruition. And accusations are being thrown around by both sides. Oscar De La Hoya let his hands go on Twitter last Thursday and Bob Arum threw HBO’s Peter Nelson under the bus.
Truth of the matter is neither side is completely blameless and neither side is completely at fault.
The late Jay Larkin, who ran Showtime Sports for years, once said it best: ”Boxing is business dressed up as a sport.” He couldn’t have been more correct in his assessment. And unfortunately the business of boxing once again trumps it as a sport.
It’s clear that both boxers yearn for this assignment:
— Hi-Tech Lomachenko (@VasylLomachenko) February 1, 2018
@VasylLomachenko I know you are ready for May 12. Also I am too. I don’t want politics to interfere with our bout. I will tell my promoter @GoldenBoyBoxing no matter what will take the fight for the benefit of boxing and the fans. #teamlinares
— #TheKingJorge 👑 (@JorgeLinares) February 15, 2018
Problem is, neither Top Rank or Golden Boy can – or will – budge.
And fans – once again – are the losers.
Here are some personal thoughts on this whole snafu:
– Golden Boy has made it clear that any other date (that doesn’t somehow fall into the “Canelo PPV Zone” would work for them. The only problem is ESPN, being the self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader in Sports and Entertainment,” programs many other sports on their networks and, come May and June, Saturday night slots become scarce as the NBA Playoffs take place.
Gomez has stated that “flexibility” is necessary but the truth of the matter is neither side really can afford to be flexible. Golden Boy simply can’t alienate HBO or Canelo, in any form or fashion, and Top Rank is locked into certain dates on ESPN.
– In the past, I’ve proposed that, in situations like this, the networks go into a “purse bid” process, in which the highest bidder gets the right to televise a particular event. While that sounds simple and clear, in theory, it was pointed out to me by someone in the business that this doesn’t take into account stuff like the live gate, sponsorship and other ancillary revenues are associated with the promotion.
You could argue that the event would be bigger on ESPN, given its in approximately 90 million homes, as opposed to HBO’s 25-to-30 million subscribers. The last Lomachenko fight (on December 9, versus Guillermo Rigondeaux) did nearly two million viewer, while Linares-Gesta did just a fraction of that number.
While Lomachenko had a listed purse of $1.5 million for that fight, Linares made $300,000.
– One way or the other, Lomachenko will fight on May 12 and, for the time being, it looks like newly-crowned WBO lightweight titlist Ray Beltran will get the call to face the stylish Ukranian at the Madison Square Garden. (And yeah, Beltan just so happens to be promoted by Top Rank.)
– There is a certain irony here in Arum railing against Golden Boy not wanting to go up against the replay of a big pay-per-view fight because if Bob were in the exact same position, with, say, Oscar in the late-1990s, there is no way on God’s green Earth, he would have ever put on another fight on a rival network while a replay of a De La Hoya fight was being aired by HBO (for whom he was the main content provider for a good quarter-century).
This whole dynamic is part of the monster he helped create.
– There’s no doubt that Golden Boy has to protect Canelo’s interest but how they will placate Linares in this situation? How do they tell Linares (who’s in the later stages of his prime) that he won’t be making a career-high payday, based on these circumstances? Whom does he fight in the interim that is nearly as meaningful or lucrative?
– Is it just me or is it a tad peculiar that nowadays the biggest dates on the HBO boxing calendar are now replays of pay-per-view bouts from the week before? I mean, what is this, 1995? Let’s be honest; there will be a bunch of links *ahem*…”on the radio” that will pop up a few hours after the Alvarez-Golovkin rematch.
But back to the original point: What does that say about the quality of the current live programming on HBO Sports? Have you seen what they are airing on April 28? Good grief.
It’s clear that HBO is no longer the sole 800-pound gorilla in the game. And that’s not the worst thing in the world but it has brought about a new set of problems.
BEVY OF BOXING
OK, some quick thoughts on this past weekend in boxing:
– I felt as though Beltran won versus Paulus Moses legitimately and he salted away the fight by digging down in the last few rounds but it’s clear that he is now on a physical descent. He’s getting hit with more clean punches, as his reflexes and reaction times have dulled a bit. Also his flat-footed and deliberate style will be something that will be very easy for Lomachenko to decipher.
But what were the odds that this ESPN-televised main event from Reno, Nevada, would be the best fight of the weekend?
– WBA super middleweight titlist George Groves’ clear decision over Chris Eubank Jr., in the semifinals of the World Boxing Super Series 168-pound tournament, was once again a victory for basic fundamentals over flash. For all the hand speed Eubank exhibits in his training, on social media, he was rendered ineffective for long stretches against the jab of Groves, who easily neutralized Eubank, who, in turn, had a desperate quality to his attack. Eubank kept lunging in wildly and threw punches in such a wild fashion that it’s a wonder he never struck any ringside spectators.
Eubank is more sizzle than steak.
Problem is he basically trains himself. Well, anyone who does that has a fool for a client.
Now it looked like Groves suffered a significant left shoulder injury and it’s not clear what his status will be for the finals of the WBSS.
– Caleb Plant is good at what he does. And that’s bad for the viewing audience.
– Brandon Rios gave it a good effort versus Danny Garcia at the Mandalay Bay, in the Showtime main event, but a few months of discipline weren’t going to be nearly enough to turn back the clock on years of neglect. With his hard-nosed, grinding style, “Bam Bam” was always going to have a relatively short shelf life and, to his credit, he got everything out of his God-given talent, winning titles, being involved in memorable fights, making some real money and being on major pay-per-view shows, but he could’ve gotten more out of his ability and lengthened his prime if he would’ve had a more disciplined approach to the game during his younger years.
Yes, youth truly is wasted on the young.
But he’s a fighter who gave us some lasting memories and that, in itself, should be greatly appreciated.
– As for Danny Garcia, he scored a highlight reel stoppage in the ninth round:
But throughout much of that bout, he wasn’t all that impressive. In fact, to these eyes, he didn’t look anything like an elite fighter, just one who was well-known for his past work.
The most entertaining exchange of the weekend took place between Shawn Porter and Garcia inside the ring after the Rios fight. Why in the world was Showtime’s Jim Gray such a buzzkill?…Yordenis Ugas has been on a nice run the past year or two…Shakur Stevenson is a solid little technician but he really does need to get stronger…I thought Devon Alexander out-pointed Victor Ortiz but, regardless, it was a decent scrap…Are the Winter Olympics over yet?…Yes, “Mr. Boxing Guru” will be throwing another tailgate extravaganza, at the Forum, this Saturday afternoon. I just hope there are utensils this time around…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.