The year that was, the year that wasn’t
2014 is coming to a close and, in many ways, this past year in boxing was just as much about what didn’t happen as what did. Boxing has always been a business, never more so than nowadays, as you have network alliances, promotional rivalries and personality conflicts which dictate much of what we see in the sport.
It was an eventful year, as always. Here were the biggest storylines…
– GOLDEN BREAK-UP
Coming into the year, Richard Schaefer was the CEO of Golden Boy Promotions and, for all intents and purposes, running the company on a day-to-day basis. But as the calendar turned, there were rumblings of a major rift between Schaefer and the man who founded GBP, Oscar De La Hoya. For the past several years, De La Hoya was basically a figurehead and nothing more but as he came out of rehabilitation and began picking up the pieces of his life, he started wondering about Golden Boy’s direction and took control of his company.
It was evident that Schaefer, who had clearly created an alliance with adviser Al Haymon, was clashing with an emboldened “Golden Boy” and something had to give. The Swiss banker would turn in his resignation and is now currently embroiled in a lawsuit with De La Hoya.
In the aftermath, Golden Boy Promotions, which had been excommunicated from HBO in 2013, is now back on the network’s airwaves, as is Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. None of this would have occurred with Schaefer in charge of the company. Some have named De La Hoya “Promoter of the Year” but perhaps the distinction he should be given (thanks to his renewed spirit and personal commitment to his business and boxing) is “Comeback of the Year.”
– THE ADVISER
Speaking of Haymon, right now, there is no one more scrutinized in boxing. For years, he procured obscenely large license fees from HBO for the likes of Andre Berto and is now “advising” well over 125 boxers with talk of him starting his own boxing league, complete with his own network deal (at NBC) and possibly his own championship belts (to circumvent those pesky sanctioning bodies and their annoying mandatory – but competitive – fights). There was a time not too long ago when Haymon was thought of as boxing’s Robin Hood, whose sole interest was making sure his clients got paid equitably, which is certainly noble.
But as Haymon – in the words of Kathy Duva – became an “obstructionist” and got in the way of fights such as Adonis Stevenson vs. Sergey Kovalev, the public perception of him changed. And as more of his clients began to fight less and less in more and more lopsided contests (usually on Showtime), there came a definite backlash.
As we look ahead to 2015, the reclusive and shadowy Haymon is perhaps on the spot more than any other power broker in the sport.
One of the more alarming trends over the past few years has involved boxers in their physical primes fighting more in the courtroom against their promoters/representatives than their fistic counterparts in the squared circle. The quartet of Andre Ward, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, James Kirkland and Mikey Garcia, combined, fought twice in 2014. Ward and Kirkland didn’t fight at all and have nothing on the table for the first quarter of 2015.
Ward continued his ongoing battle with Goossen Promotions (losing various suits as he tried breaking his contract); Chavez and Garcia battled Top Rank Promotions and there were strong rumblings that a certain adviser – you can guess who – was buzzing them. As for Kirkland…well, he just went all Kirkland. This is actually par for the course.
Time waits for no man, so perhaps the motto this year should have been, “Next man up,” which brings us to…
– GOING TO WORK
While the aforementioned foursome basically went on strike, Terence Crawford – who should thank Garcia for opening the doors to his ascension in bypassing Yuriorkis Gamboa – Sergey Kovalev and Gennady Golovkin all fought three times in 2014. Now that’s not all that much but by today’s standards at the premium cable level, anytime you perform more than twice a year, that is considered above-average activity. If not for the untimely passing of his father, Golovkin would have boxed four times as he continued to build his brand.
Because of the work they put in, Crawford and Kovalev are the frontrunners to land “Fighter of the Year” honors. The lesson is very simple: Those who get to work will be rewarded.
– SATURATION POINT
Based on recent pay-per-view numbers that are starting to trend downward, it’s pretty evident that boxing fans have had enough. Starting from the first match-up between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Marcos Maidana, these events failed to hit projected figures (now you’re never going to get the “real” numbers. To paraphrase that old quote: There are lies, damn lies and pay-per-view numbers).
But events that featured Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez and Manny Pacquiao-Chris Algieri had disappointing numbers and while Showtime and anyone else involved with Mayweather are loathe to admit it, his cards have failed to hit certain benchmarks.
The reality is pretty simple: The match-ups at times just aren’t that appealing; the increase in price has turned away some fans and while the industry doesn’t even want to acknowledge them, the ease in which pirated streams are available now has certainly given boxing aficionados another alternative.
Perhaps in 2015, when it comes to pay-per-views, less…is more.
– THE RETURN
There was no doubt that, in 2013, HBO had lost its mojo and rival Showtime was the hot network. And they got off to a rather slow start this past year as fights like Stevenson-Kovalev went to Bolivian. But starting with the mid-May match-up between Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado, HBO steadily rebuilt its reputation with solid match-ups while Showtime became, well…“Haymonized.”
Beyond that, with Golden Boy back in the fold (at least those who are not represented by Haymon), HBO was able to make a fight between Kovalev and Bernard Hopkins and then bring Canelo back to its franchise. This means they have Alvarez, Wladimir Klitschko (who will now become a regular part of the rotation starting in April), Golovkin, Kovalev, Cotto, Pacquiao, Crawford and Tim Bradley among others back in play.
Now, the key is to continue making compelling fights for them.
– SAME SONG
Just when we all believed that any talk of the long-awaited bout between Mayweather and Pacquiao was finally put to rest, during the week of Pacquiao’s bout against Algieri in Macau, China, that rhetoric was ratcheted up again by the usual suspects. It’s become a constant promotional tool during Mayweather and Pacquiao fight weeks: Bring up this fight to mask the fact that the fight the public yearned for so long wasn’t happening but, hey, fork over $75 this time around and we’ll eventually get to it. Promise!
Well, they were at it again and there was talk of meetings with CBS’ Les Moonves and even Bill Clinton! (Yeah, seriously.) Meanwhile, Mayweather delivered his own claims that he was doing all he could do to make this fight a reality and that it’s the other side’s fault for this never coming to fruition.
The bottom line is very simple: Nobody is completely to blame for this fight never taking place but no one is completely absolved. So will this fight finally happen in 2015? Well, what do they say? The more things change, the more they stay the same.
My network of the year? beIN Sports (Espanol). Seriously, they televised some gems in 2014…OK, this Cotto-Canelo fight is gonna get done, right?!…So is a Carl Froch-Chavez Jr. fight really going to take place and what does Top Rank Promotions think of all this?…JJ Watt is an absolute monster. Has anyone put up back-to-back seasons defensively like he just did?…I’m still stunned that this Miami team went 6-7 with a team that will have a load of guys drafted in May. Here’s my final in-season blog on the Independence Bowl to South Carolina for CanesInsight.com…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at http://twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at http://instagram.com/steveucnlive.