So after five fights on Showtime, during which time he has become CANELO, a guy who can carry a pay-per-view, Canelo Alvarez has jumped ship, back to the HBO barge.
This has to stand as a blow to the suits at Showtime, who, while they do own the services of the industry leader, Floyd Mayweather, have been making up ground on HBO, which has been their ratings superior since the two premium cablers have been pugilistic sparring partners.
The thing is, up until yesterday, according to Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza, the Sho crew thought they were in the running to sign Alvarez, the 24-year-old Mexican with the J Crew looks and the throwback mindset, of wanting to test himself against the best possible foes.
“This doesn't really come as a surprise, as Oscar De La Hoya (head of Golden Boy Promotions) has been talking openly about having Canelo fight Miguel Cotto on HBO for awhile, I'd say he's been contemplating this a couple months,” Espinoza explained on Tuesday afternoon. “But there is a disappointing aspect in that the whole situation was done in a deceitful manner, the way Oscar went about this.”
Three weeks ago, Espinoza explained, Oscar came to Showtime, furnishing a longterm deal, a multi-fight agreement, for Canelo and Golden Boy. “We agreed to it,” Espinoza said. “He promised Canelo would be staying. Now, he reneged on those promises, and hasn't offered anything like an explanation.”
OK, to be fair, did he take your offer over to HBO boxing boss Ken Hershman, the former Showtime boxing boss, and said, meet it and beat it? If that is what Oscar did, Espinoza said, that would be a fair business practice. But that is not what he did, Espinoza iterated to me. “Oscar said, here's the proposal, we agreed…that makes a deal.”
How certain was Espinoza, who has a long-standing relationship with Oscar, being that he worked as legal counsel for them, that he had a Canelo extension wrapped up?
“We offered to have Canelo fly in (to New York) for a celebratory dinner,” he said.
As of yesterday, Espinoza thought he was still in the game for the services of the kid whose initial foray headlining PPV events earned him numbers on par with Oscar and Mayweather's first PPV headliners and who was half of the highest grossing PPV event of all time.
He'd agreed to Joshua Clottey (age 36; 38-4 record; has fought four times in the last four years) as the next for Canelo (44-1-1; only loss to Floyd Mayweather Sept. 2013), reluctantly, being that Clottey has been woefully lacking in activity.
“Early in the process, we didn't view Clottey as a credible opponent,” Espinoza said. “And we didn't think he was worth the $4 million fee Oscar was looking for.”
HBO, by the way, is a familiar landing place for the red head. He fought on their air seven times on his way up the ladder, the last time against Shane Mosley in May 2012.
This turn of events leaves Espinoza “puzzled,” he told me, and now wanting a true-blue explanation from Oscar on his recent activity, which was preceded by the promoter's delivery of Bernard Hopkins back to HBO, for a Nov. 8 fight with Sergey Kovalev.
Note: I reached out to a rep for Oscar, and requested a timely response, for his reaction, should he choose to give one. I will insert that if and when he responds.
I think there is some disappointment in Sho minds today. They get business, but also believe they worked their tail off for the kid, with multiple All Access series featuring the redhead, believe they did a quite robust Hispanic marketing in print ads, TV commercials, etc to a nationwide audience. They are proud of the outreach they did in sharing All Access with Spanish language TV networks, Univision last year, Fox Deportes this year, as well.
“We have a deep roster of stars, and a wide variety of other top-notch sports programming,” Espinoza stated. “We view ourselves as the industry leader in premium cable and on pay-per-view and we look forward to building on that foundation for many years to come.”
And does that foundation include, moving forward, doing deals with De La Hoya, who wrested control of his company back from Richard Schaefer months ago, after getting clean and sober and re-finding his passion for the business, as well as a clear head?
“It's a valid question to ask,” said Espinoza. “We're looking forward to putting together the best fights, and whoever gives us the best talent, we'll go that route.”
My takeaway, partially from reading in between the lines: Espinoza won't shut the door on doing deals with Oscar, but the rules on their engagement have changed now. The dealings, I think, have to be more formal, more inclusive of methods to cover oneself, more likely to include a contract, whereas before a handshake might have sufficed.
Bottom lining it; we still have a cold war here, but the players have shifted some, and the alliances are in flux.
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