The Hauser Report: January Notes

Thomas-Hauser

The most interesting action in boxing often takes place outside the ring. There have been developments on both sides of the ropes in January 2015 that are worthy of comment.

*     *     *

The Al Haymon Era officially began this month when Haymon Boxing, armed with a reported $100,000,000 war chest in venture-capital funds, put the finishing touches on two time buys.

NBC Sports announced on January 14 that it had entered into an agreement with Haymon that provides for twenty fight telecasts in 2015 (five on NBC on Saturday nights, six on NBC on Saturday afternoons, and nine in prime time on NBC Sports Network).

The NBC commentating team will include Al Michaels and Sugar Ray Leonard, two of the best in the business. There are reports that another elite commentator, possibly Marv Albert, will join them.

The first telecast pursuant to the agreement will come on March 7, when Keith Thurman faces off against Robert Guerrero and Adrien Broner takes on John Molina at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. That will be followed by Danny Garcia vs. Lamont Peterson and, possibly, Andy Lee vs. Peter Quillin on April 11, most likely at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Both of these cards will be televised on NBC. Thurman, Broner, Garcia, and Quillin will be the favored fighters in more ways than one.

On January 22, a second Haymon Boxing time buy was announced; this one on Spike TV. Thirty-three monthly cards (nine in 2015, twelve in 2016, and twelve in 2017) will be televised on Friday nights, many of them opposite ESPN2 Boxing.

The inaugural Spike telecast will take place on March 13 with Andre Berto vs. Josesito Lopez and Shawn Porter vs. Roberto Garcia. Berto and Porter are considered the house fighters.

Much of the boxing media was frozen out of the press conferences announcing these events. That might be because Haymon had more prominent scribes in mind. Or it might be because he doesn’t want anyone who knows the business boxing asking hard questions in the presence of the uninitiated.

The reaction of competing promoters and television executives left out in the cold has ranged from denial to panic. Some in between these extremes have noted that Haymon now has the burden of selling advertising for programming that advertisers have resisted for decades.

As for fans, there was an ominous signal when it was announced that the April 11 fight between WBA-WBC 140-pound beltholder Danny Garcia and IBF 140-pound beltholder Lamont Peterson will be an over-the-weight non-title bout. That’s Haymon’s way of distributing as many belts as possible among as many of his fighters as possible to keep them happy. Also, presumably, he can pay the fighters a bit less because they aren’t risking their belts.

Haymon is trying to create a sense of inevitability. And he’s spending a lot of his investors’ money to do it. One of many unanswered questions is whether or not the investors will get their money back.

*     *     *

A lot of people in boxing have free time on their hands and not much to do with it. That’s the most likely explanation for the breathless reporting during the past month regarding the non-fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.

Pacquiao wants the fight. So does Showtime (a subsidiary of CBS Corporation), which would like to dig itself out from under the weight of its $32,000,000-per-fight minimum obligation to Mayweather.

Bob Arum (Pacquiao’s promoter) may, or may not, want it. But by posturing publicly in favor of the bout, he’s ingratiating himself with Les Moonves (president and CEO of CBS Corporation), who banished Top Rank from the network after Arum brought Pacquiao back to HBO following a flirtation with Showtime for Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley in 2011.

Speculation that Mayweather-Pacquiao would happen peaked on January 14, when HBO CEO Richard Plepler and Ken Hershman (president of HBO Sports) were seen having lunch in a Manhattan restaurant with Matt Blank and Stephen Espinoza (their Showtime counterparts). By most accounts, the meeting went poorly.

There are numerous issues between Showtime (which has an exclusive contract with Mayweather) and HBO (Pacquiao’s network). These issues range from how the commentating team for Mayweather-Pacquiao would be constituted to which network would televise the rebroadcast of the fight a week later.

More to the point; Mayweather’s actions (as opposed to his words) indicate that he doesn’t want the fight. Al Haymon (Floyd’s manager and de facto promoter) might not want it either.

Haymon is accustomed to controlling all revenue streams from Mayweather’s fights. And he’s a secretive guy. Mayweather-Pacquiao would be a joint venture with Top Rank. That means Bob Arum would know what foreign revenue Haymon was bringing in. And vice versa.

Come to think of it; Arum might not like that much either.

This is the only time in memory that the two most prominent fighters in the world have been in the same weight class and didn’t fight each other. There are reports that Moonves has instructed Espinoza to not give dates to Haymon unless and until Mayweather-Pacquiao is made. That would explain why Showtime has so little programming in place for this year.

*     *     *

Deontay Wilder vs. Bermane Stiverne, contested on January 17, was seen going in as an entertaining match-up between two guys with questionable chins who could punch. Even better, it was unclear who would win.

Stiverne came in at 239 pounds with some extra weight around his waist. For most of the night, he plodded forward without letting his hands go often enough. Wilder used his considerable advantage in height and reach well. Even though Deontay moved away for most of the night, he did so as the aggressor, firing jabs with right hands mixed in. His jab was effective as both an offensive weapon and a defensive shield. The right hands stunned Stiverne at the end of round two and again in round seven.

Wilder had never gone more than four rounds before. By mid-fight, it was clear that Stiverne needed a knockout to win. The only open issues were Deontay’s stamina and his chin. Bermane didn’t do much to test either. Instead, he kept plodding forward, taking punishment and failing to cut off the ring. On the few occasions when he landed something promising, Wilder fired back. The judges’ scores of 120-107, 119-108, and 118-109 were a bit generous to Deontay, but not by much.

With his victory, Wilder claimed the bogus WBC heavyweight belt. The real champion is Wladimir Klitschko. But by besting Stiverne, Deontay established himself as a legitimate contender. He looked better against Bermane than a lot of people thought he would.

Wilder is entertaining to watch. He has the potential to excite people. There’s a big payday waiting for him against either Klitschko or Tyson Fury. Wladimir would be a decided favorite over Deontay. Fury would not.

Wilder-Fury would be a huge event in England. Think Wembley Stadium and the 80,000 fans who attended Carl Froch vs. George Groves last spring. Let’s hope then Deontay opts for Klitschko or Fury in his next fight and not Bozo the Clown.

*     *     *

The January 24 rubber match between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado shaped up at best as an entertaining club fight. The two men had combined to lose five of their previous seven outings over the past thirty-three months, with their only victories coming against each other. There was an effort to brand their trilogy as the second coming of Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward. That had no more credibility than likening Harry Connick Jr to Frank Sinatra.

In the weeks leading up to the fight, there was a widespread belief that, at best, Alvarado wasn’t training properly. At the start of round one, he looked like a man who didn’t want to fight. Then he morphed into a human punching bag. His only moment of serious aggression came toward the end of the second round, when he walked away from the action, then turned and whacked Rios in the testicles. In round three, Brandon pounded away without mercy. Following that stanza, the fight was stopped.

HBO commentator Jim Lampley acknowledged afterward, “It was a one-sided annihilation by a well-prepared Brandon Rios against a stunningly unprepared Mike Alvarado. Basically, he wasn’t there.”

“He had nothing, zero,” promoter Bob Arum added.

Boxing fans were spared comparisons with Gatti-Ward in the post-fight analysis.

*     *     *

The sad story of Jermain Taylor got sadder on January 19 with his arrest on charges of aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a minor, and possession of marijuana after he fired a gun during a parade in Little Rock honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Taylor was out on bail at the time, pending trial on charges of first degree battery stemming from an incident last August, when he shot his cousin in the leg. His bail was revoked after the parade incident.

There was a time when Jermain was considered a model citizen, and rightly so. Those days are gone.

“It’s possible that brain trauma from boxing is contributing to this,” Dr. Margaret Goodman (one of the most knowledgeable advocates for fighter safety in the United States) posits. “With CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy], you see extreme personality and mood changes. But you wouldn’t know whether that’s the case here without a lot of tests.”

Drug abuse is also believed to be a factor. After Taylor defeated Bernard Hopkins twice in 2005, he left his longtime trainer, Pat Burns, to work with Emanuel Steward, who was assisted by Ozell Nelson. Thereafter, Jermain was introduced to some not-so-healthy aspects of street life.

Taylor reunited with Burns in 2011. Last year, he won a watered-down 160-pound “championship” belt.

“If I sound perturbed,” Burns told this writer last week, “it’s because I am. Jermain was completely against drugs when I first knew him. And now, it’s not just marijuana. It can’t be. Marijuana doesn’t make you crazy like this. I’m told there’s stuff on the streets now that’s marijuana processed in a certain way that’s very dangerous. Maybe it’s that; I don’t know. But he’s out of control. That’s the scary part. The drugs are kicking Jermain’s ass.”

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Thomas Hauser on Boxing: Another Year Inside the Sweet Science) was published by the University of Arkansas Press.

WATCH RELATED VIDEOS ON BOXINGCHANNEL.TV

Comment on this article

COMMENTS

-Froggy :

Showtime is paying Floyd, therefore Showtime is his boss, for them to recoup their investment in Floyd, HE HAS TO FIGHT PACQUIAO ! Or showtime can lose their shirt !


-brownsugar :

Good article... I wish I could see the Mayweather /Showtime contract. Its difficult to believe that Showtime is actually bound to pay Floyd the 32 million for each fight even if the fights dont reach PPV goals..... I would think there would be a "flat rate with a percentage minimum / maximum clause" payment structure in place. I'd also think Showtime had the option of denying fights or terminating the agreement if the arrangement wasn't profitable. Its hard to believe that Showtime is bound to an ironclad contract where they risk losing revenue. I dont know what the contract says. But I'd by amazed if Showtime was at the mercy of Floyd May weather. Where's the Shadow with his remote micro cameras and his high-tech bugging equipment when you need him?


-deepwater2 :

Floyd doesn't want to fight PAC period. He has a doubt about beating him and his fragile mind can't handle it. He will fight Cotto at a catchweight with foam gloves. Some will be tricked into thinking Cotto has a better chance at a higher weight which is a big mistake. Espinoza is a Trojan horse puppet type of character and will be resigning from Showtime at some point. Taylor's whole team knows about his going crazy so they have no excuse. I posted a Facebook video of Taylor talking crazy and shooting guns at his house , so how can these handlers not know about the time bomb? The answer is that they did know and wanted to cash him out with awkward mora so tsAH could line up the next champ. The only problem is Taylor blew a gasket and shot a gun at a 5 year old kid for dropping his trinket belt before they had the chance. Tarver will be fed to Wilder, or the polish guy that lost to Jennings. Do not expect a Fury or Klit fight for Wilder for at least 3 years or so, and who knows who will still be around at that point. It is funny that miss universe hired PAC to be a judge, imagine Floyd being a judge? He might beat them or hold them hostage for a few days. His ex assistant released the book and once again Floyd comes out looking horrible.


-The Good Doctor :

Call me crazy here, but I am putting two and two together and here is what I came up with:
"Floyd is obligated to fight all six fights on the Showtime deal. The deal runs out at the end of this year. Floyd's money is guaranteed, regardless the opponent or PPV figures He is tentatively scheduled to fight two more times this year, May 2nd and some time in September. There are a glut of guys he could (not should) fight: Thurman, Cotto, Brook, Garcia, Bradley, Crawford and a few others. After those two fights, he for all intents and purposes becomes like Cotto, pretty much a free agent and can almost negotiate with wild abandon. There is a new 20,000 seat arena being constructed in Vegas......finish date is tentatively February 2016 " Is there a chance Floyd wants to start a bidding war for the Pac fight in 2016? He can go to any network he wants and say I am fighting Pacquiao, now how much are you willing to put up? Or at minimum, could he be trying to squeeze a real big check out of Showtime on the way out the door? He can also make a splash in the brand new building in Vegas. I don't know if Floyd or his people are that smart, but in my mind (albeit very twisted) it makes sense. I do not disregard the idea that he maybe be scared or any other logical reason that intelligent followers of the sport may have, for him avoiding this fight, but this does seem to kind of line up. Or am I just being a tinfoil on the head guy?


-stormcentre :

Hauser is pretty good at summarizing a lot of reportedly messy and inaccurate boxing related claims. I liked the way he briefly summarized each of the fights his focus was cast upon. Good read. I agree with most Hauser and others here have said. I don't think Mayweather is scared of and/or wants the Mayweather V Pacquaio fight right now. But he knows that, due to other factors and impediments to the fight, it's pretty safe to ask for it and suck up the glory related to that. I don't think Arum wants the Mayweather V Pacquaio fight; for similar reasons to Hauser. I don't think Haymon wants the Mayweather V Pacquaio fight; for similar reasons to Hauser. I do think Pacquaio wants the Mayweather V Pacquaio fight; but that doesn't necessarily mean he will win or lose. I do think Showtime have signed over a lot of guaranteed cash and editorial/production control to Floyd, and that they may be assessing the merits and values of that arrangement. I don't think Showtime are necessarily losing out though, as Floyd is a wildly popular (for good/bad reasons) big ticket item. Bottom line; Floyd - in and out of the ring - sells. I can't genuinely imagine Arum wanting to give Floyd the chance to wreck (or even beat) his most prized stable horse; even if the split was not in Floyd's favor. And, whether or not the fight is made this year in May, why does Floyd need it now? His purses and earnings are guaranteed without Pacquaio, or at least whilst he is so completely controlled by Arum. Sounds to me like Hauser is not that big on Haymon. Then, most that are not advised by him seem to feel the same way.


-michigan400 :

IMO, the only thing any one of the people involved with this are scared of is loosing the gravy train of free publicity that this proposed fight has become. Is this fight even relevant anymore? I mean, neither one is gonna be around much longer, maybe a fight or two at the most. So if Floyd were to somehow loose in his next fight, then it would REALLY be meaningless. Are these two even the 1 and 2 P4P guys anymore? Are they even 1 and 2 WW's anymore? They are simply draining every cent from everyone they can from now until they can't get away with it.


-stormcentre :

IMO, the only thing any one of the people involved with this are scared of is loosing the gravy train of free publicity that this proposed fight has become. Is this fight even relevant anymore? I mean, neither one is gonna be around much longer, maybe a fight or two at the most. So if Floyd were to somehow loose in his next fight, then it would REALLY be meaningless. Are these two even the 1 and 2 P4P guys anymore? Are they even 1 and 2 WW's anymore? They are simply draining every cent from everyone they can from now until they can't get away with it.
Hard to argue with (some of) what you have said there Michigan. Aside from assessing teach guy's attributes; I, too, get sick of the actual Mayweather V Pacquaio fight and/or the potential for it being endlessly discussed. But, I guess a good question also is; if it happens will we watch it? I think - from a spectator point of view - there is something special about it because - as Hauser states - rarely have the 2 most significant fighters been; a) In the same weight division. b) Been welterweights. c) So extremely popular and highly paid. d) Also been at the top of the pound for pound lists. And not fought each other. But, also, yes, wouldn't argue with you about the ""draining every cent of publicity"" comment.