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Merchant Breaks Down The Golden Boy vs Top Rank Feud


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By Chris Robinson


The term ‘friend’ should be used very loosely in the world of boxing but if you want to find success in the sport you are going to have to be willing to get along and work with people you aren’t too fond of. But when emotions boil over feuds often arise and it can cause a definition friction that halts all progress together.


At the moment the two biggest promotional entities in the sport, Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions, are in the middle of somewhat of a cold war as evidenced by their lack of collaborations and their public chiding of one another. It is a situation that could very well prevent some of the biggest fights from coming to life in the next years and there are subplots abound.


Recently I reached out to HBO analyst Larry Merchant to get his take on the situation. The conversation started with Merchant’s thoughts on Oscar De La Hoya and took off from there. Continue reading for Merchant’s view on De La Hoya’s venture with Golden Boy, what the company still has to prove, Top Rank’s imprint on the sport over the years, the futures of several of their key fighters, and much more…


Oscar De La Hoya’s fighting days…

“The first thing about Oscar was that he was a superstar. A superstar is rarer than a star or even a champion. A superstar is a guy who transcends boxing an in a sense is known beyond boxing. That’s a relatively rare thing today.


Secondly he punched all of the right tickets in that he won a gold medal, he went on to win various titles and he fought virtually everyone that was out there to fight. Which is also, while not rare, still relatively unusual these days. Maybe most of his fights were crowd-pleasing fights. They were fights that had action, intensity, [and] often had drama.


His fight with Mayorga was over the top in terms of the theatrics and dramatics of the fight. So he’s a formidable presence in modern boxing history.”


Thoughts when De La Hoya formed Golden Boy Promotions…

“It was a good transition for a boxer who could have continued to fight and make big paydays. Or make a few big paydays. Secondly, given his presence and fame in the game, that if he could run a well-organized promotion company, that he could attract a lot of those Latino fighters. That he could read the next generation or be a top promoter in the next generation if he formed a solid organization.


They did a smart thing early on by signing a number of fighters who were already established stars in their fading years as fighters. Like Barrera and Mosley and Hopkins and Marquez. That enabled them to make some big fights and find space to develop younger fighters or lesser fighters to give them exposure. But it’s a process.”


Much to prove…

“Top Rank has been at it for forty years or so and they have great infrastructure of smart fight people and knows how to find and develop young talent and has done it over and over again. Golden Boy has to prove that they can do the same. It’s still relatively in its adolescence of a promotional organization. So we’ll in the next decade whether they can build that infrastructure. There are signs that they are doing so. They have the rights to Canelo [Alvarez] and he could be the next Oscar. And if he does, then that will give them momentum to keep building with young fighters.”


Top Rank’s imprint on boxing…

“There’s no doubt that Top Rank is the top promotional company in the sport. They’ve developed a number of fighters who are serious fighters and some of whom of stars and young fighters. They’re out in front of everybody. Arguably Arum and Top Rank have been the top promoters in boxing for a very long time. They never, with the exception of George Foreman, had a presence in the heavyweight division. They’ve outlasted Don King. They got into the Latino boxing business and saw that coming. Arum has Oscar, he had Mayweather; he brought them both along. Mayweather didn’t become the star that Oscar did right away or with Arum, for that matter. Arum has a left a serious Top Rank imprint on boxing.”


The feud between Top Rank and Golden Boy…

“As for the feud, I think in some way it is business related. That’s to say they are both trying to tap the same source of fighters. So there’s a competitive side to it. I think there is an emotional side to it because of Arum’s feelings about Oscar leaving him. And, it came to another head when they were battling to the rights over Pacquiao. And it’s not a good thing for boxing when Arum thinks he’s got the big edge and he doesn’t want to give Golden Boy a chance to use any of his fighters for them to get stronger. So you get a kind of inbreeding of matchmaking. I don’t think it’s good for the sport.”


Making a deal…

“I think when something comes up that’s big enough they’ll find a way to make a deal. I think the Mayweather situation, for example, I think Arum didn’t particularly want the fight. But over time he understood that it was so big that it had to be done. And I don’t think it was his fault that it wasn’t done. So, when the fight is big enough they will find a way to get together just as Arum and King have had similar battles as heavyweight promoters. In this case maybe it’s a heavyweight and a lightweight, or a super lightweight.”


Nature of the beast…

“But these things change over time and if, for example, ‘Canelo’ in nine months or a year and half, continues on his path and Pacquiao is still king of the world. That match would blow up as a huge, huge event. Because Canelo’s already a huge star in Mexico amongst Mexican-American fans. I mean, he’s really big. If that fight loomed, they would find a way to set aside their differences. Some of which are serious. They are suing each other over various things. But that’s the nature of this particular beast."


Arum's claim that Golden Boy is losing money...

“I have no idea and I don’t think Arum does. I mean, he’s got billionaires backing him and they are in real estate, they are in other things. Take Murdoch [for example], the guy who owns the Wall Street Journal and New York Post. The New York post has bled money for years. But he’s got a reason for keeping it. Whether it is political, whether it is a presence in New York that may help him in other ways, who knows. Who knows if Ring Magazine is losing money and it very well may be. But it may have some other value to the company besides from that it, in itself, makes money. I haven’t seen their bottom line. I doubt that Arum has. Arum is just an old, emotional guy and he says what he thinks and he has a take no prisoners attitude about not only competitors but partners. He’s banged HBO a lot over the years.”


Golden Boy’s relationship with Amir Khan…

“I think he is an attractive, young fighter. I don’t know what kind of a deal they have with him. He still generates revenues in Britain and Europe in television. He’s an attraction in Britain to a degree. I don’t know whether they have him just for American fights, I don’t know how that deal works. But he’s a good, young fighter. So I would say, again, it’s not like they found him in the crib and developed him or even took him out of the Olympics and developed him. It’s a similar situation with Canelo. They signed him for America and I don’t know the nature of their deal. It’s not like a Cotto, for example, or Pavlik, who came to Top Rank early and developed over time and they have an exclusive promotional deal with.”


Kelly Pavlik fading from the public spotlight…

“It’s unfortunate. Some guys don’t deal with success as well as others. He went from being a hungry fighter to a thirsty fighter, apparently. And it’s unfortunate for boxing because he had the makings of being a star and generating interest beyond boxing and generating big revenues and mainstream coverage of boxing. It’s a loss for boxing that a guy like that fades.”


Shane Mosley’s departure from Golden Boy to sign the Pacquiao fight…

“They also know that he wasn’t going to get that fight if he would have stayed with them. And he made the judgment that the small share of profits that he might enjoy some day from Golden Boy he might have to give up if he went and fought for somebody else, but he has a fight and is going to make some very good money right in front of him. I understand his motivation. Golden Boy certainly did well by him.”


The futures of Bernard Hopkins and Juan Manuel Marquez…

“The easy line is ‘Their futures are behind them’. But they both still have some money making fights out there. We heard that Marquez might fight Morales and that would be a big deal in Mexico. And Hopkins is still alive and picking a fight here and there. I think Marquez, at 37, still has some life in him and he still might get to fight Pacquiao someday. They are oldies but still goodies. Hopkins is maybe one bad fight from the end but he keeps the clock from ticking too fast on him.”



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Gotta give Chris Robinson credit, as, if that was a face to face interview, it must have taken Larry days to get all those words out grin// (Joking)


Good interview and it all makes good sense. I do think rival promoters are never going to completely get on as they are competing for the same market. Hopefully, they put aside differences and make the huge fights.

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