While 2015 has been light on in-ring action so far, the shake-up in the business landscape of boxing has been going full-throttle.
Al Haymon’s potentially groundbreaking time buy deals (reportedly financed with a $100m+ kitty from investors) have been rolled out on NBC (including multiple cards set to air on primetime network tv) and Spike TV, with further deals with the likes of BET, CBS Sports Net and ESPN rumoured to also be imminent.
There will be a lot more televised boxing in the next couple of years. One can’t help but feel schadenfreude at snide Showtime boss Stephen Espinoza being burned by Haymon for all of his enabling nepotism (his amusing equivocation in recent interviews, arguing that losing all of his star names to other networks is a good thing, is just a bonus), and his channel’s slate is virtually empty for the opening months of the year
The De La Hoya-Schaefer lawsuit has also been $ettled, while the vast majority of Haymon’s stable who were fighting on Golden Boy cards without an actual promotional contract have been officially cut loose.
The release of Leo Santa Cruz, who was under contract, was agreed under a separate buyout, but did anybody really think that good ol’ Al would allow Oscie to put him anywhere near Rigondeaux?
I wonder how long until Richard Schaefer’s non-compete clause expires and he’s back as the front of Haymon’s opertation. Sources say it could be as early as late this year
Deontay Wilder, with his win over Stiverne last month, has now proven himself as a top 5 contender to Klitschko’s heavyweight throne, and become the first American since Shannon Briggs almost a decade ago to win a belt at the weight.
Don’t expect him, despite his words to the contrary, to look to unify any time soon. Big money fights with the uninspiring likes of Antonio Tarver and Chris Arreola on NBC (where a brash American heavyweight titlist would be a big draw) loom for the rest of 2015.
I’m skeptical that Klitschko-Wilder ever happens
Jay Z’s Rocnation, who drew Haymon’s ire last year with their Quillin-Korobov purse bid and lucrative overtures to multiple Haymon fighters, have made their first major signing, getting Andre Ward on their books.
Let’s hope he drops his demands for a big money meaningless tune-up fight (which HBO are rightly balking at) and gets back in the ring ASAP.
2 fights in 3 years is an awful waste of a great fighter’s prime
Cork’s Gary ‘Spike’ O’ Sullivan against Tureano Johnson was mooted for Rocnation’s next card around Paddy’s Day, but sadly that seems dead in the water after Gary Shaw’s Vegas-style divorce from Rocnation, taking all his fighters (Johnson, Bryant Jennings, Daniel Geale etc.) with him, barely a month into their union
A situation that has been baffling to me is the Lee-Quillin-Saunders WBO middleweight title triangle.
Last year Quillin vacated his belt per Haymon’s orders due to the aforementioned Rocnation purse bid, leaving Matt Korobov and Billy Joe Saunders mandated to fight for the vacant title.
Saunders turned down this chance, instead opting to fight a domestic grudge match against Chris Eubank Jr., which he won, making him the mandatory to whomever won the vacant belt.
Andy Lee stepped up, beating Korobov, and Lee-Saunders seemed set to go. There was talk of each having an interim bout (Lee in Ireland against a nobody, and Saunders another tool-sharpener), before Haymon entered the fray with his giant checkbook and reportedly offered Lee a cool million to instead defend against, you guessed it, Peter Quillin, on an NBC undercard in April. Quillin enters the Lee fight as a very clear favourite.
The WBO had mandated Lee-Saunders, but a six-figure Haymon payoff later and Saunders/Warren had agreed to step aside for now. The assumption from many is that Lee would have vacated if Saunders/Warren had pressed the issue, and Saunders would have been left to fight for the vacant title, potentially against as weak an opponent as WBO #5 Lajos Nagy.
3 options remain for Saunders’ next fight (British/European title defences, each of which have had purse bids won by Warren; or a fight on the Quillin-Lee undercard), and a fight against the winner has supposedly been guaranteed for July, but this still doesn’t make sense.
Big payday for doing nothing aside, Saunders has now turned down shots at Korobov, Lee, and potentially a soft opponent in a vacant title fight (all of which he would probably have had home advantage for), to instead likely settle on the far more daunting prospect of travelling to America to fight Quillin.
Not exactly the behaviour you expect of someone who desperately wants to win a world title, is it?
Other potential eventualities for Saunders: rematching Eubank Jr. for an interim trinket he will likely collect when he fights again in a few weeks, or fighting Hassan N’Dam for the vacant IBF belt, as Felix Sturm has moved to 168lbs. & Saunders could be the leading available contender
Carl ‘The Contradiction’ Froch is at it again, declining to face mandatory James DeGale & vacating his world title.
DeGale-Andre Dirrell is supposedly on tap to fill the vacancy, but expect DeGale-Julius Jackson instead. That would have to have a quality undercard to justify Sky PPV status
Finally, what of the Mayweather-Pacquiao elephant in the room?
I desperately hope I’m wrong, but I’ve approached this entire new round of negotiations with a hardened cynicism, built-up from 5 years of non-negotiations, PR back and forths and outright bullshit, and thus don’t expect the fight to materialize anytime in 2015.
Mayweather-Cotto II (Cotto-Canelo has already died an unfortunate death, at least for now) seems the most likely reality for May 2nd.
As for Pacquiao, talk of Pacquiao-Khan (which would be an excellent fight) is all well and good, but I don’t see it happening as long as Al Haymon is involved with Khan. With Provodnikov and Matthysse (who has recently parted ways with Haymon) slated to fight each other, one wonders who is out there as Pacquiao’s next potential dance partner