The opening lines to Mobb Deep’s Survival of the Fittest are “There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from/you can run but you can’t hide forever…” Those classic bars, accurately describe the current landscape in professional boxing. There is indeed a war going on that seemingly nobody can escape. A war so intense that even the sport’s biggest star isn’t immune to its reach. Of course I’m referring to the ongoing feud between boxing’s two top promotions, Top Rank and Golden Boy.
A long history of personal animosity and legal disputes have created one of the most toxic relationships in all of sports. As with all intense rivalries, this feud is deeply personal. Golden Boy owner Oscar De La Hoya was promoted by Top Rank and its owner Bob Arum from the moment he turned pro in 1992. The duo made significant amounts of money together, that is, until the fall of 2000 when De La Hoya took Arum to court looking to get out of his contract. In 2001, the courts eventually ruled in favor of De La Hoya, but the relationship between he and Arum had taken a very ugly turn with the two trading barbs in the media and De La Hoya accusing Arum of racism.
The personal animosity stemming from that lawsuit led to the two not doing any business with each other whatsoever until 2007, when, ironically, a lawsuit opened the door for the two to collaborate. Their first co-promoted fight was the then long-awaited rematch between Manny Pacquiao — the subject of the aforementioned lawsuit — and Marco Antonio Barrera. Following that fight they put together several other marquee cards including Miguel Cotto versus Shane Mosley, Bernard Hopkins versus Kelly Pavlik and De La Hoya himself, against Manny Pacquiao, amongst others.
Fast forward to the present day where it seems as though the two biggest promoters in boxing have no intention of working together. And, unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any peace in sight. Each company has positioned themselves with enough powerful allies that doing business with one another isn’t a financial necessity. They have aligned with opposing sides on virtually every issue: Golden Boy is affiliated with Showtime while Top Rank is with HBO; Azteca Golden Boy is sponsored by Corona, Top Rank by Tecate; in Mexico Golden Boy is with Televisa (which doesn’t air Tecate ads during fights), and Top Rank is with TV Azteca (which returns the favor by not airing Corona ads), and so on. In 2013 HBO announced that it was severing ties with Golden Boy and would no longer air any fights involving the promotion, only further complicating matters. It is a bleak situation when considering the tense relationship between Bob Arum and Head of Showtime Sports Stephen Espinoza.
While boxing’s mega-powers continue to wage a cold war against each other, the fans are the ones who lose the most. Until this issue is resolved the days of the best fighting the best are all but gone. Boxing is still a business at the end of the day and managers will continue to take their fighters where the bread is being buttered. These competing loyalties make it virtually impossible to get some of the most sought after fights booked. Of course, great matches can and will still take place, but the fans aren’t getting the matches they want to see and the sport will suffer because of it. In a sport that is already suffering in the credibility department, this feud is a major black eye that is preventing good fights from happening and undisputed champs from being crowned.
The most publicized casuality of the Top Rank/Golden Boy beef has been the long discussed fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. While Floyd is no longer signed to Golden Boy he remains closely affiliated. He also has his own personal, longstanding issues with Bob Arum, to whom Pacquiao remains loyal. This is just one of many match ups that will not happen until a resolution is reached between the two promoters. Here are a few more big match ups that we probably won’t be seeing any time soon thanks to boxing’s cold war:
Nonito Donaire vs. Abner Mares – Two of the best fighters at 122lbs, why wouldn’t they fight each other?
Timothy Bradley vs. Amir Khan – An often discussed match with the potential to be highly entertaining.
Timothy Bradley vs. Floyd Mayweather – If Bradley wins his upcoming rematch with Pacquiao it will be pretty hard to justify him not getting a shot at the best in the world. Yet, as long as he remains with Top Rank, no justification will be necessary.
Brandon Rios vs. Lucas Matthysse – Two of the most hard hitting guys in their weight-class who both fight with a “take no prisoners” styles. This fight would be an absolute slugfest and a pleasure to watch.
Those are just a few of the fights this rivalry is preventing from happening, or even having a possibility of happening. There are dozens of possibilities for great fights that aren’t even being considered — especially in the stacked welterweight division — due to the obstinenance of these promoters.
There is always the chance that cooler heads and a love for the sport will prevail and these guys will be able to sit down one day soon and settle things once and for all. In fact, last month De La Hoya tweeted that his “boxing goal for the year is to end the ‘cold war.’” Here’s hoping that they can reach a treaty sooner than later. Until then fans will be relegated to discussion on what could’ve been and what should be.
Til the Next Episode
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