The Story Behind Boxing's Cold War
“Here's my strategy on the Cold War: we win, they lose.” Ronald Regan once stated these words when asked about how best to deal with Russia. The message was simple: do whatever, at all costs to beat the other side. Russia and the United States remained at a stalemate for over 40 years with constant posturing from both sides.
Currently, boxing has entered a similar state of cold war. No, this Cold War does not involve nuclear weapons and space wars but is instead suffocating the great potential that exists in the sport of boxing.
Top Rank boxing, headed by Bob Arum and Golden Boy Promotions, headed by Oscar De La Hoya, are far and away, two of the biggest promotional companies in the world. In a nutshell, they are the largest players in the boxing world where all of the biggest stars tend to take their talents too. Unfortunately, these two companies do not do business with each other anymore.
The genuine hatred between the two promotional titans starts at the top with De La Hoya and Arum and slowly trickles down to involve feuds between CEO’s, managers and now, even TV networks. Fans are left only imagining what would happen if top bantamweights Abner Mares and Nonito Donaire ever met in the ring or if welterweights Victor Ortiz and Brandon Rios ever were able to settle a grudge that goes all the way back to their childhood.
It’s truly one of the most bizarre rivalries in all of sport where you have two rivals that simply refuse to play ball with each other. Imagine if the Yankees and Red Sox never stepped on the same diamond or if the Heat and Lakers simply refused to share the same gym.
What’s the reason for this?
You can blame boxing darling, Manny Pacquiao. Back in the early 2000’s, when Manny Pacquiao was first knocking on the door of stardom, he was a promotional free agent and was deciding between Golden Boy and Top Rank. This is when the major issue first came up when Pacquiao seemed as though he wanted to sign with both companies.
Manny Pacquiao at first decided that it would be better for him to go with Top Rank and shortly, signed a contract with them. Only problem, Oscar De La Hoya did not give up in his bid to sign that Filipino Sensation. On an infamous night known to many boxing hardcores, De La Hoya took Pacquiao to a steakhouse dinner and would proceed to give Pacquiao a briefcase full of money. This would be all good and well but only problem was that Pacquiao had already signed with Top Rank.
And the rest is history since then.
Top Rank and Golden Boy would enter into a fight, not in the boxing ring, but in the court room as both companies vied for Pacquiao’s services.
Both companies would eventually reach a settlement in 2007, many years after the initial feud. In the settlement, Top Rank retained Pacquiao's promotional rights while Golden Boy would share a percentage of Top Rank's profits from his fights. It seemed as though after years of fighting, a truce had finally been reached.
For the first time, we saw fights that should have been made years before finally come to fruition such Manny Pacquiao v Marco Antonio Barrera II, Miguel Cotto vs “Sugar” Shane Mosley, and Oscar De La Hoya vs Pacquiao. We were finally seeing the best fight the best, the way most envisioned boxing to be about.
Unfortunately, that “thawing” of the War has long since passed and now, the sport is right back to square one. Both companies are in another Cold War, this one seeming to be here for good.
This new war is the result of failed negotiations between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao and the ensuing defamation suit brought by Pacquaio over accusations the fighter used illegal performance-enhancing substances. The contentious negotiation to make a Pacquiao-Mayweather superbout a couple of years back only seemed to divide the two companies further. It also probably doesn’t help that Pacquiao mercilessly ended De La Hoya’s career in December of 2008
The “Cold War” has now, dubbed by some in the media, gone nuclear when Golden Boy effectively ended its relationship with HBO and has gone exclusively with Showtime. This is a seismic event in the boxing sphere due to the fact that there was a thought that HBO was able to leverage itself in between the Golden Boy/Top Rank feud but now, with Golden Boy leaving, has gone exclusively with Top Rank while Showtime has done the same with Golden Boy. Yes, the two biggest boxing networks are now embroiled in the boxing Cold War.
Both Top Rank and Golden Boy have leveraged their respective networks to broadcast dueling cards on the same night Time and time again, boxing fans are left to choose which fight to watch live while having to record the other fight which usually entails knowing the result by the time you watch it. This has become a common theme as the loser at the end of the day are usually the fans and not the companies themselves.
So, is there hope for boxing? You can never say never but at this point, it is hard seeing GBP and Top Rank come to any sort of understanding with each other. The shame is that boxing has every chance of becoming a mainstream sport but unfortunately, the two promotional giants intend to hold this once proud sport hostage until further notice.