Ryan Black commentary: End of Golden Boy/Top Rank feud a sign of progress for boxing

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comJune 27, 2014 

Boxing and "change" don't go together well.

Any progress takes place at a glacial pace. But the "sweet science" received some good news — all too often a rarity in the sport — when word leaked that Golden Boy and Top Rank might start working with each other again. Two of the biggest promotional companies in boxing, the pair had been at loggerheads for years due to the mutual animosity among those running the show. To recap it quickly: Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya and chief executive officer Richard Schaefer refused to do business with Bob Arum, the chairman of Top Rank.

But the rift went further, as other companies with a stake in boxing were forced to take sides. Chief among them were America's biggest premium cable and satellite networks, as Showtime is aligned with Golden Boy while HBO was tethered to Top Rank.

Things took a turn for the better in the last few months, as De La Hoya reiterated, on multiple occasions, his intentions to make amends with his former mentor, Arum. Schaefer would have none of it. Regardless of the circumstances, he wanted nothing to do with Arum.

So it came as little surprise when Schaefer announced his resignation from Golden Boy earlier this month after 14 years with the company, the last 12 as the CEO.

"This decision has required a great deal of personal reflection, but ultimately I concluded that I have no choice but to leave. I have succeeded in banking and I have succeeded in boxing, and I look forward to the next opportunity," Schaefer said in a statement. "I am proud to remain a shareholder, so I have a strong interest in the continued success of the company. I am proud of what we have accomplished at Golden Boy, but I now look forward to new challenges."

With Schaefer out of the picture, relations between the two sides have already warmed considerably. Take the featherweight bout between Gary Russell Jr. and Vasyl Lomachenko last Saturday as Exhibit A.

Russell Jr. (signed to Golden Boy) and Lomachenko (a Top Rank fighter) had a purse bid for their fight months ago; Golden Boy won it, and as such, didn't have to involve Top Rank in any shape, form or fashion. But they did, making for a drama-free lead-up to the fight. Thanks to the thawing of the ice between De La Hoya and Arum, some fantastic bouts which once had no chance of happening are now in play.

Consider the welterweight division as perhaps the biggest beneficiary.

Timothy Bradley, one of the top fighters in the weight class, had already faced off against the other Top Rank stars in the division: Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez and Ruslan Provodnikov.

With Golden Boy back in the picture, the possibilities are seemingly endless. He could fight Marcos Maidana, Robert Guerrero or Amir Khan. Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter could be in the mix, too. If Bradley decides to drop down to junior welterweight, more great fights could be made with a quartet of contenders in Golden Boy's stable, be it Danny Garcia, Adrian Broner, Lucas Matthysse or even Zab Judah.

All those potential bouts just from using Bradley as a hypothetical — not too shabby.

That's not to say all of the boxing world's ills have been cured.

It's still unlikely we'll see the megafight between Floyd Mayweather and Pacquiao any time soon. Mayweather, the top fighter in the sport pound-for-pound, has only worked with Golden Boy due to his close relationship with Schaefer. In addition, Mayweather's adviser, Al Haymon, shares Schafer's disdain — if not outright hatred — for Arum. In turn, Schaefer's exit makes it unlikely Mayweather will ever appear on a card promoted by Golden Boy again. So once more, Mayweather/Pacquiao, the one fight that even the casual sports fan would likely shell out pay-per-view money to watch, is relegated to the background.

At least the truce between Golden Boy and Top Rank represents a step forward.

For a sport that evolves as slowly as boxing, that's cause for celebration.

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