Game of Thrones: What next for Oscar and the cold war?

For those of us not enamored by the Mayweather circus coming to town, the date of May 3 could be more significant for another major boxing event. As anyone who follows the sport closely will know, this is the date after which all hell may or may not break loose in the grand chamber which holds the Iron Throne.

The goings-on in Westeros have nothing on the intrigue and in-fighting which looks to be taking place in the background at Golden Boy Promotions and which, if word is to be believed, may erupt like a volcano in the coming weeks.  The significance of the date is that for the benefit of all involved, it was deemed sensible to allow the dust to settle on the Mayweather-Maidana pay per view show before allowing open hostilities to break out.

In 2002, all time great boxer Oscar De La Hoya chose Richard Schaefer as the business brain to help him create a promotional entity which he wanted to use to put something back into the sport that had made him so rich and famous.  Within a few short years, their new project had become the most powerful promotional team in world boxing, even overshadowing Bob Arum’s longstanding Top Rank outfit.  Oscar and Richard could more often than not be seen together at ringside at their hugely successful shows, along with Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley, two of Oscar’s early appointments as lieutenants in his new army.  

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During the formative years of Golden Boy, its founder Oscar, the man whose nomme de guerre provided the moniker for his new company, was still active inside the ring.  Indeed, his boxing career did not come to an end until December 2008.  In a parallel to Britain’s Ricky Hatton, it may be this curtailment of his glory days which indirectly brought about Oscar’s current predicament.  He went off the rails.  The Mexican-American has since admittedly had issues with alcohol, drugs and transvestism over the past few years, somewhat tarnishing his whiter than white, glowing reputation. During this period Oscar has spent time in rehab and his presence at ringside at the Golden Boy shows has been spotted on fewer and fewer occasions.

Of course, he did not have to worry about his business, as his trusted and loyal partner, Schaefer, was holding the fort.  Oscar had obviously never heard the old phrase “never mix business with friendship”.  Whilst Oscar has been off the scene, trying to put himself and his life back together, it looks as though Schaefer, along with boxing manager par excellence Al Haymon, has been plotting and planning what amounts to a bloodless coup. Et tu Richard?  

The word is that over the past few months, De La Hoya has confronted Schaefer about certain of his policies and the way he is running the business. It is understandable therefore that Richard, who has obviously played a massive part in making the organisation the most powerful in the world of boxing, might be miffed about this.  If reports and rumours are to be believed, and they are increasing on a daily basis, Schaefer now plans to set up his own promotional group, with the invaluable assistance of Haymon in the background.  Suspicions were initially raised in the early months of 2014 when Haymon went on a signing spree.  Not a week went past without news of another major fighter joining his merry band.  Was something in the air?

It was all mere supposition until it went viral just last week when Schaefer took part in an interview in which he admitted that Oscar was the major shareholder in the company but intimated that if he was no longer required by Oscar to be the CEO, then he did not really give a damn.  In this interview he appeared so blase that it became obvious, reading between the lines, that he has his future already set up and that it does not involve Golden Boy Promotions.  One American journalist described the interview as tantamount to insubordination.  His thumbing of the nose was also downright insulting and disrespectful to his erstwhile partner.  The reality for Oscar is that he has minimal power in his own company.  He has been out of the loop for too long.  He must be feeling very helpless and betrayed right now, and not a little humiliated.

This is the situation he is facing.  Al Haymon has management contracts with over 60 fighters.  These include the creme de la creme of the Golden Boy roster, save for Saul Alvarez and Abner Mares.  Not just that – he also has virtually the whole U.S. Olympic team of 2012 contracted.  It is currently unclear how many of Haymon’s fighters actually have signed contracts with Golden Boy, but the vast majority of these fighters’ loyalties lie with Haymon.  He has a Svengali-like influence over them all.  So skilled is he in his management dealings that you will never hear a bad word about him from any of his fighters.  If, indeed, Haymon is going to join Schaefer in setting up a separate company, it is almost a given that where he goes, most of them will follow.  This would have the effect of decimating Golden Boy as it currently stands.  

Where will this leave Oscar?  In the early stages of such a revolution, if it is indeed to happen, he would be nothing more than a marginalised, rather sad figure.  Perhaps this will be the fillip he needs to help put his life back in order.  It would certainly be one of the biggest challenges he has faced, in or out of the ring.  It is to be hoped that it will bring out the best in him, something we have not seen since he hung up the gloves.  This may indeed be the case.  He could quite easily have turned a blind eye to what has been going on in his company and kept mum, but he looks up for the fight.  However, he has created a monster and it is hard to see how he can compete with it.

So, what of this group that now has the sport in such a stranglehold?  The relationship between Schaefer and Haymon was reiterated last month, “Al Haymon is a very good friend of mine and I love working with him”, said Richard.  “Al is one of the best people I know and he’s done a great job for his clients” he went on to say.  

Of course, the third member of this virtual cartel is Stephen Espinoza, the former head attorney for Golden Boy, who became executive vice-president of Showtime Sports in November 2011.  Whilst at Golden Boy, Espinoza forged a close relationship with Schaefer.  On Espinoza’s appointment with Showtime, Schaefer said that he was “very excited for Showtime and very excited for Stephen”.  Of course he was, he now had an “insider” in a major television company and the final part of his jigsaw was very much in place.  Predictably, Showtime’s major boxing shows are now exclusively Golden Boy promotions, to the ire of Bob Arum.

Meanwhile, Haymon is fast becoming the man that boxing fans love to hate.  This shadowy figure is being seen as the one that is destroying the sport from the inside.  As usual, it is businessmen and not boxing people who are running and, indeed, ruining boxing for its loyal fans.  The current triumvirate are hardly Frankie Carbo and Blinky Palermo, the famous underworld fight fixers of the 1950s, but it all amounts to the same thing.  So the future looks bleak.  Bob Arum will not do business with any one of Schaefer, Haymon, (whom he once referred to as a sleazebag), or Espinoza. As recently as December, Bob called Espinoza a creep and said that he despised him.  The sport will become more and more split along these political lines.  We will therefore continue to be denied some of the best match-ups that could be made.  

I started this piece with a couple of nods to the HBO series, Game of Thrones.  I make no apologies for ending it with another.  The cold war looks set to continue for years to come.  If anything, the temperature is dropping.  In fact, “Winter is Coming!”

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