L.A.'s "Golden Boy" De La Hoya feels freezed out of Southland venues

Oscar De La Hoya’s statue sits outside AEG’s Staples Center, but earlier this year when the homegrown boxing promoter sought to bring an entertaining slugfest to another AEG property in Southern California, he was denied.

Following a contentious negotiation that led to the making of a junior-welterweight showdown between Lucas Matthysse and Ruslan Provodnikov, De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions was told it would be unable to stage the bout at StubHub Center in Carson because rival Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions was holding the March 28 date for a featherweight title bout between Jhonny Gonzalez and Gary Russell Jr.

So, Matthysse-Provodnikov was moved to Turning Stone Resort in New York. And with that, Gonzalez-Russell was then shifted to a smaller arena inside the Palms hotel in Las Vegas.

In a 50-page federal lawsuit filed this week by veteran promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. against Haymon and others claiming monopolistic practices, the attempted boxing out of the “Golden Boy” in Los Angeles is a head-turner.

“Being an L.A.-based business, born and raised in East L.A., it’s heartbreaking to me that we haven’t been able to lock in dates,” De La Hoya told The Times Thursday night. “It’s devastating. Not only to the [local] economy and to us, but to the fight fans.”

The Top Rank lawsuit claims, “Haymon’s purpose in locking up the StubHub Center and alternative Southern California venues (through his network of frontmen) was unmistakable: to lock out the Provodnikov-Matthyse fight and prevent any possible cannibalization of tickets sales in the same local area for Haymon’s bout between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Andrzej Fonfara, which was scheduled to take place at the StubHub Center just three weeks later, on April 18,” the lawsuit, written by Arum attorney Daniel Petrocelli, claims.

“Because of Haymon’s dominance in the management business, he exercises significant power in negotiating with venues like the StubHub Center.”

In a counterpunch of sorts, Golden Boy opted to move the Matthysse victory to April 18 on HBO, drawing television traffic from the lesser Chavez Jr. fight at StubHub that Showtime televised.

Still, Haymon competitors fear where they’ll rank in future site negotiations given the power Haymon wields with an estimated fighter stable of 200.

AEG formerly was a substantial shareholder in Golden Boy before withdrawing amid leadership upheaval that led to the departure of Golden Boy’s chief executive Richard Schaefer last year.

“Venues that refuse to comply with Haymon’s coercive and exclusionary demands risk being denied access to bouts involving many of the top boxers in the industry,” Petrocelli wrote in the Top Rank lawsuit. “Failing to acquiesce to Haymon can be financially devastating to these venues.

“Haymon has leveraged his dominance in the management business, and employed fraud, overbooking, and other unlawful tactics, to impede legitimate promoters like Top Rank from obtaining critical dates for boxing matches in major arenas. Legitimate promoters have had to schedule bouts for less desirable dates and at less desirable venues.”

In a response to the Top Rank lawsuit, PBC attorneys wrote it was an attempt to “undermine the accessability, credibility and exposure of boxing that the sport so desperately needs.”

Thursday night, while staging a fight card at the 1,200-person capacity Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles, De La Hoya said the obstacles to bring significant fights to his hometown has “been very frustrating, to say the least.”

“This farming system that we’re doing here tonight is eventually going to graduate to StubHub, Staples Center, the Forum," he said. "Getting pushed around at venues like that is a big blow to us.”

De La Hoya said he’d like the California State Athletic Commission to address the matter. Golden Boy in May sued Haymon over claims of violating the Muhammad Ali Act that forbids managers from functioning in a dual role as a promoter.

Earlier this week, commissioner John Frierson was quoted in a story by reporter Ivan Goldman, saying of the venue blocking, “We’re the commission. We can stop it and we did.”

But Andy Foster, executive officer of the commission, told The Times in text messages Friday that his office is not investigating Haymon, Premier Boxing Champions, or Goossen Promotions, which promoted the PBC show in April.

“Boxing … can sometimes be very competitive for a limited number of venues,” Foster wrote. “If there are allegations of venue blocking, the commission may need to make inquiries and/or investigate, depending on the specific circumstances of the situation.

“In this specific instance, there is no investigation of venue blocking.”

On Thursday, a PBC spokesman told The Times the company will bring an anticipated showdown between Southland fighters Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares to Staples Center on August 29.

An AEG spokesman declined to immediately comment on the matter.

De La Hoya is currently finalizing a deal to put his fighter Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s anticipated middleweight fight against Miguel Cotto in November in Las Vegas.

But he said he’d like to bring Matthysse’s September fight against Russian Viktor Postol to StubHub. Golden Boy this week initiated talks for its middleweight David Lemieux to fight unbeaten Gennady Golovkin this year in a bout that De La Hoya said could go to Staples Center or the Forum in the fall.

“We want to bring big fights to L.A., period,” De La Hoya said. “Whatever it takes, we’re going to make it happen.”

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