Between Golden Boy Promotions and rival Top Rank, the hint of a thaw

Between Golden Boy Promotions and rival Top Rank, the hint of a thaw
Bob Arum of Top Rank and Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions have come together on occasion to put on major boxing events. (Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press)

The current state of boxing is like Lake Superior in March. There is a hint of a thaw.

As proof, there is the need to look no further than this weekend, here in the land of big fights and bigger casinos. Two heretofore warring factions are holding boxing shows on the same night in casinos a mile or so apart. And neither side is crying foul, or even cursing the other.


It has a touch of Gorbachev and Reagan in the '80s, though vastly less important. But detente is detente, and boxing fans will take it.

That's assuming it's real and lasts.

Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden, welterweight stars Amir Khan and Devon Alexander will fight for a WBC welterweight title. That's a Golden Boy Promotions event.

Down the Strip, at the Cosmopolitan, Tim Bradley and Diego Chaves, also top welterweights, will headline a card. That's a Top Rank event.

Golden Boy and Top Rank are the major boxing promoters in the United States, where big money and sponsorship reside. A year or so ago, dueling events on the same night in Las Vegas would have triggered verbal bomb-throwing. That was especially the case from the wonderfully outspoken czar of Top Rank, Bob Arum.

This time, when asked about the conflict, Arum said, "It's fine. They [Golden Boy] came to us, told us about their fight, and we were fine."

What next? Bruins embracing Trojans?

Besides Arum, the key players in this ongoing and openly nasty soap opera were the Golden Boy himself, Oscar De La Hoya, owner and president of the company bearing his name, and also his former chief executive, ex-Swiss banker Richard Schaefer.

Add to this group Al Haymon, a behind-the-scenes character, and you've got a sport dominated by anger, distrust and finger-pointing. Haymon, also a prominent figure in the entertainment industry, speaks to the press as frequently as a mime.

An increasing number of boxers now name him as their manager/financial advisor/inspirational leader. In boxing, no more specific description is needed, nor often given.

For several years, as each group snarled and whispered tales of woe and distrust to the media about the other, Golden Boy fighters fought only other Golden Boy fighters. Likewise Top Rank.

Golden Boy fighters fought on Showtime, Top Rank's on HBO. It was clear. Never the twain shall meet.

The status of Haymon fighters was always a bit murky, but they tended to land more readily on Golden Boy cards than on Top Rank's. Also, Arum has been clear over the years about his personal distaste for Haymon.

The specifics of that are not clear, though one of the current top two attractions in the sport, Floyd Mayweather Jr., once fought for Arum and now calls Haymon his advisor. The other top attraction is Manny Pacquiao, who fights for Arum.


Thus, you have the one fight that would get the attention of the general public — Mayweather versus Pacquiao — as a possible victim of the sport's cold war.

Or, it could be — and probably is — more complicated than that.

The first puff of smoke from the peace pipe occurred about a year ago. Both Arum and his main matchmaker, Bruce Trampler, got texts from De La Hoya with holiday greetings. A few months later, De La Hoya visited Arum at his home in Los Angeles. More melting.

Soon, Arum was again saying nice things about De La Hoya, whom he promoted for years in De La Hoya's boxing days and who played a major role in the creation of the millions of dollars now competing against him.

Quickly, Schaefer became the cowboy wearing the black hat. There were rumors that he had, behind De La Hoya's back, moved some Golden Boy boxers to Haymon; Schaefer denies it. A few months ago, he left Golden Boy and now is in settlement negotiations with De La Hoya's lawyers.

De La Hoya has generally taken the high road.

"Boxing is about setting all egos aside," he said, in a telling off-the-subject comment during his emcee duties at Thursday's fight press conference. When his press conference ended, he went down the street to Arum's.

"The beauty of working with other promoters," De La Hoya continued, "is that we can give fans better fights."

Saturday night, De La Hoya plans to leave his own card at the MGM Grand and rush to the Cosmopolitan, where a Golden Boy fighter, Mauricio Herrera, will be on the Top Rank Card.

Arum, a lawyer with a street-fighter temperament, has had no problem making Schaefer the bad guy.

"I take an American view of commerce," Arum said. "Schaefer takes a European view. I think, when you do business with somebody, the other guy should benefit as well as you. Schaefer thinks you do business by crushing the other guy."

Arum said De La Hoya never felt that way.

"Oscar is an American kid," Arum said.

The jury remains out on Arum and Haymon.

Eric Gomez, De La Hoya's longtime friend and currently second in command at Golden Boy, said, "They are both businessmen. If there is enough money involved, Bob will get involved" in a possible Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.

Arum-Haymon continues to be the biggest question mark in a possible sweeping end to the boxing wars.

"If they [Schaefer and Haymon] are part and parcel," Arum said, "I got a problem."

Schaefer, when contacted, said his lawyers wanted him to say little. But he did comment on the new cooperation of Arum and De La Hoya.

"If they want to paint me as the bad guy, that's fine," he said. "I'm happy for the lovebirds."

As for Haymon, he remains in the shadows somewhere, lurking, as always.