The recent departure of Richard Schaefer as CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, a position he had held since the company’s inception in 2003, has led to renewed hope among fans that boxing’s long-simmering Cold War could be heading for a thaw.
Schaefer, one of the principal antagonists in the rivalry, stepped down on Tuesday, walking away from the company amid a fracturing of his relationship with founder Oscar De La Hoya, leaving both the company and sport in an uncertain state of flux.
Just hours after Schaefer’s announcement, pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather announced that he was ending his business partnership with the company, a statement he later qualified through Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe on Wednesday.
Bob Arum, for years the counterpoint to Schaefer in the rivalry as head of Top Rank, held court at New York City’s Madison Square Garden on Wednesday afternoon, and he chided the media for missing the real issues surrounding the Golden Boy split.
“It’s not any other stuff. The issue is, did this guy [Schaefer] take advantage of his position as the head of Golden Boy while the majority owner was going through personal problems and therefore did things not in the best interests of his company but in his own best interests?” Arum asked on Wednesday.
“I’m not saying right and wrong. I’m saying what the issues are. Those are the real issues, and everybody is pretty much missing the point.”
The question raised by Arum’s soliloquy is whether or not Schaefer, in his role as CEO of Golden Boy, didn’t look out for the best interests of the company, steering talent to advisor Al Haymon, who signed them to managerial deals but not inking them to promotional contracts.
That issue, along with De La Hoya’s desire to reach out to his old promoter, Arum, in an effort to end boxing’s promotional wars, was among the primary problems that led to the rift and ultimate split in the company.
The biggest issue for De La Hoya in the coming months is going to be unpacking the boxes and taking inventory of what still remains under the umbrella of his company.
“That is the point of this whole exercise. Has Schaefer violated his fiduciary duty in the way he operated the company? I’m not saying yes, I’m not saying no, but that’s the issue,” Arum said.
“Oscar has been talking to me, yes, socially, and we had a meeting at our house. We haven’t talked specifically about anything because Oscar has to find out which fighters are under his control. Once he finds that out, will we do business with him? Of course, we’ll do business with him. It would be idiotic not to.”
And here’s where the lawyers get involved.
Schaefer has been silent since his resignation, and Golden Boy Promotions has done nothing but issue a bland, "nothing to see here" statement about moving forward without mentioning Schaefer by name.
The maelstrom in the coming weeks and months will center on what fighters are under contract to Golden Boy and which have agreements with just Haymon.
De La Hoya and Haymon have no relationship to speak about, and fighters who work for the near-mythical Keyser Soze-like figure now find their status up in the air.
Arum, his usual candid and mercurial self, addressed the rumored union of Schaefer with Haymon and Mayweather, arguing that journalists who feel the issue will be cleanly resolved are out of their minds.
“As [ESPN.com lead boxing writer] Dan Rafael writes it, that Schaefer, now having made the mess, now skates off into the blue horizon with Al Haymon at his side with Mayweather, he’s really delusional. He’s taking the Kool-Aid from Schaefer,” Arum said.
The problem with this situation is its volatility and ability to change on a minute-by-minute basis.
Earlier this year, Schaefer admitted to Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports that some fighters appearing on Golden Boy promoted cards were only signed to Haymon, while others were signed to promotional deals with his company.
The question of who belongs to whom is likely to get pretty ugly, and that uncertainty is likely to make it difficult for boxing’s top two promotional outfits to get together in a hurry for big fights.
Arum remains optimistic about the chances of getting together with De La Hoya to make fights in the future, but first all the legalities need to shake out. That process could be time consuming, and only then will we have a clear picture of the next steps.
Already scouting for his biggest draw—Manny Pacquiao—Arum was specifically asked about possible future opponents, some of which that could come from the Golden Boy side of the aisle.
“[Ruslan] Provodnikov, [Chris] Algieri, the winner of that fight. Maybe [Luis Carlos] Abregu, the Argentine boy at welterweight. Some of Oscar’s guys who he may or may not have and who might be available,” Arum responded.
And then the subject shifted to unified junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia.
“He’s [Garcia] in the mix. You understand, I’m a promoter but also a lawyer, so I don’t go by rumors or anything. If Garcia is with Golden Boy, and he is free to fight a Manny Pacquiao, he would be moving to the top of the list.”
Arum seems excited by the prospect, particularly of working with one possible Golden Boy fighter, but he cautions that fans need to understand that this issue is complex and won’t be quickly, or likely cleanly, resolved.
“This is a legal issue that plays out in the legal field. What the fans want or don’t want is immaterial as far as adjudicating the legal issues. That’s when you get all mixed up,” Arum said.
But he seemed particularly excited about the prospect of working with Golden Boy’s young Mexican superstar, Canelo Alvarez.
“If Canelo is truly a Golden Boy fighter, which we believe, and if Canelo, after this fight has no ties to Showtime, then abso-effing-lutely,” he said.
The key word in that sentence, and really in this whole issue, is "if."
Nobody yet knows how and when all those what if’s will be answered, and until they are, boxing will remain in a state of limbo.
Kevin McRae is a featured boxing columnist for Bleacher Report and you can follow him on Twitter @McRaeBoxing. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.