This pair not pulling punches
De La Hoya, Hopkins promoting new ideas
The old order is passing in boxing and a potential new powerhouse has emerged.
Timing always has been the ally of Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins. It is what made the former a six-time world champion and the latter the undisputed middleweight champion through more successful title defenses than any fighter in history.
Now the two have joined forces in an effort to become something more than boxing champions. They are trying to become boxing's champion by forming a promotional company that will challenge the four-decade stranglehold on the sport by Bob Arum and Don King while promising to run a business based on "transparency."
According to De La Hoya and Hopkins, who last week was named East Coast president of De La Hoya's Golden Boy promotional company, fighters whose careers they help run will be given full disclosure of every penny that comes into a promotion, and every penny that goes out.
One might assume that is always the case, especially in mega-fights, but lawsuits and charges often leveled after many of boxing's biggest promotions prove it isn't.
Mike Tyson recently settled a multimillion dollar lawsuit against King, claiming much of his money was siphoned by questionable expenses and excessive percentages.
Arum's Top Rank Promotions has become the target of a yearlong federal investigation into charges of fight fixing, phony medical records, unpaid taxes, and shady business practices.
This is a time of uncertainty for Arum and King and for the business of boxing. But as is often the case in this dark sport, out of chaos comes profit.
Although De La Hoya and Hopkins remain active and arguably are the sport's biggest draws, they believe their promotional company will be as successful and all-consuming as their careers in the ring have been.
"Transparency is what we believe in," De La Hoya said in Las Vegas. "At Golden Boy Promotions we will take care of the fighter. The promoter will be taken care of, too, but will not take advantage of the fighter. They're hiring us as promoters. They're in charge of their careers, as I'm in charge of mine."
That is a radical departure from the traditional relationship that often exists between promoter/manager and athlete. De La Hoya long broke that mold, however, and Hopkins has spent his entire career fighting promoters, often risking big paydays and his career to stand up for himself when he felt he was not getting his fair share.
On many occasions it had been thought that Hopkins was his own worst enemy, but in the end he had his day in the sun and it has been a bright and profitable one. He was involved in two recent multimillion dollar paydays, the first with Felix Trinidad and the second when he defeated De La Hoya earlier this year.
Now he has joined forces with De La Hoya, signing a promotional agreement that will cover the remaining fights of his career and also make him an equity partner responsible for an expanded promotional company whose intention is to change the way boxing does business.
"Bernard Hopkins is opening up the doors to stage bigger fights for Golden Boy on the East Coast," De La Hoya said. "We're showing the boxing world fighters are not scared to step up to the plate and take on the so-called big boys of the sport. We're not afraid. We want to make sure boxing stays alive."
Hopkins has played a major role in that in recent years, and although he intends to continue fighting for at least another 12-14 months, he already is talking about taking a new role in boxing -- the one against which he has railed for so long.
"Bernard Hopkins has always been a guy, for better or worse, who spoke what he believed," Hopkins said. "I risked opportunities because I didn't follow the norm. I commend Bob Arum for having the vision [to step down]. He's getting too old for this. Maybe the dinosaurs of boxing understand the new young guns are coming to town. This is a one-two punch for boxing that is going to make things happen."
"Golden Boy will be my promoter and Hopkins's promoter," De La Hoya said. "I will not work any longer with [Arum's] Top Rank. Bob Arum is a great guy. He's been good to me. We've made each other a lot of money, but Golden Boy is ready to go on its own. We will be the promoter, not only on the West Coast but, with Bernard Hopkins, on the East Coast.
"Bernard's involvement opens the door for us to stage bigger fights on the East Coast. It will allow us to expand into the African-American community and outside the Hispanic market."
De La Hoya said he would not fight Hopkins again because it would be a conflict of interest. That shows the difference between these two and so many of the promoters who have preceeded them. For most of the others, dating to the days when prize fighting first began, there was never any conflict in their minds as long as their own interests were being served. De La Hoya and Hopkins have promised a new day and a new partnership with the men who always have made boxing -- the fighters who bleed for their money.
Hopefully, Golden Boy Promotions will remember that as the years pass and its power grows outside the ring and inside the boardrooms.
Eastman on deck
Hopkins is scheduled to make his next title defense early next year, most likely against World Boxing Council No. 1 contender Howard Eastman, unless Eastman's demands are exorbitant. Hopkins does not want to relinquish any of the four versions of the middleweight title he holds, but he said last week that he would not allow Eastman to hold him up. If the British-born Eastman tries to drive too hard a bargain, De La Hoya said he and Hopkins will just move on to one of his other mandatory challengers in the International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association or World Boxing Organization . . . Saturday night on HBO pay-per-view Erik Morales, representing Top Rank, will square off with Marco Antonio Barrera, fighting for Golden Boy, in the rubber match of what has become one of the edgiest rivalries in the sport. Each holds a win over the other and with the recent promotional shakeup there's a new factor to the animosity . . . When Antonio Tarver and Glencoffe Johnson square off Dec. 18 at
Ray Oliveira is set to get his final chance on a major stage Dec. 11 in London when he faces rising star Ricky Hatton in what Hatton claims is only a tuneup for a fight with junior welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu sometime next year. Oliveira is 47-9-2 and, at 36, is running out of second chances. It is now or never for the popular fighter from New Bedford, and he is well aware of that. "I know I'm old, slow, and can't hurt anybody, but he's in for the surprise of his life if he believes any of that," Oliveira joked . . . Hats off to Brockton-based Ian Gardner, who last Saturday night upset Tokunbo Olajide in Las Vegas in the semi-main event preceding the Shane Mosley-Winky Wright junior middleweight title fight on HBO. Gardner won the US Boxing Association 154-pound title by upsetting the world-ranked Olajide (20-2). Olajide had averaged only 3.3 rounds per fight during his career, with 85 percent of his wins ending by KO. Gardner (17-1) turned the fight into a nasty, ugly match, but it worked and surely will land him a more lucrative rematch.