Thursday, April 30, 2020

Punch 2 the Face Radio

In this week's Punch 2 the Face podcast, Brandon and I envision boxing post-coronavirus. What will the sport look like? How will the key players adapt? We also revealed what have missed and not missed the most during boxing's hiatus. To listen to the podcast, click on the links below: 

Also, find us on Spotify: Punch 2 the Face Radio #171

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Promoter Snapshot: Golden Boy Promotions

This will be the first article in an occasional series that will examine the major promotional companies in professional boxing. My goal will be to assess key attributes of each company in a systematic way. I will be focusing on fighters, matchmaking styles, trends within each company, and strategic challenges that each face. For instance, in today’s Golden Boy piece, I mention that the company has a litany of fighters whom I believe have been underrated or underexposed. I touch on why that may be and how, given one's vantage point, this issue could reflect positively or negatively on the company. From either perspective it's a significant challenge for the company to address. I’ll highlight a number of fighters who may not be on your radar, but should be.

I will be listing champions for each company, but as you know, who actually is and is not a titleholder can be a complicated proposition in modern boxing, with myriad classifications of "champion." I will try my best to highlight the universally recognized champs in a division, but this will not be a complete or official list. By the time this is published, it's certainly possible that another "champ" will emerge or be stripped. And frankly, failing to mention an interim titlist isn't something that I'm going to lose sleep over. The idea is to give you an assessment of each company. 

One further note; these snapshots will not include a dissection of each company's financial situation or performance. While acknowledging that the relative financial strengths and weaknesses of each company factor into their decision making and overall strategy, I'm mostly here for the boxing. And with that, let's get to it. 

Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, The #1 Golden Boy Fighter
Photo Courtesy of Amanda Westcott

Company: Golden Boy Promotions 

Company Overview: Having lost many of their top fighters after a falling out with Al Haymon, Golden Boy needed to rebuild their stable. Left with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, some solid veterans of note (e.g., Jorge Linares, David Lemieux, Lucas Matthysse) and a couple of interesting prospects, Golden Boy needed to replenish their ranks. Over the last five years the company has signed dozens of fighters of varying degrees of quality. Once an international powerhouse, the company now mostly promotes in California. In recent years they have focused on signing Mexican, Mexican-American and other Latinos who box in the greater Los Angeles area. Their one current superstar is Canelo, who generates a disproportionate amount of their revenue. Led by executives Oscar de la Hoya, Eric Gomez and Roberto Diaz, the company skillfully leveraged their relationship with Alvarez to sign a multi-year deal with DAZN. That deal led to an influx of money for the company, and provided them with working capital to maintain and expand their operations.   

Elite Fighter(s): Saul Alvarez

Champions: Joseph (Jo Jo) Diaz, Rene Alvarado, Felix Alvarado, Patrick Teixeira, Wanheng Menayothin

Other Notable Fighters: Jorge Linares, Jaime Munguia, Xu Can, Alberto Machado, David Lemieux, Diego de la Hoya, Joet Gonzalez

Sleepers and Potential Spoilers
: Angel Acosta, Pablo Cesar Cano, Joshua Franco, Tureano Johnson, Azat Hovhannisyan, Ismael Barroso Oscar Negrete, Antonio Orozco, Ronny Rios, Lamont Roach, Manny Robles III, Blair Cobbs, Yves Ulysse

Top Prospects: Vergil Ortiz, Ryan Garcia, Bektemir Melikuziev, Arslanbek Makhmudov, Aaron McKenna, Alexis Rocha

Under-the-Radar Prospects: D'Mitrius Ballard, Erik Bazinyan, Rashidi Ellis, Luis Feliciano, Luis Hernandez, Rocky Hernandez, Ferdinand Kerobyan, Travell Mazion, Victor Morales, Jonathan Navarro, Hector Tanajara, William Zepeda

Ryan Garcia, An Emerging Star
Photo Courtesy of Tom Hogan

Stable Evaluation: Although Golden Boy has scores of fighters on its books, the company has few top-end talents. It's rare to see a company have so many rugged B-sides under contract (Rios, Johnson, Hovhannisyan, Cano, Orozco), as well as interesting prospects who have yet to receive widespread attention (Bazinyan, Ellis, Mazion, Navarro, Tanajara). Some of this speaks highly of the company in that they understand that tough and serviceable veterans can be valuable commodities. Matchmaker Roberto Diaz abides by the truism that you never really know as it relates to prospects. Many will come up short, but a few will rise to the top, and it's not always the expected ones who do. Quantity matters. 

With Diaz's guidance, Golden Boy has emerged as a company that matches their fighters tough. In the last two years, notable young Golden Boy fighters such as Diego de la Hoya, Rocky Hernandez, Jason Quigley, Ruslan Madiyev and Oscar Durate have all taken losses. Yes, defeats are part of the sport, but it's worth pointing out that de la Hoya, Quigley and Madiyev all lost to veteran Golden Boy fighters (Rios, Johnson and Cano) who weren't necessarily being groomed for championships. Part of why they were on the books was to give their prospects tough rounds. 

The company has an eye for talent. Fighters such as Rene Alvarado and Patrick Teixeira have become champions without necessarily possessing blue-chip skills. Golden Boy also has fistfuls of fighters similar to Alvarado and Teixeira, who could become a world champion on the right night, even if they weren't necessarily regarded as elite prospects. 

Still it's odd how many under-the-radar, capable fighters appear on Golden Boy's roster. Golden Boy has signed several intriguing Montreal-based boxers such as Bazinyan and Arslanbek Makhmudov (co-promoted by Eye of the Tiger Promotions), but they have yet to break into the U.S. market. Talented fighters from the East Coast, such as Lamont Roach, Rashidi Ellis and D'Mitrius Ballard have received limited promotion during their development. 

Golden Boy stages an overwhelming majority of their events in California. Those signed with the company not based in the West can get lost in the shuffle. Canelo, Vergil Ortiz and Ryan Garcia are the main three fighters for the company at the moment, while many boxers listed on the Golden Boy website rarely get the promotion that they would with a larger outfit. 

Golden Boy has been mining diamonds in the rough and they have unearthed a few, but they aren't committing their promotional resources to these fighters until they get to the championship level. Furthermore, even two of their top fighters (Alvarez and Garcia) have had periods of acrimony with the company management over the last year. A recent champ, Andrew Cancio, just left the company after complaining about the lack of promotion in his career. 

Overall, the company's approach to volume over top quality has led to many anonymous names in their stable. Some thinning of the herd might better focus the company management. In addition, it wouldn't hurt to make some strategic additions on the press and public relations side. There are talented fighters on their roster and few outside of the diehards in the sport are familiar with many of them. That needs to change. 

Vergil Ortiz, Pound-for-Pound Potential
Photo Courtesy of Tom Hogan

Media Contracts and Assets: DAZN, Facebook

Media Overview: As typical with Golden Boy, there is some good and bad here. Although Canelo fights are among DAZN's biggest events, many of Golden Boy's fight cards have received lukewarm attention, even from the streaming service itself. There have been a hodgepodge of announcers broadcasting their events. It's unclear if DAZN will have consistent broadcasting teams for all of their boxing events, or if their cards with Matchroom Sport and Golden Boy will be called by different people. To this point, it feels like Golden Boy's non-Canelo cards (many of which have been excellent from a competitive standpoint) are given second-rate status. 

On the plus side, Golden Boy has put together a terrific Thursday night prospect series with a fun, consistent announce team (Jonathan Coachman, Beto Duran, Doug Fischer, Jessica Rosales), top matchmaking, and innovative segments during the broadcasts. The series intersperses live fights with taped studio segments that have been informative and enjoyable. In addition, the "Ask the Matchmaker" segment on these broadcasts, featuring Roberto Diaz, have been as innovative as anything that HBO Boxing was doing in its heyday. Hopefully the brainpower behind the Thursday night series can trickle up toward the larger DAZN broadcasts, which often lack a creative spark. 

Other Assets: Ring Magazine; relationship with Eye of the Tiger Promotions; event deals with several Southern California venues; deep connections with Southern California gyms, trainers and boxing personnel.

Company Outlook: 

For all parties involved (Golden Boy, DAZN, the sport of boxing as a whole), Canelo will need another big fight once boxing resumes. Win or lose, he remains one of the premier stars in the sport. Obviously, if he had to leave boxing for a prolonged period of time, such as an injury or a suspension, that would have significant financial and operational consequences for the company. Golden Boy is more reliant on one fighter than any of the other major promotional companies. 

Golden Boy needs a big 12 months from Vergil Ortiz and Ryan Garcia, with one or both breaking through on the world level. Much of the future health of the company will be riding on these two fighters. Garcia has already established himself as a burgeoning ticket seller and Ortiz may be their one young fighter who possesses true pound-for-pound potential. If both fail before reaching the top level, that would have disastrous consequences for the company, for they have invested most of their non-Canelo promotional capital behind these two. The challenge for matchmaker Diaz is to keep developing these fighters AND to have them win as they face legitimate contenders.  

Golden Boy will also hope that another one or two of their fighters can pick up a world title. Boxers such as Angel Acosta, Joshua Franco, Ronny Rios, Jaime Munguia are reasonable candidates. It also wouldn't hurt if a few of their other prospects started to make an impact among a broader portion of boxing fans. They need young attractions in addition to Garcia and Ortiz.

These are trying times for the company. If things break right, they could emerge with a couple of new stars in the next few years and several prospects who could compete for world titles. However, with relatively few blue-chip talents in their pipeline, their roster could quickly become bereft of fighters who could carry the company to the next generation. As I see it, Golden Boy has more to gain or lose in the next 18 months than any other of the major promoters.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of He's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Monday, April 6, 2020

The Void

Sports, games they are, can seem inconsequential at a time of pandemic. Who beats whom and which athlete said what have fast become relics of a different era. For now, paramount concerns are safety, health, protection, employment status and for many, prayer. There have been untold thousands of deaths and who knows how many more or how long this will last? Our routines, social structures and family units have been uprooted. The virus's damage on our respective communities and economies will be devastating, and the recovery process will not automatically lead our societies to a similar robustness that existed pre-epidemic, where unemployment numbers in the U.S., for example, were at record lows.

A void now exists. And it exists for so many of us in multiple contexts. We can't see our families as we would like to. Our freedom of movement and association has been curtailed. We see our friends through screens. And simple joys that had been seemingly insignificant, like going out to a restaurant or browsing in a store, have been stymied. These are serious times and hopefully we face this crisis with the requisite valor; we all have a job to do to keep our families and communities safe.

During this quarantine period I haven't had much that I wanted to write about. I've worked in healthcare consulting over the past 14 years and my job has provided me with insights into this crisis that are deeply troubling. Our clients are almost all hospitals, with many in New Jersey, one of the hardest-hit states. Many of our client hospitals are operating in a constant state of emergency, treating increasingly sick communities with dwindling resources to combat the virus effectively. Protocols are literally changing on a daily basis. Our clients must regularly process and incorporate new information on testing, treatment, drug efficacy and availability, access to supplies, quarantine and exposure protocols, and admission and discharge procedures. 

Are mistakes being made in this process? Yes, it's inevitable. The rapid spread of COVID-19 has inhibited the type of structured debriefing and strategizing that helps hospitals improve performance. But even the best hospitals are flying by the seat of their pants to put out fires, staff their units and keep people alive. This virus isn't following a traditional playbook learned in Epidemiology 301.

I'm sure that I have plenty of additional observations about the U.S. healthcare industry's response to the coronavirus, but healthcare hasn't been an area that I've chosen to write about over the last nine years, and it's also not why you are reading this. 

I write about boxing. It's an enduring passion and one that compels me to opine. Boxing plays a significant part in my life, as it does for so many of you. The anticipation of a big fight on a Saturday, the chance to see greatness, the communal aspect of seeing live boxing or following along with our favorites on social media, the pre- and post-fight reactions – these all provide pleasure, entertainment and joy. And couldn't we all use some of that at this time? 

My thoughts turn to the many I've come to know over the years who depend on boxing for their livelihood: fighters, trainers, referees, managers, promoters, writers, photographers, broadcasters. This sport mostly involves independent contractors of one form or another. Without fights, for many there is no income, or far less. 

I credit those who continue to write, even if it’s not about matters of life and death. Sports, as insignificant as they seem at the moment, have always been a needed form of escapism, and in these times, a little escapism can be much appreciated. 


"Nothing will kill boxing. And nothing will save it."

– Larry Merchant 

Boxing was having a strong moment before the pandemic (of course, those predisposed to negativity missed this). Enormous influxes of cash entered the sport over the last two years, from DAZN, ESPN and Fox to name three. Streaming services have made more fights available than ever before. Whole cards were now being broadcasted, further connecting boxing fans with emerging prospects. 

After a multi-decade stasis in U.S. boxing where HBO was the dominant player and Showtime its scrappy younger brother, boxing again became a far more competitive marketplace. The additional investment into the sport helped grow fighters' purses and fostered job creation within the industry – both healthy signs. 

For hardcore boxing fans, the bounties were manifold. Weekends brought matchups from all over the globe on our TVs and devices. Fights that we once would have to read about in small print in a magazine several weeks later were now being broadcasted live. We no longer would have to wait for 15 fights to see a hot emerging prospect. The expanded relationships with Fox and ESPN brought widespread coverage of the sport that had been sorely lacking. 

The resumption of boxing will include many unknowns. DAZN, for example, has already started to withhold money for its rights fees in other sports. The company, saddled with an enormous amount of debt, may decide to recalibrate its business strategy post-pandemic. 

Furthermore, the return of the sport will produce a glut of fighters facing lengthy inactivity periods. How fast will they be able to return to action? Will well-paid boxers give up their generous pre-epidemic guarantees to fight in a smaller forum, or will they hold out for their established minimums? Who will want to fight vs. who will insist on the big money will be a fascinating look into the mindset of many of our top fighters. 

What about the fans? Will boxing restart in empty arenas and sound stages? Will enthusiasts have the freedom to travel? Will we see massive fight cards to rekindle interest or will there be drips and drabs as the industry cautiously dips its collective toe into the water?

What will happen to international superstars who previously had been allowed to fight in America? Will Top Rank still be able to feature Naoya Inoue in the U.S.? Will there be difficulties for international fighters to get visas to fight in America? Will Eddie Hearn, for instance, still be able to travel freely between Britain and the U.S.? If not, what will happen to his stable and his ability to sign North American fighters? 

Also consider that there will be a backlog of events throughout the country. Other sports, concerts, musicals, ice shows, circuses, rodeos, comedians, and additional forms of live entertainment have all been shut out of arenas during this crisis. Boxing may not have its pick of the litter regarding venues. Upon resumption of a familiar everyday life, there will be a triage process among live entertainment options. It may take some time for a normal schedule to return to boxing. 

Throughout this period of quarantine, I'm sure that many of us will watch old fights and maintain our connections with boxing friends and contacts via social media. We will continue to miss our sport greatly and hope that it can return to thrill us and provide us with enjoyment. 

For those in the industry, please take appropriate caution upon restarting your efforts. Yes, you all have bottom lines, bosses to please and payrolls to make, but do your best not to expose your employees, fighters and those in the sport to unnecessary risk. We are counting on you to guide boxing through turbulent times. Please be merciful stewards. 

All the best, 

Adam Abramowitz

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.