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.

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