Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer is getting into a war of words with promoters Bob Arum and Don King. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Fighters talk trash all the time. Promoters talk trash some of the time. But while Floyd Mayweather Jr. himself is silent on the matter of whether he's happy or unhappy with Golden Boy representatives, or whether or not he's serious about talks with Don King, the money men are starting to get loud.
Recently, Don King said he understands Mayweather, as they share a background that Mayweather does not share with Golden Boy's chiefs Richard Schaefer and Oscar de la Hoya, or with adviser Al Haymon:
"I love him, I understand him because I'm one of him. I am one of the masses, not the classes. I'm from the hood too and I also speak Ghetto-ese. I can relate, communicate and identify. And that's something they don't do."
Richard Schaefer has responded to this statement, seemingly taking it very seriously when I think anyone will tell you it's just typical Don King talk. But Schaefer says Mayweather should be embarrassed by King's statements:
"I mean, if I were Floyd Mayweather, I would frankly feel embarrassed. Floyd Mayweather has become a Madison Avenue darling who commands the respect from Fortune 100 companies. Now, he's got Don King out there talking about ghetto-ese."
Without jumping to the next part too soon, Schaefer did himself no favors with what he's saying here, which just comes off like he's saying Mayweather is better than where he came from, because King is basically just saying, "We came from the same place, we understand each other." Of course you can outgrow where you came from, but I think the general public and many of Mayweather's fans would frown upon the idea that Floyd has "forgotten where he came from" in favor of being "a Madison Avenue darling," which makes him sound like a sellout, to be honest. And as an aside, Mayweather hasn't forgotten his Grand Rapids, Michigan, roots. A few years ago, Floyd all but single-handed funded the Michigan Golden Gloves when it was about to go under.
It's a tricky statement to go to the masses with "Floyd is better than that 'ghetto-ese' stuff, he's a Madison Avenue darling and a rich man!" King just saying that he and Floyd share similar roots and rose out of the ghettos to become major success stories, but haven't forgotten their roots. King, to simplify it, is saying what a lot of people want to hear, making them sound like just a couple of guys who made it in America (only in America!) and understand each other.
It kind of reminds me of some crummy movie where a protagonist can either stick with his heart-of-gold lower-tier friends of old, or keep being a jerk with the new jerks he met from the Jerk Factory, for whom he has flirted with abandoning who he is, and that character never goes with the jerks. Schaefer is, in this scenario, leading the jerks, who no doubt want to go pummel helpless and blameless nerds or some such, or insult girls with pimples.
Schaefer also says it's "an insult to the Mayweather brand," and that's another miscalculation. People don't want to see fighters as "brands." They want to see them as fighters, as human beings. Floyd has a lot of fans who admire his success and wish they were him. Floyd has a lot of people who don't like him, but do pay to see him fight, because they want to see his mouth get shut sometime. And then there are people who just like watching greatness in athletics, and Floyd appeals to them, too. All of those people want to see him as a fighter, not as a "brand." Fighters should cringe if people start calling them a "brand," because then they might not be seen as fighters, and Floyd has detractors who already will question whether or not he's really a fighter in some senses.
Schaefer is also clumsily trying to insult Arum and King for their ages. Both men are nearing 80, and he has dubbed them "B-Rex" and "D-Rex," which is about as clever as Golden Boy's ongoing and still increasingly-annoying "Who R U Picking?" campaign, especially considering they keep offering us fights where Who I M Picking is the same guy everyone else is picking, more or less. But I won't get hung up on that. Or I'll try not to, anyway.
Arum responded to the age digs:
"I'm promoting as well now as I've ever promoted. King is capable of doing the same. And you don't try to denigrate us by continuing to refer to our age. That's what I take the comments 'D-Rex,' and, 'B-Rex,' to mean. I mean, come on. It's like, 'Ha Ha, very funny.'"
There's an old adage in pro wrestling that if you're a young guy cutting a promo on an opponent, and he's clearly an older guy, you don't target his age, especially if he's going to win your match. If you call a guy old and washed-up and a has-been and then you lose to him, you look like crap, because you just lost to an old, washed-up, has-been. Schaefer targeting the ages of the promoters is a dangerous thing unless he knows for sure that these two old guys won't be able to make the fight everyone wants to see. Because if he insults them as "dinosaur" promoters who don't have it anymore, while Golden Boy is the hot young avenue for your "brand," and then King and Arum pull together a fight that Golden Boy could not get done, Golden Boy is going to look awful because of that.
I think Richard Schaefer may have let his passion and his emotion get the better of him with some of this stuff, but I think the "brand" thing is really just Golden Boy not recognizing the boxing public and how boxing fans view fighters, and how they want to view fighters. You know, Golden Boy maintains Facebook and Twitter pages, and they're very good resources to let you know things about workouts, get quotes from the fighters, things like that. But they also have been receiving VERY harsh criticism from their fans recently about some of their fight cards. Marquez-Diaz II being on PPV got some very negative response, so what did they do? Ignored that, and went ahead with Mosley-Mora on PPV, which is meeting (deservedly, mind you) even worse response. They'll ignore that, too.
I don't know how Golden Boy is doing as a business, but I assume they're doing just fine. But if they lose the Mayweather fights to Don King, what do they really have for the immediate future? Without the connection to Mayweather, their marquee star is Juan Manuel Marquez, who is nearing the end of his career, and just did about 200,000 or so on PPV against Juan Diaz. It was a company built on Oscar de la Hoya, Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley and Marco Antonio Barrera early on. Oscar is retired, B-Hop might as well be, Shane is old, and Barrera is long gone.
They have done a poor job of building young stars over the years, some of which has been rushing, some of which has been misjudging guys (or their opponents), some of which has just been bad luck. One of their brightest prospects, Danny Jacobs, just lost his first fight. Victor Ortiz is another young star of theirs, and his public image is still pretty far from rehabilitated. They've got their Club Nokia kids who are all a long way off from making any impact. They've been able to lessen the blow of Oscar's retirement and the other falling off of their original top guys because they've worked with Mayweather and Ricky Hatton, among others, as business partners and co-promoters, so Golden Boy was always right there.
Right now, it looks like they've got a lot of eggs in Saul Alvarez's basket as the future of Golden Boy, as well as Amir Khan to a lesser degree. Khan will be bankable so long as he's winning, but I doubt he'll ever be a truly top-tier star in the States. The fact that he's English is a bit to do with it, but he's best off fighting a bit of a safety-first style, too, and he doesn't have Mayweather's pure charisma to make up for dull fights. Alvarez is about as good a guy as you're going to find to bank on becoming a big star, so that's a positive. Even if/when he loses his fights, you get the impression that he'll lose in a fashion that doesn't diminish his star power. He fights ferociously, he's Mexican, he's got natural charisma that just pours out of him without speaking, he's very young, and he's talented.
And if King swoops in and works with Mayweather, and King and Arum are able to get Mayweather-Pacquiao done, Golden Boy better hope Alvarez is ready for a seriously heavy push as soon as next year. They can play out the rest of 2010 with what they've got (maybe a Khan-Marquez fight, for instance), but next year could be tough for them to make big fights, especially if Arum starts making it hard on them to cross-promote at all, which has been the case this year and was definitely the case in the past when the companies just did not work with one another. Golden Boy is treading some thin ice right now with the Mayweather situation, because even though Floyd isn't technically a Golden Boy fighter, he's still their biggest star, and by a dramatic margin.