Showtime, Top Rank still at odds

When Oscar De La Hoya was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame on Sunday in Canastota, New York, he brought up the ongoing promotional battles that have bogged down the sport and prevented some significant fights that fans have wanted to see.

"We must put aside the egos that have damaged our brand and sullied our reputation," he said during his remarks. "We, the promoters, must stop carrying petty grudges that serve no purpose but to divide our sport. And most important, we must give the fans the fights that they want."

De La Hoya is seemingly doing his part. He has reconciled with Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, and they both claim they want to do business together again after years of battles. De La Hoya’s desire to work with Arum again was one of the many issues that came between him and Richard Schaefer, who resigned last week as Golden Boy’s CEO; he didn’t want to work with Arum again.

But for anyone who thinks that all is now well, don’t fool yourself. There is still massive pettiness, and it spilled over Tuesday when Showtime Sports boss Stephen Espinoza apparently barred Arum from participating on a media teleconference to promote a Showtime-televised June 21 fight between Gary Russell Jr. and Vasyl Lomachenko, who meet for a vacant featherweight title.

Golden Boy, representing Russell, won the rights to the fight in a purse bid before De La Hoya and Arum made up. Golden Boy could have put on the fight without involving Top Rank in anything. But because De La Hoya and Arum have made up, Golden Boy invited Arum to participate in the teleconference to promote the fight. It is common practice for fighters on these calls to be represented by somebody from their promotional company, whether it’s a co-promotion or not.

But, according to Top Rank, Espinoza barred Arum. But it’s not like he barred Top Rank, because Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti participated.

“Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank, was scheduled to be on the Vasyl Lomachenko conference call,” Top Rank's spokesman Lee Samuel said. “Stephen Espinoza requested that Arum not be on the call. Carl Moretti will replace Arum.”

Espinoza, on his Twitter account and not to mention time and again in interviews, has stated he is open to working with Top Rank, even though based on the fights he has scheduled it is obvious he has no interest in that at all.

Tuesday’s action made it even more obvious even if Showtime tried to spin that fact in a statement given by email to ESPN.com by spokesman Chris DeBlasio.

“Neither Bob Arum, nor Stephen Espinoza were scheduled to be on [Tuesday’s] media conference call,” DeBlasio wrote. “The June 21 ‘Showtime Championship Boxing’ event is promoted by Golden Boy and, collectively with Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions, we agreed that this was not a platform on which any other promotional outfit belongs. This call is about the fighters on this card that are preparing for important, and competitive fights."

That’s all well and good, but De La Hoya wanted Arum to be on the call. Arum was ticked off by the situation.

“Obviously, I was supposed to be on the call, and Espinoza objected,” Arum told ESPN.com. “It’s the same petty stupidity. It’s the same old, same old. Oscar wants to open everything up and to do business to do the best fights. He sincerely wants that. People like Espinoza are an impediment to that. The fact that I do my fights with HBO means nothing. I’m doing a fight here with Golden Boy because they won the purse bid. Back when we did [Vanes Martirosyan-Erislandy Lara] and we won the purse bid we acknowledged Golden Boy was the promoter of Lara and showed them respect. That’s how it’s done. But it goes back to Espinoza’s mean-spirited nature.

“Golden Boy asked me to be on the call, and Espinoza said no. He decided that I’m not a co-promoter and I shouldn’t be on the call. But it is personally directed at me because he didn’t say Moretti shouldn’t be on the call. He’s afraid of my renewed relationship with Oscar. It’s inexcusable behavior. What does he gain by doing something like that?”

To think that the lineup of speakers on a conference call would turn into a controversy just shows how ridiculous the petty business of boxing often can be.