The thaw in the frozen relationship between Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions and HBO -- once as close as could be -- began last month with the making of a light heavyweight unification bout between Bernard Hopkins and Sergey Kovalev and bloomed into a full melt with Tuesday's announcement that Canelo Alvarez is leaving Showtime to return to HBO after signing an exclusive multi-fight contract.
Alvarez, De La Hoya and HBO Sports president Ken Hershman met the press at Golden Boy's offices in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon to announce the deal and then spoke to national media members on a teleconference.
"For all of my career, I have wanted to fight on HBO for one main reason -- I believe it will allow more of my fans to see me in action," Alvarez said. "Today marks a huge milestone for me, and I look forward to a long and successful partnership with HBO.
"I'm super excited. I am extremely happy to be back here on HBO and we will continue working hard to give the fans what they want to see. It's a great thrill for me. It's a historical day for me and I'm happy to be here."
Although terms of the deal were not announced Alvarez said, "I will say this -- it's long term."
Alvarez said one of the key factors in leaving Showtime for the HBO deal was the opportunity to fight on pay-per-view on the big Mexican holiday weekends in May and September, which he has been unable to do because Floyd Mayweather Jr., who is in the midst of a six-fight deal with Showtime, has made those his regular dates even though he is not Mexican.
"There were many factors involved in making the decision but recouping the dates (was important)," Alvarez said. "I always wanted to fight on Cinco de Mayo (weekend) and in September (on the weekend of Mexican independence day) because being Mexican those are always the dates that are celebrated and I am excited to fulfill my dreams of continuing that Mexican tradition."
De La Hoya said he will do everything he can to assure that Alvarez fights on both weekends in 2015, even though it is bound to cause a conflict with Mayweather. Golden Boy has promoted Mayweather's fights on a fight-by-fight basis since 2007 but the relationship is shaky in the wake of the resignation of Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, a close Mayweather ally, in June.
"Canelo Alvarez gave me my marching orders and that is fighting in May of next year and September of next year so, as his promoter, I have to do whatever I can to make that happen for him," De La Hoya said.
Hershman was happy to welcome Alvarez back to the network after a two-year absence.
"Everyone at HBO is excited to welcome back Canelo Alvarez to the HBO family, and we can't wait to re-introduce him to our subscribers," Hershman said. "At only 24 years old, Canelo has already established himself as one of the boxing world's brightest stars, and we look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship as we embark on this new chapter together. We are delighted to partner with Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions in presenting Canelo's fights and events on our various platforms."
Hershman said the deal was attractive for HBO because not only will Alvarez fight on HBO PPV but there is flexibility that will also allow for him to appear on the regular network, which will help grow his visibility.
"That was important to all of us and that's exciting," Hershman said.
The first fight on Alvarez's deal is penciled in for Dec. 6 at a location to be determined. It will be on HBO, not on HBO PPV. His probable opponent is former welterweight titlist Joshua Clottey (38-4, 22 KOs), who has not accomplished much in recent years, although he is coming off a decision win against former titleholder Anthony Mundine in Mundine's home country of Australia on April 9.
Hershman and De La Hoya said the announcement of Alvarez's next fight should come next week.
Beyond the December fight, Alvarez's deal with HBO sets up a probable spring 2015 mega fight with middleweight champion Miguel Cotto (39-4, 32 KOs), the Puerto Rican star, who won the 160-pound world championship on June 7 with a 10th-round upset knockout of Sergio Martinez.
Alvarez (44-1-1, 31 KOs), Mexico's most popular active fighter and a former unified junior middleweight titleholder, has fought his past five fights on Showtime or Showtime PPV, including a decision loss to Mayweather last September in their 154-pound title unification fight. That bout shattered numerous records, including the biggest pay-per-view gross in history ($150 million) and biggest live gate ($20 million).
But Alvarez's start on American television came on HBO and HBO PPV, where he fought eight of his nine fights between mid-2010 and mid-2012 and won his first world title. However, after Golden Boy and HBO had a falling out in early 2013 -- HBO kicked Golden Boy off the network and refused to put any of its fighters on because of issues it had with Schaefer -- Alvarez moved to Showtime, which became the home to all of Golden Boy's major fight cards after HBO cut ties.
When Schaefer, who had forged the alliance with Showtime, resigned on June 2, De La Hoya took over the day-to-day operations of the company and sought to repair Golden Boy's relationship with HBO. He began laying the groundwork to patch things up with HBO, mainly through his longtime relationship with HBO's Mark Taffet, who runs the pay-per-view division and worked with De La Hoya on all of his pay-per-fights.
De La Hoya also made peace with longtime rival (and his former promoter) Bob Arum of Top Rank, Cotto's promoter.
The door to an HBO return opened in August when Hopkins, Golden Boy's most significant fighter other than Alvarez, told De La Hoya to get him a unification fight with Kovalev, who is under contract to HBO and needed a high-profile opponent. The deal was quickly made for a Nov. 8 fight and, thus, the groundwork was laid for Golden Boy's return to the network.
"I'm thrilled to be part of this historic agreement between Canelo Alvarez and HBO Sports, an agreement that marks another major step in Golden Boy Promotions' primary goal -- to give boxing fans the fights they want to see," De La Hoya said. "Canelo is the best young fighter in the sport, and this move will help line him up to fight top opponents in the sport for many years to come.
"We are extremely proud here at Golden Boy to once again be working with HBO, which was my home for more than 30 fights. So today is a great day for boxing, it's a great day for all the fans across the globe and this is another indication that Golden Boy is all about the fans."
Of course, the deal could also mean trouble for De La Hoya at Showtime, where Golden Boy does most of its major fights.
Showtime Sports chief Stephen Espinoza claimed that De La Hoya made a verbal agreement with him for a multi-fight deal for Alvarez but reneged on it only to learn that the deal with HBO had been made via social media.
De La Hoya's relationship with Espinoza, Golden Boy's attorney before taking the job at Showtime, was already strained over Espinoza's unhappiness with De La Hoya's lack of involvement in promoting the network's Aug. 9 card headlined by Danny Garcia against Rod Salka, a fight roundly panned by fans and media.
De La Hoya denied that he had gone back on his word to Espinoza to sign Alvarez with Showtime.
"There was no verbal agreement. I obviously am doing what Canelo is asking of me," De La Hoya said. "Canelo expressed many months ago that he would love to explore the possibility of fighting on HBO and as his promoter I have to obviously do whatever possible to grant his wishes.
"I sure hope that this doesn't ruin any type of relationship. This actually a great thing for the sport of boxing and the fans. I hope it affects nothing."