Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer has decided to leave the promotion.
ESPN's Dan Rafael reported the news Monday via Twitter:
Richard Schaefer announces he is leaving Golden Boy. #boxing— Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn) June 2, 2014
Schaefer said in a statement that he feels he's done about all he can with Golden Boy and intimated that he may take a break from boxing in general, per BoxingInsider.com:
After more than ten years with Golden Boy, it is time to move on to the next chapter of my career. This decision has required a great deal of personal reflection, but ultimately I concluded that I have no choice but to leave. I have succeeded in banking and I have succeeded in boxing, and I look forward to the next opportunity. I am proud to remain a shareholder, so I have a strong interest in the continued success of the company. I am proud of what we have accomplished at Golden Boy, but I now look forward to new challenges.
Yet according to De La Hoya's lawyer, Schaefer will not be released from his contract per BoxingInsider.com:
Oscars Laywer: "Golden Boy has a written contract with Richard Schaefer that ends March, 2018. The company intends to enforce that contract"— Boxing Insider.com (@BoxingInsider) June 3, 2014
Boxing has largely become a two-horse race, with Golden Boy and Top Rank Promotions holding nearly every top star under their respective umbrellas.
While Oscar De La Hoya is the founder, namesake and for all intents and purposes the face of Golden Boy, Schaefer's maneuvers behind the scenes were arguably much more important in turning the promotion into a major player in the sport.
His departure leaves a major hole in the promotion. Just a few hours after the announcement, Mayweather Promotions chief executive Leonard Ellerbe told ESPN's Dan Rafael that Floyd Mayweather will also be ending his relationship with Golden Boy.
Although Golden Boy has looked healthy on the outside, trouble has been brewing behind the scenes for some time.
According to Ring Magazine's Tim Smith, a breakup between Schaefer and De La Hoya looked in the offing. Back in April, he wrote, "Their friendship is tattered and their business relationship is shattered. Now it looks like they’re heading for a messy divorce."
The main sticking point was whether Golden Boy should try to bury the hatchet with Bob Arum and Top Rank, per Smith:
Schaefer said he and De La Hoya have a different vision on the direction the company should be heading. De La Hoya has also said he would like the company to do business with Bob Arum at Top Rank, though Schaefer has vowed to never again do business with Arum.
“His vision is something I’ve tried many times, which is to make peace with Bob Arum,” Schaefer said. “But I came to realize that Bob is the way he is. As they say a leopard never changes his spots. I tried it so many times and I gave up."
Ideally, a better partnership between Golden Boy and Top Rank would lead to more headline bouts featuring fighters from both promotions.
Many fans would agree that boxing as a whole has suffered from the top stars having a lack of viable candidates. Part of that is down to the logistics and machinations that have to go on for the top two players in boxing to come together. If a guy is a Showtime boxer, good luck trying to get him on HBO and vice versa.
Of course, if the sport has proven anything over the years, it's that things can go bad very quickly behind the scenes. Too many times, the bureaucracy of boxing has gotten in the way of giving fans the best product possible.
Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times could see the writing on the wall back in May. He foresaw a future without Schaefer at Golden Boy and in which the promotion would make steps toward building a bridge between itself and Top Rank, the results of which might not be all that positive:
Expect De La Hoya to find a new chief executive and start attempting to do business with Arum and Top Rank. Expect the conflicts of the cable networks and beer sponsors of each promotion group to make De La Hoya's desire to "do whatever it takes to get the best fights to the fight fans," a tough hill to climb.
In closing his article, Dwyre wrote that Schaefer's departure could mean that Golden Boy "is about to unravel at the top."
It's easy to see how Schaefer stepping down could lead to Arum and Top Rank holding even more sway over boxing. De La Hoya, while well-intentioned, is nowhere near the experienced promoter that Arum is. Arum could, as Dwyre wrote "eat De La Hoya alive."
Whether or not that would be good for the sport will remain to be seen. Nevertheless, there's no downplaying the significance of this announcement and the impact it will have on the promotion moving forward.