Bad Business? Martinez-Chavez, Canelo-Lopez might add up to something good
By Norm Frauenheim
LAS VEGAS – News conferences came like a one-two punch Wednesday and Thursday for dueling promotions Saturday night featuring Sergio Martinez-versus-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at Thomas & Mack Center and Canelo Alvarez-Josesito Lopez at the MGM Grand.
It’s been a rhetorical food fight, boxing’s version of Republicans and Democrats after back-to-back conventions. First, it’s Top Rank to the bully pulpit. Then, it’s Golden Boy’s turn. It’s Home Box Office- versus-Showtime. Ego-against-ego. An insult-fest. But should it be?
After widespread criticism for scheduling two major cards on the same night and amid all the ongoing negativity, there’s a chance at some numbers that might put a surprising spin on the business. Attendance at each could provide a powerful counter to an epitaph so often repeated, yet never proven.
If boxing is really dying, then a lot of people – maybe more than 30,000 at two venues within a couple miles of each other – have yet to hear the news.
There’s plenty of debate about box-office numbers promised by Golden Boy for Alvarez-Lopez in a 154-pound bout televised by Showtime. Golden Boy President Oscar De La Hoya said Thursday at the Canelo-Lopez news conference that 13,000 tickets had been sold.
“We are expecting a sellout,’’ De La Hoya said of a weekend celebrating Mexican Independence.
Top Rank doesn’t believe it. On the surprise meter, that ranks somewhere between zero and yawn. If the situation was reversed – and it will be one day, Golden Boy wouldn’t believe it either. Remember, Republicans and Democrats trust each other more than Top Rank and Golden Boy do.
For Martinez-Chavez, Jr., in a HBO pay-per-view bout for the middleweight title, Top Rank already has a sellout, 19,186, a boxing record at Thomas & Mack. Even if a sellout is announced for Alvarez-Lopez, there will be suggestions that Golden Boy gave away tickets to get there.
As of Thursday, it wasn’t clear what number Golden Boy needed for a sellout. Seating capacity at The MGM Grand Garden Arena has been 14,800. But Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said 2,000 seats can be added before Saturday’s opening bell. If there’s time to construct the addition and the seats are filled, the crowd would be announced at 16,800. Add the Thomas & Mack sellout, and the total would be 35,186.
“That would tell you a lot about the sport,’’ Schaefer said.
With apologies to Mark Twain, t would tell you that all those dire warnings of imminent death are greatly exaggerated.
It might also tell you what could happen if Golden Boy and Top Rank made peace and did business together. But that’s another story, if not a miracle. It didn’t sound as if peace were even a remote possibility Thursday. The irony is that the fighters were the diplomats. Canelo and Lopez praised each other. The only real trash talk came from Keith Kizer, the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s executive.
In an apparent reference to the controversy over the judging of Tim Bradley’s decision over Manny Pacquiao in June at the MGM Grand, Kizer seemed to take exception at HBO’s criticism of judges Duane Ford, CJ Ross and Jerry Roth.
“There was another fight here in June, but some of the veterans at ringside that felt badly that night won’t feel so bad this time, because HBO, (Jim) Lampley and (Harold) Lederman won’t be there,’’ Kizer said. “I like the Showtime announcers much better.’’
Kizer’s shot followed one at Showtime from Top Rank’s Bob Arum.
“Half the people who’ve got Showtime don’t know they have it,’’ Arum said.
Shot, counter-shot. The beat goes on.
But if predictions are fulfilled and the numbers add up Saturday night, there won’t be an argument about whether the business still has a heartbeat.