LAS VEGAS – Don King has long had a way of looking at boxers that prevents him from being disappointed by their actions outside the ring. Inside he expects they will be professional and that they fight to win. Outside however he expects the worst.
“What’s the difference between a fighter and a dog?’’ King has said many times. “A dog won’t bite the hand that feeds them.’’
Oscar De La Hoya and Richard Schaefer have never looked at fighters that way and still don’t, but Shane Mosley’s abrupt departure from their promotional company has severely tested both their view and those who would disagree with King’s philosophy.
Late last year Mosley showed up at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif., on two occasions, once alone and once with his attorney. Although little surprises the long-time trainer any more, Roach was taken aback not by Mosley’s appearance but by what he had to say.
“He came in twice,’’ Roach said several days before Saturday night’s Mosley-Manny Pacquiao showdown, which many believe will be the biggest-selling pay-per-view fight of Pacquiao’s career. “The conversations were long. He came in on his own once and with his lawyer once.
“He felt Golden Boy [De La Hoya’s promotional company] was trying to put someone else in with Manny. I told him my not wanting the fight had nothing to do with anything but his ability. There was nothing personal.
“He thought Golden Boy was trying to prevent the fight, but I told him I knew Golden Boy was trying to make it because Bob (Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter and an avowed enemy of Schaefer and De La Hoya) kept asking me what I thought about Manny fighting him.
“I told Shane he was still a dangerous guy and there’s no money. The risk reward wasn’t there. Everyone was saying there was no money in that fight. It turned out differently but at the time we felt we could fight easier guys for more money. I couldn’t make that fight but he had nowhere else to go so he came to me.’’
Soon after he left Golden Boy despite being a 4-percent stockholder, he met with Arum and the fight was made only months after Arum had disparaged Mosley’s chances after his lack-luster draw with Sergio Mora.
"His last fight somebody wasn't looking at his best interest," Roach said. "They did have a choice (of opponents). It was a bad one. They made him look shot. I don't think he's shot."
Naturally De La Hoya and Schaefer were less than pleased even though they concede Mosley had no promotional contract with them. Then again, if you’re a partner in the company, should they have needed one?
Don King would laugh at such a question, and now Schaefer admits King seems to have a point, loath though he is to admit it.
“There’s no question Don has a point,’’ Schaefer said Thursday evening. “I came into boxing as an outsider feeling promoters were all taking advantage of the fighters. When you’re in it for a while, you start to realize maybe that is not so.
“Some of the most-gratifying moments in my professional life have come in boxing. Some of my most disappointing moments in my business life have also been in boxing.’’
Schaefer declined to directly criticize Mosley, insisting, “I’m over it. I wish everybody good luck this week. I think it was wrong what he did but it’s nothing good or bad.
“He was free to go but he knew the consequences, which was losing his partnership with Golden Boy.’’
The latter point is now in some dispute. Golden Boy sent Mosley a check for $1,000 but he refused to endorse it and is believed to have returned it unsigned, claiming he remains a stockholder. It is unclear whether lawsuits will follow, but in boxing don’t they always?
Mosley was reluctant to talk about the issue during fight week, although he has said privately he tried to reach Schaefer several times by phone before making the break, an assertion Schaefer denies.
Regardless, only days after officially leaving Golden Boy in December, Mosley told the Los Angeles Times, “I was trying to get the Pacquiao fight. I never knew Golden Boy was going to make this big a campaign to get (that fight for Juan Manuel) Marquez (who has fought a draw and lost a split decision to Pacquiao and long has pursued a third fight).
“My intention wasn’t to leave Golden Boy, just to make this fight happen. When I got it done, people started getting crazy, showing their true colors. It’s made me believe they didn’t want me to have the fight in the first place.
“I was just a partner with Golden Boy. I didn’t have a promotional contract. I haven’t had one for the last two years. For this fight, Golden Boy was having problems speaking with Bob Arum.’’
So Mosley went to Arum with his manager and advisor, James Prince, and convinced Arum he was a promotional free agent. Soon after Arum seemed to change his tune about Mosley’s fitness as an opponent for Pacquiao and now is saying he was the best choice because of his name recognition, long success in the sport and clean-cut reputation.
“He showed up in my office and showed me he was a free agent,’’ Arum said. “I couldn’t care less how Golden Boy feels or what is going on between them. Golden Boy has never given me a problem about this fight. They conceded he had the right to do this. We’ve never had stock holders so I don’t know anything about that but he was free to fight for anyone and to me he was an American, a clean-cut guy and a name the public recognized.
“We rolled the dice on this (by leaving HBO and joining with SHOWTIME and CBS to package the pay-per-view into what Arum now feels could be as many as 1.6 million buys). We’ve done business with big (broadcast) companies before. They promise the moon but will they deliver? CBS has delivered.’’
If Arum’s PPV projections are correct, so has the fight. If it does clear 1.5 million buys, it will have exceeded the 1.25 million Pacquiao did with De La Hoya and made him well over $25 million. Mosley, meanwhile, is guaranteed $6 million, plus a PPV upside that kicks in around 700,000 buys, according to industry sources familiar with his deal. (Pacquiao is guaranteed $20 million.)
Meanwhile, De La Hoya has been reluctant to criticize Mosley, perhaps seeing both sides of this kind of fight. From the promotional side, he has said he was hurt by Mosley’s abandonment. Golden Boy officials, speaking only without attribution, claim the biggest problem was not that Mosley took the fight on his own but that he never sat down with De La Hoya or Schaefer and explained his need to do it.
Schaefer would not go into those specifics but is now facing a similar problem with Marquez, with whom they have the right of first refusal and a right to match any offer for the next year but do not directly control his fate.
Arum said flatly this week, “I’m not going to put Manny Pacquiao in with a Golden Boy fighter. Not because of a competitive thing. Because these people defamed Manny Pacquiao (as a result of Floyd Mayweather, Sr.’s claim that Pacquiao was likely using performance enhancing drugs, a charge his son echoed and Golden Boy certainly did nothing to defuse while representing Mayweather in negotiations with Arum for a Pacquiao fight).
“They’re not going to be a co-promoter or a schmo promoter with Manny Pacquiao. Boxing is not the be all and end all for him. We’re playing for bigger stakes here. Manny will hopefully be President of the Phillipines one day and he does not need defamatory allegations a (political) opponent could refer to down the road.
“They could say what they want about me. I’m 80. What do I give a s–t? But if you say harmful things about Manny, it’s different.
“They said he cheated. They said he took PEDs with no basis at all. They’re the ones who started it. If you’re Manny Pacquiao, do you want to be involved with them? So that’s why we’re not going to fight a Golden Boy fighter.’’
Schaefer refused to get into a back and forth with Arum on that, saying only, “I’ve heard it before. That’s his choice. But pretty soon he’ll be running out of opponents for Pacquiao. What can I say?’’
As for Mosley, again Schaefer refused to fire back directly but he pointed out that Marquez’s threatened departure and Mosley’s abrupt one brought him back to King’s philosophy about fighters.
“Juan Manuel Marquez fought for $30,000 in Indonesia and lost his title for Top Rank,” he said. “He was always second class there behind (Erik) Morales and (Marco Antonio) Barrera. And what happened in four short years with Golden Boy? He made millions and became the No. 1 fighter in Mexico.
“Same with Shane Mosley. He came to us off two losses to Winky Wright. The fight before he joined us he was fighting on ESPN. With us he had some of the biggest fights of his career. He earned millions. To have to go through this is disappointing. Yes it is but I guess that’s the way it is. Over the last 12 months I’ve learned to separate myself from it and not take it as personally as I did before. It seems to be a way of living in boxing.’’
Mosley, of course, sees it differently. He insists he did nothing wrong. He was contractually a free agent despite being a stock holder in GBP and so formed his own promotional company and negotiated the biggest fight he could make, one it is clear Arum was not going to make with him as long as he was with Golden Boy.
It was, he would say, just business.
Perhaps so but Don King would call it something else.
Ron Borges is an award-winning columnist with the Boston Herald