Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer made a major announcement at noon on Thursday, when during a conference call he made it public that the highly anticipated junior welterweight showdown between Lucas Matthysse and Danny Garcia would be the Sept. 14 Showtime pay-per-view co-feature to Floyd Mayweather-Saul Alvarez.
In attendance at Thursday’s ShoBox weigh-in to discuss the fight as well as a few other items was Showtime Sports executive vice president Stephen Espinoza.
Rumors of the Matthysse-Garcia fight had been swirling for weeks, and Espinoza admitted to RingTV the fight had been done before Thursday’s announcement.
“The fight had been done for a little bit,” shared Espinoza. “We wanted to wait for the right timing. For one, Richard was in Europe at the time. This is one of the rare occasions in boxing where a secret couldn’t be kept. It’s a miracle one of us didn’t let it out. We’ve all been dying to make the big announcement.”
There is a question as to the motive for making such a major fight on a pay-per-view undercard. Skeptics have assumed that it was a reaction to the less than desired numbers achieved by May’s pay-per-view headlined by Mayweather against the virtually unknown to casual fans Robert Guerrero. Espinoza disputes this.
“I don’t personally know if this fight adds another single buy,” Espinoza said. “We put the fight on the card because we want to make sure we give fans value for their money and make sure the massive audience tuning in is satisfied. Anytime we get a crowd to a fight or in front of a TV, we need to make sure it is rewarding for them in order to build repeat customers.”
Pay-per-view structures are such that undercard fights come out of the pockets of the promoter rather than a license fee being issued by the network. When asked if Showtime made any concessions in order to get the fight on the card, Espinoza made it clear that it was standard procedure.
“It is a typical structure financially as far as pay-per-views go,” said Espinoza. “It was an investment into the sport by both Golden Boy and Floyd. They are more or less putting their money where their mouth is.”
One question I had for Espinoza was whether or not the fight was at all considered for CBS, either the afternoon of Mayweather-Alvarez, or otherwise.
“We discussed the fight under a variety of possibilities,” shared Espinoza. “Whether that was on Sept. 7, on CBS, or later in the year. For that particular date [Sept. 14], CBS has possibly their biggest college football game of the year as Alabama plays Texas A&M, so it didn’t work out for that particular date.”
Though Matthysse-Garcia wasn’t going to work out for CBS, Espinoza made it clear that regular cable is still in the picture as far as boxing goes.
“I believe we will do something with CBS before the end of the year,” said Espinoza. “There are obviously certain factors, but we see the advantage in exposing boxing to other sports fans. College football as a lead-in to boxing could be big, as literally there are millions of people out there that don’t know they are boxing fans and just need to be exposed to it in the right context.”
As far as the idea behind putting Matthysse-Garcia on the pay-per-view, Espinoza makes clear the logic behind it.
“There were definitely dual motives in putting it on the card,” said Espinoza. “We want to make sure our fans are entertained. But one was also to use a major platform to expose guys we are continuing to build. Danny and Lucas are two guys we believe deserve exposure and deserve to be recognized by mainstream fans.”
“This is the most competitive, highest level co-feature we could find,” continued Espinoza. “It goes back to giving consumers value and delivering a rewarding experience. You don’t get those with showcase fights, or ‘Butterbean’ fights, as Richard said.”
One rumor that has been floating around as of late is the possibility of female boxer Ana Julaton appearing in some capacity on the Sept. 14 undercard. While Espinoza wouldn’t comment on the veracity of that rumor, he did make it clear women’s boxing is something the network is very serious about.
“Women’s boxing is something Showtime is interested in and I guarantee it is something Showtime will be involved with moving forward,” said the man in charge of picking the network’s fights.
“We had a great deal of success with women’s MMA on Showtime and we see a great potential audience for women’s boxing.”
Golden Boy Promotions, the network Showtime has nearly exclusively worked with since Espinoza took over, hasn’t historically been involved with promoting women’s boxing. Espinoza doesn’t see this as a roadblock.
“If women’s boxing isn’t something Golden Boy is interested in, then we will work with other promoters in order to make it happen.”
One final item that was discussed with Espinoza was the ongoing circumstances regarding junior featherweight king Guillermo Rigondeaux and rival network HBO. After delivering a career-defining victory over Nonito Donaire in April, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum made it clear the network didn’t seem very interested in follow-up fights of the standout Cuban.
“I’ve been a little surprised by some of the dialog regarding that fight because I wasn’t bored at all by Rigondeaux-Donaire,” said Espinoza. “Rigondeaux put on a clinic, and I found his surgical precision fascinating. I didn’t see anything boring at all, but not everyone is going to agree with me.”
On Twitter, Espinoza mentioned that Rigondeaux’s promoter should call him, though some wondered if that was tongue-in-cheek given the less-than-warm words Arum has previously had for Showtime, and Espinoza in particular.
“I’m in the business to put good fighters and fights on the air,” said Espinoza. “No one outside industry insiders care who the promoters are. If there’s a promoter with a good fight, we’re willing to go into business with them. There is no secret that a majority of our business has been with Golden Boy, but is there any wonder given the fights they have been giving us?”
With Showtime’s depth in terms of well-matched fights in 2013, it is hard to question the relationship at this point.
Mark E. Ortega is a contributing writer to RingTV.com and has been featured in boxing publications RING Magazine and Boxing Monthly. He is a member of the Boxing Writers Assoc. of America and can be reached via e-mail or followed on Twitter.