LAS VEGAS – A few hours before Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Marcos Maidana got into a ring for their big pay-per-view welterweight championship showdown at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Oscar De La Hoya came out swinging in his feud with Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions.
“You all know what happened to me. It’s not a secret," De La Hoya said of his ongoing struggles with drug rehab. “I just have to lace up the gloves and put up my dukes. I don’t have to throw punches. This company was built and named Golden Boy for a reason. We’re working day in and day out. We’re going to continue to sign fighters and build this company to what I believe is its potential."
It was De La Hoya’s first public comments about the rift between himself and Schaefer that threatens to rip apart one of the most successful boxing promotion companies in the U.S.
Whether Golden Boy Promotions continues with or without Schaefer in the future is a matter that is now being negotiated by lawyers who are hashing out the differences between De La Hoya and Schaefer as to the direction of the company.
Schaefer has said that he has no interest in doing business with Bob Arum of Top Rank, while De La Hoya met with Arum, his former promoter, at his home in Los Angeles on Thursday in an effort to make peace between the two companies. That is at the core of the differences between De La Hoya, who is the major shareholder in the company and Schaefer, who owns a large stake.
It was an unusual press conference, both in its timing and in the manner in which De La Hoya spoke of trying to work things out with Schaefer. De La Hoya seemed to be working through levels of his rehabilitation when he spoke about making amends with Arum and fighting for his company – though he admitted that Schaefer is doing a good job as CEO and the company is making good matches.
“I called Bob and I asked for the meeting. I was thinking, not that I’m going to be the bigger man here, but let’s bury the hatchet," he said. “That was the bottom line. If business can happen from that meeting … then great for boxing."
De La Hoya indicated that Schaefer has been taking the company in a different direction in the last few years since he has been working through his drug rehabilitation. And now that he is getting a handle on his personal demons, he feels like he wants to be more in charge of things.
“Listen, everybody in this world has their troubles and issues that they have to deal with. I’m dealing with them. I’m not running away from them any more. I’m getting the bull by the horns. What matters to me right now is obviously my family, but also the company, boxing. I had a derailment, a big one. I don’t want to stay down. I’m tired of staying down. I’m a fighter. I’m going to fight. It’s not a comeback."
Schaefer has developed a close working relationship with Al Haymon, one of the biggest power brokers in boxing. Many of the boxers that Haymon has under contract fight under the Golden Boy Promotions banner, but De La Hoya said he didn’t know how many are actually signed to contracts with the promotion company.
Even though the negotiations for a settlement between himself and Schaefer are in the hands of lawyers at this point, De La Hoya said he was still optimistic that he could make peace with his longtime friend and business partner.
“I think it’s time to extend an olive branch," he said. “I have nothing against Richard because I respect, admire and appreciate what he did for me. I really do. But at the same time I have to look out for myself and my family. That’s the most important thing. If it means extending an olive branch so we can work hand-in-hand for the business, why not? That’s how I feel. For the sake of boxing."
De La Hoya said he planned to shake Schaefer’s hand and “maybe even give him a hug" when he saw him ringside for the Mayweather-Maidana fight later. Both men seemed entrenched in their position on the direction of the company.
De La Hoya is the president of Golden Boy and was asked if, in that capacity, he would have to dismiss Schaefer if they couldn’t reach a mutually satisfactory working arrangement going forward.
“First of all, nobody is going to dismiss Richard," De La Hoya said. “He’s not getting fired. I don’t want him to leave. That’s the bottom line. There are negotiations going back and forth. I don’t want him to leave. Nobody is telling him to leave."
Schaefer talked about the turmoil at Golden Boy and the rift between him and De La Hoya following a small media session with Mayweather at an MGM VIP lounge on Tuesday. He said that he hadn’t spoken to De La Hoya in a meaningful way in some time and joked that he didn’t even have his new cell phone number.
He was not in a mood to rehash those comments at ringside with Mayweather and Maidana set to step in the ring in about three hours on Saturday night.
"One thing is that I don't think that you discuss or you negotiate these kinds of things through the press," Schaefer said. “You know, you don't do that in my book. You guys asked me how I feel and what I had to say, and I told you guys what I had to say and what my position is, and I stand behind those statements. There is nothing more for me to add or to say, and that's it."