SINCE leaving Golden Boy in 2014 under controversial circumstances, the man credited with being the mastermind behind the promotional giant has been itching to return. After spending much needed time with his family, and building a successful real estate business, the time for Richard Schaefer’s big comeback is now. He has set up Ringstar Sports in the US, already signed promising Olympian Carlos Balderas, staged a championship double-header featuring Abner Mares and Jermall Charlo on December 10, and will co-promote Carl Frampton’s return with Leo Santa Cruz on January 28. They are just tiny steps compared to what he has planned…
What are your thoughts about the boxing’s progress during your time away? The perception, certainly about US boxing, is that with the exception of Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao being made in 2015, and Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward this year, it has been a disappointment.
Well you had some great fights. There was Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter, there was [Gennady] Golovkin continuing to build momentum. I think there were a lot of positives. Just looking at the US you had a young fighter who is generally recognised as the best young prospect in the sport, Errol Spence, fighting in 6m homes following the NBC coverage of the men’s Olympic basketball final. That’s a record [number of viewers] going back many years.
There are a lot of positives, but one thing that hasn’t changed since I left that unfortunately the boxing media often looks at the glass as half empty and not half full, and that’s unfortunate. To continue negativity of the sport is astonishing to me because, in a way, we are all in this together. If the media keeps on sending out negative messages how can you help the sport? You don’t see that in any other sport. When you look at football in the UK, or other sports here, not every football match is a Champions League final. There are other games and it is what is – these other games will lead to something more significant, so why is that okay in other sports? But in boxing we want to see Superman versus Batman every single time.
I have to tell you that in 2015 we had Mayweather-Pacquiao that dominated the sport. It was the fight that may had asked for and most complained about the outcome, but I don’t think they were surprised because frankly any boxing media or expert could have predicted what was going to transpire in that fight, and the same by the way, what would transpire in a rematch. Floyd Mayweather is a once in a generation fighter, and some have said he’s boring, but those who really understand the sport, the sweet science, it is exactly that – it is sweet to see an athlete perform at that level. Nobody in the boxing press stood up and said this was a performance at the highest level from Floyd Mayweather. That’s what Floyd Mayweather does, he makes good fighters look bad, and great fighters look average. That’s how good how he is.
So there was a lot of negativity that unfortunately transcended into the general market, and it took some of the appetite away. I think the pay-per-view industry is still suffering in the United States, but the last quarter of 2016 has been one of the strongest I’ve ever seen.
You mention negativity from the boxing media, but often that negativity comes from fans who pay their money, and don’t feel they are getting what they deserve. I think you would admit that Mayweather-Pacquiao happened too late, and the fight that people now want to see is Golovkin-Canelo and there’s a danger that may come along too late as well, if at all. Do you understand that concern from fans?
I understand. You like to see these big showdowns and sometimes they happen and sometimes they don’t. I understand it when fans say it’s just promoters and there shouldn’t be any hurdles in the way to get this fight done. I can totally appreciate that and I think the fans have spoken in that regard because they haven’t really embraced the alternative guys those guys have fought. I think at the end of the day, the revenue pales when you compare it to what a Golovkin-Canelo fight could generate. I think that fight has to happen, and as a fan, I hope it will happen. If it doesn’t happen, I can totally understand the frustration.
But just because one fight doesn’t happen, that doesn’t make the whole sport bad. But shame on those people who did not make that fight, and shame on those people who didn’t do Mayweather-Pacquiao earlier on – and I am one of them. Looking back it should have, but there are many reasons why it didn’t, there were too may egos and too much this, too much that. There was the TV divide, too many different reasons, but in the end all of those reasons really don’t matter; you have got to deliver the best product and if you don’t do that it generates a lot of ill will among the fans.
But there are a lot of other things we should be thankful for like Danny Garcia-Keith Thurman. People wanted that, and wondered if they’d ever see it. Well now Showtime announced that fight will happen on March 4, and that is the best fighting the best in this particular weight class. But we still write that Golovkin-Canelo isn’t happening, but nowhere do we mention that Garcia-Thurman is. Perhaps we could look at it positively, and say Canelo and Golvkin should take a leaf out of Garcia and Thurman’s book or – as we [the media] are doing – keep pissing on the sport and just focus solely on Canelo-Golovkin not happening.
Fair point! Do you think fans would be grumbling about Canelo-Golovkin not happening if you’d still have been at Golden Boy?
With the exception of Mayweather-Pacquiao, one thing I always did – fight after fight, event after event – was deliver the big matchups, created events that transcended the sport with big flashy press conferences, big events in Las Vegas, and that’s what I think I’d be most famous for. If you look at my track record, the answer would be yes.
First of all, I think Canelo has a substantially better chance in that fight than people give him credit for. I think Canelo is a terrific fighter and you can see it if you follow his career on how he has progressed as a fighter. He is much better than he was five years ago, he really has learnt tremendously. I think it’s a much closer fight, and I favour Canelo. You saw what happened in Golovkin’s last fight against Kell Brook, who is a good fighter and very gutsy guy, but he exposed – however you want to slice it – Golovkin. He is not superman. As much as I respect Brook, Canelo is much better. He has a bigger frame, a bigger punch, and I’m not being disrespectful to Brook – at 147 he’s a threat – but if he could do that to Golovkin, imagine what Canelo is going to do. One thing is clear, win or lose, this is going to be an exciting fight, and it could become a trilogy, who knows? So just go and get it done.
If you look at the other options out there, they pale compared to what Canelo could make against Golovkin and vice versa. It was different with Mayweather and Pacquiao, because Mayweather was making 30, 40, 50 million dollars a fight anyway. It wouldn’t have added that much more to the pot to fight Pacquiao at that time so by waiting the fight became bigger, and made much more money. If that fight had been made when it should have been, it would not have made as much money as it eventually did. The same can’t be said for Canelo and Golovkin.
So yes, I would have made the fight, and I probably would have been talking about the rematch by now.
Does a relationship with De La Hoya still exist, and are there any regrets?
No, there is no relationship. But you don’t know what happens down the road, you move on. I am very proud of what I accomplished with Golden Boy. There are a lot of lies and misconceptions out there about my role, and with some of the fighters leaving and not leaving. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and I have elected not to talk about it. I know what I have done, and I can be very proud of what I have done, and achieved. For Oscar, I helped him set it all up, I helped him get record paydays when he still fought, which was substantially more than he made when he had his old team in place and – frankly – what I achieved for him outside of boxing, whether it’s the MLS soccer team, Houston Dynamo [De La Hoya is a partner], or the real estate investment such as an office building in downtown Los Angeles. I have done tremendously well for Oscar outside of the ring and ensured that he and his family are taken of for the rest of their lives and their children’s lives.
I left Golden Boy with my head held high and I don’t see it necessary to respond to some of the people who have spread lies. It’s in my past, it’s in my rear view mirror and I’m full steam ahead. I’m focusing on my own company and my own destiny. I will surround myself with the right people, and the right partners, and I’ll build myself a promotional entity which will eventually make my success and achievements pale compared to what I do here.
There is a perception that some of the contracts being signed at Golden Boy you were looking, selfishly it has been suggested, at the long game. That contracts you had created allowed fighters to move to other promotional companies without any loyalty to Golden Boy. How do you respond to those allegations?
First of all you have to realise in the United States, the maximum contract you can have is five years and after five years a fighter has to have what they refer to as a ‘natural break’. So a fighter becomes a free agent. After that period, a fighter can stay with you, or a fighter can leave, or he can work with you without signing a new contract. It’s out of your control. Of course, the preferred solution as a promoter is to have the talent you promote under contract. Unfortunately, sometimes that’s not the case, and when you deal with a manager, like Al Haymon, you have the choice. Traditionally, Al Haymon has not signed fighters to promotional contracts – not just Golden Boy, that’s other promoters as well.
So as a promoter you have two choices: You can either work with the manager, promoting these fighters, even though you don’t have them under contract, and get compensated for providing the promotional service; or you can say ‘I’m not going to promote these fighters’, and if you’re going to take that position then Mr Haymon will find somebody else, and you as the entity, you’re out of the payday.
It’s not just the payday, look at Floyd Mayweather. Golden Boy never had Floyd Mayweather under contract, they worked with him on a fight-by-fight basis and got paid a fee for providing a service to promote Floyd Mayweather. It’s the same story with some of the other fighters to an extent. You attract a bigger fee when the event is bigger, and Floyd Mayweather fights were like the Superbowl of boxing. It was attractive to Golden Boy to promote Mayweather, but it was also attractive to put emerging talent on the undercards that would expose those fighters to a global media. So for example, if you have the opportunity to put a young Mexican redhead on the undercard, and you can do that once, twice, three times, and he’s on the biggest stage, and you match him right, and he looks sensational, well, guess what? Suddenly the worldwide media is talking about that Mexican redhead, Canelo. And that’s how you build somebody. So is there a benefit beyond the fee? Absolutely. So I could have said, ‘Unless I have all these fighters under contract, I am not going to promote them.’ Some promoters say that, and that’s fine. But my philosophy is if you can promote big events, you get paid the fee, and you can provide the platform for fighters you do actually have under contract and then you can build them up. It’s a win, win, win, and one would have to be a moron not to take advantage of that.
So of course I tried to sign fighters. But what if that’s not possible? Do you just walk away? No. You continue to work with them and that’s exactly what happened.
How has the UK market changed since you’ve been away?
When you look at the UK market, it’s what stands out most, globally speaking, since I left boxing. I always recognised the potential of the UK market, and always said, and continue to say, that the UK boxing fans are the most passionate and the best fans in the world. That is exactly what has happened. You see arenas selling out, even for those fights when Anthony Joshua is fighting someone when the outcome is a foregone conclusion. If you were to put that same calibre fight on in the US, where you have a champion fighting someone who has not much of a chance, you wouldn’t sell a hundred tickets, but in the UK the fans are so passionate about the athletes the tickets sell in a matter of minutes. It shows you how the UK has become the global leader in boxing – not only because of the number of champions, but the fans have spoken, and the media have embraced it too. You see much less negativity there than you do here. You have a great amateur system in the UK, with Robert McCracken you have someone who is passionate and knows what he’s doing. I think the UK is very fortunate to have this structure available to them that allows them to grow. It is a beautiful thing to see, and it’s clear that it has really exploded over the last two years. And the news we heard last week about Frank Warren and BT Sports, we have George Groves on Channel 5, I hear ITV are interested. Success breeds success and that’s what we are seeing here. Boxing is clearly on the verge, or already is, a mainstream sport in the United Kingdom. It’s amazing what’s happened there and it certainly is a market I want to make some inroads.
It’s clear the UK is important to you. You already have Richard Maynard on board as your UK representative, but without a TV deal it’s hard for new promoters to get a foothold. How do you plan to combat that?
The key is to have TV. I get approached frequently, even as recently as two days ago, by UK fighters including a couple of the Olympians and they would love to work with me. They realise what I can offer is the US market. I need to make sure I would have the right domestic platform in place as well to really offer a domestic platform and a global platform, but I really need to have a UK structure in place and that’s what I’m working on. We will soon see what I have in place. I have always been enthusiastic about the UK, and I am certainly going to throw my hat in the ring so to speak. The fact that you have Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren dominating is fine with me. I did it before in the US when Don King and Bob Arum were dominating here. I always like a challenge, and I don’t have a problem with being the underdog.
Joshua Buatsi and Joe Joyce won medals along with Nicola Adams. Have you had conversations with them?
I am not going to divulge any names, but I will say that several Olympians have reached out to me on both the male and female side.
You mention Olympians. Are you therefore focusing on emerging talent as opposed to established talent like David Haye for example?
No. I see the same blueprint that I used at Golden Boy where I focused on established and emerging fighters. I had young kids and built them up, people like Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Deontay Wilder, Adrien Broner, Abner Mares, Leo Santa Cruz, all these guys which are big names now are all guys that I was involved with from their very first fight. At the same time I had established names like Shane Mosley, Winky Wright, Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather. Of course I’ll go after those names, because what I notice when I compare revenues of what fighters get paid, I still see there is a discrepancy there and there are opportunities to empower and pay the fighters more money. That is why I have such great relationships with my fighters. You will not find a fighter who has anything negative to say about me. The same with the UK, Amir Khan, Ricky Hatton and David Haye – who I had the privilege to work with – they all made record amounts when they were working with me. I have that reputation for being a very pro-fighter promoter, and there is nobody better who understands the US market, particularly the US pay-per-view industry and the revenue sources involved than me. If you look at the biggest names in the UK – or anywhere – when they are promotional free agents, I expect that they will contact me and see what I have to offer.