But when paired with the fact that Donaire had been (and might still be) with Top Rank, the other biggest promoter in the sport, an outfit that has been locked in mortal war with GBP in a way that has riven the sport nearly in two, we're talking about a story that has long-reaching destructive potential beyond Donaire.
There's what it means for Donaire, and there's what it means for boxing as a whole.
Until Top Rank put Donaire in with Fernando Montiel last month, it would be hard to argue that the company had done a good job with him. They had Donaire since 2008 and he hadn't fought one elite opponent, not one. Donaire made no secret of his desire to fight Montiel and other top opponents, which is as commendable a trait as you could want in a fighter. There came a moment where Donaire and his manager, Cameron Dunkin, agitated publicly for a big fight. Only then did they get it.
So maybe his profile was boosted by that pay-per-view in the Philippines in 2009. Maybe headlining all those pay-per-views helped build up his name some. But it also resulted in some backlash. He was losing standing with fans over not fighting top opposition. At best, he had plateaued. Things finally got on the right course when the Montiel fight happened, and in more ways than one. The performance on HBO introduced Donaire to a wider audience, and the impression he made with his sensational knockout win had turned him into one of the most buzzed about boxers there is, one that HBO wanted back ASAP. After the fight, he even resolved his ugly family dispute, one that limited his appeal in the traditionalist Philippines.
For as good as things have been going, there was at least one way he was held back: Top Rank wouldn't make a fight with Golden Boy-promoted Abner Mares if he won the Showtime bantam tournament, and Donaire had spoken out about wanting to become the real champion of the division, something that might not be able to happen sans Mares.
There are other theories/complaints. Donaire wanted to be on the undercards of Manny Pacquiao, and Top Rank didn't want that, thinking that it would be Filipino audience overkill, since Pacquiao already draws nearly 100 percent of that audience, whereas for Donaire it meant broader exposure. There's a theory that Donaire was worried about being in Pacquiao's shadow with Top Rank, but that strikes me as silly; he signed with Top Rank knowing Pacquiao was their main guy, and asking to be on his undercards is not the kind of thing I would do if I was worried about being in someone's shadow. Then there's the blame his wife Rachel will get in some quarters. She's a strong influence on Donaire's career, no doubt, but I'd worry that boxing's tendency toward chauvinism informs any allegations against her over all this sans evidence. Maybe she meddled too much, maybe she didn't -- but let's not jump to those conclusions yet. There's also a contention that Top Rank didn't get Donaire enough fights, but that goes to the crux of the legal dispute that we'll discuss later.
For whatever mistakes Top Rank had made with Donaire, the company seemed to be turning things around in their promotion of him, if you exclude the potential boycott on a Mares fight. It had a couple viable junior featherweights (Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr.) and especially some featherweights (Juan Manuel Lopez, YURIORKIS GAMBOA!) who would make for good-to-highly appetizing future opponents. In the short-term, it tried to make a fight with Anselmo Moreno, the next best option at bantam besides the winner of Mares-Joseph Agbeko. It was offering Donaire half a million for his next fight and talking about million dollar paydays down the line.
The question then becomes what it is GBP can do for Donaire. There's Mares, obviously. Then what? If you look at the big names they can deliver at 122 or 126, they are few, since there aren't many big names at 122 and the two big names at 126 are with Top Rank. A bantamweight stay isn't out of the question: There's Moreno, who is rumored to be considering an offer from Golden Boy, and some of the other people who are in the Showtime tourney outside of Mares that aren't promoted by Top Rank if they can get some bounceback wins, like Yonnhy Perez. And once you get to 126, there's really only Chris John, who's with Golden Boy but could be very old by the time Donaire moves up that high. Ultimately, then, there arguably isn't more for Pacquiao at Golden Boy than there was at Top Rank. Maybe that changes. Maybe that develops.
But there's another thing that could happen: Donaire could be put on the shelf for a while as the courts consider his situation. If that's the case, then this switch becomes actively bad for him, rather than ranging from "not much better" to "somewhat worse." Michael Marley, the boxing reporter with a legal background, considers that unlikely, but it's a risk.
Yes, yes, this is going to get ugly fast. Golden Boy and Top Rank were already in a Cold War. Things kicked off when Golden Boy officials raised scurrilous accusations while negotiating for a fight on behalf of Floyd Mayweather about Pacquiao using performance enhancing drugs, which understandably inflamed Top Rank. Since then, Top Rank has kept the feud going by refusing to work with GBP whereas GBP has indicated its willingness to work with Top Rank. But if it was a Cold War before, it's about to go nuclear.
Top Rank is going to sue GBP as hard as it possibly can. We're talking, super-sue. Their argument is that they have a valid contract with Donaire. They say that, contrary to Donaire's claims, they didn't meet the requirements for minimum number of fights per year only because Donaire was "physically suspended," reported elsewhere as "injured." I don't remember these injuries, which maybe is my fault for just not paying attention (I try to), but it's possible they were kept quiet, but the extent and nature of those alleged injuries an interesting angle I haven't seen much reporting on out there that could be determinative to any court outcome.
GBP also says they've looked this over legally or they wouldn't have done it. They're already talking up a May fight on HBO, legal action be damned.
Politically, GBP has made no illusions about their desire to sign every free agent they can, even when other promoters allege that what they're doing is closer to theft. Top Rank has done some of that, too, although less than GBP. But while GBP has talked about being willing to work with Top Rank, they had to know that this would effectively kill their chances of that happening again anytime soon. This either means A. They've given up (and I could see he stubbornness of Bob Arum driving them to such ends) or B. They didn't really mean it. Whatever the case, it's a confrontational move to go after a fighter that their rival claimed to have a valid agreement with, and it now shifts the largest measure of responsibility for the feud going forward to GBP.
It could spread, too, depending on the role of Donaire manager Cameron Dunkin -- reps from both sides have claimed the allegiance of Dunkin, who has been silent today, and whichever promoter blames Dunkin over this might not want to work with him in the future. (Let's not forget how much Arum refuses to work with manager Al Haymon, for instance.)
Whatever hope there was of resolving the GBP-Top Rank feud anytime soon just diminished significantly. This being boxing, rifts can heal instantly and inexplicably or they can fester for longer than most any human beings would allow them to do so. GBP and Top Rank once settled things after years of refusing to work together, with that feud caused, as Kevin Iole noted, by a promotional tug of war over anther Filipino superstar, Pacquiao. This development just stretched out the timeline for resolution of this latest version of the feud as far as the eye can see.
(Sources: GBP news release; ESPN; BoxingScene; The Examiner; Yahoo!; various folks on Twitter)
Can someone be knocked down a notch on the pound-for-pound list for actions threatening his own career?
Great. Now Donaire will be placed on HBO against garbage opponents in true Golden Boy style. Does anyone honestly think Golden Boy will have Donaire fight Mares any time soon if Mares wins the Showtime tournament?
@PaulKelly That's an interesting conclusion to jump to -- I don't think GBP has put all of its guys in against garbage opponents; that happens more often with Top Rank.
Donaire was given a hefty signing bonus no one could refuse and a drooling contract that I bet is hard to resist. Who's not gonna jump ship? That's the beauty of free agency started by the Manny and followed by Donaire. Filipinos are truly smart don't you think?
@shanareign Because Pacquiao was the first person to leave one promoter/team for another? And if you're going to make a point, do so without maligning an entire nationality. Come on now...
an interesting development, for sure. a bit like a move Pacquiao pulled a while back, no? we'll see if it sticks this time.
I don't blame Donaire for the move. like you said, he wasn't necessarily treated well by the top of Top Rank. still, things looked up for him given all the great lil' guys in Bob's cohort. we'll see what happens next. myself?
I'm not that optimistic for Donaire on this one. I'm sure his payout is much better short-term though.
@The Count of Monte Fisto (boom!) Very similar to Pac.
I placed so much emphasis on how this affects Donaire because he's quite an important figure in the sport these days. I honestly do hope it works out for him.
Distinctly remember Donaire's hand being in bad shape-- I believe it was after the Concepcion fight. Also remember the Dengue fever episode when he went back to the Phillippines. Not sure whether either works to "extend" the TR contract (it all depends on what the terms say, of course).
Anyone recall the immediate post-fight interviews after the Montiel knockout? I'm sure Mr. A. was there crowing about his big plans for the Flash, with the Flash right there by his side. No doubt that this power move was already being considered/in the works prior to this--- be interesting to view it now just to read the body language of Flash as Arum is talking.
I'm kind of stunned by such a move being made right now. Certainly Flash's stock has never been higher, and his legitimate beefs with how TR was underutilizing him, at least until last fall, are well documented. However, to risk being put on ice for at least 6 months (if not longer) while the legal processes sort out his contract status when you are such a hot property is a huge risk of losing all the momentum and good will that he's earned. Maybe he's POed that he was never leveraged/showcased on a Pac undercard. Maybe he's snubbed that, after being the late replacement "headliner" on the ill-fated Junior/Gomez card in Anaheim, he was bumped at the last second to co-feature behind Soto/Antillon.
Not nearly as optimistic as Marley that the legal proceedings won't keep Flash out of the ring for at least 6 months minimum, as things get sorted out. Kevin I mentioned that it could be headed to arbitration--- not sure how if the parties haven't both agreed to it, or its in Flash's contract with TR (or else there's a prior settlement/legal decision requiring that all GBP/TR contract disputes get resolved in such manner). Even then, arbitration isn't necessarily speedy, and Bob could get an status quo injunction to prevent any bouts until things are settled--not to mention that arbitration awards are also subject to further legal proceedings where they can be challenged (as if on appeal) or confirmed and thereafter enforced. Recall that Ghost Guerrero took about a year to get a similar situation decided. If Arum wants to play hardball, and he's right about the contract being locked tight, Flash's gamble is not going to pay off. And the sport (and its fans) lose. Again. Of course, GBP is probably betting that Arum will be able to live with a quick settlement, probably for some "revenue sharing" mirroring what TR pays GBP for Manny's services. There's a certain symmetry there, don't you think?
@WILLFRANK As always, I defer to you on legal matters. Thanks for your insights there. You're right, Guerrero is a bit of a cautionary tale in that regard. I suppose there'd be some symmetry, yessir; however it gets resolved is less important to me than it getting resolved.
Thanks for the reminder on Donaire's bad paw -- it's been chronic. And I forgot about the fever. So, it turns out, I was paying attention, but I just didn't remember.
Top rank would be better of to let Donaire go, he is just a mini weight anyway who wants a welterweight payday. Top Rank better let GBP handle that problem, and Top Rank can get a percentage for every Donaire fight.
Bad move by Donaire. Why join a sinking ship? For what? A sign on fee? Then what? Get stuck with legal issues. And then get stuck with garbage GBP promotions. Dumb dumb move. Such short term thinking. Top rank is filling Stadiums for f's sake!!!
@Fidel I've seen unreliable reports about GBP being in some kind of trouble. I've seen zero evidence of it. And last I checked Alvarez did pretty good figures for GBP, and TR had retreated from stadiums.
It's more than a bit disingenuous to describe Golden Boy Promotions as a sinking ship. While it's absolutely fair for you to dislike their promoting and to favor Top Rank, I don't know of any evidence that GBP is having any kind of trouble with its stability as a promoter.
@dpg All kinds of stuff. Dad removed as trainer, reports of allegations of stolen money, Rachel not getting along with Nonito's parents, all kinds of crap. It got real ugly. But they all squashed it and made a YouTube video recently where they apologized to each other and Rachel attacked the media for stoking the fire.
You refer to Donaire as Pacquiao in the second to last paragraph under what is next for Donaire. Also it is not possible to coment from my droid phone at the moment. Bob is not naive legally. I would be suprised if he was wrong. Golden Boy has talked about working with Top Rank but they have also said they would like a boxing monopoly so their sincerity has always been doubtful.
@ThePJ Double-noted, on Pac/Donaire switcheroo. Thanks.
Top Rank also has been making monopoly noise lately, FWIW.