The Return of “Solo Boxeo” By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (April 29, 2010) Special to Doghouse Boxing
Lost amongst all the hoopla this weekend regarding the battle between Floyd Mayweather and Shane Mosley is that, the night before they do battle at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, across the street at the Tropicana Las Vegas, Robert Guerrero faces Roberto Arrieta. OK, well, the Guerrero-Arrieta fight isn’t that big of a deal, but it does mark the return of “Solo Boxeo” on Telefutura, which, for a better part of a decade, helped develop and nurture some of the games brightest Latin stars.
But with the flagging economy and citing the high cost of production, Telefutura decided to end the series after 2008. The loss was a big one for boxing; anytime a regular series is discontinued, it’s the boxers who lose the opportunity to ply their trade.
Golden Boy Promotions has brought the series back.
"It really started the day that they pulled the plug," said Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, of their efforts to revive the series, on a recent edition of “The Main Event.” “We felt that ’Solo Boxeo’ on Telefutura, on a free over-the-air broadcast network in Spanish language- one of the largest Spanish networks, period, here in the United States- we felt that when they pulled the plug that that was really a big blow for boxing. But it was a great platform to expose and build up young Hispanic talent. With the Hispanic market here, for boxing in the United States, it’s really important.
"So we started working, pretty much the day after- very diligently- to see and evaluate what we can do to bring it back."
And the answer was simple- help defray the cost of producing the broadcasts and bring money to the table.
"As I have said many times- and the same is for the Anglo market- the key is sponsors. If you want to get boxing back on national TV, such as Telefutura, you have to come with sponsors," stated Schaefer, whose company has perhaps the largest network of sponsors in the industry." As you know, Golden Boy has put a lot of effort into developing sponsor relationships. We hired a Chief Marketing Officer; we’re the only boxing promoter to have a designated C.M.O. who just deals with sponsors and activations and so on, Bruce Binkow. And I gave Bruce a task; find and build up a sponsor that we can go to Telefutura and say, ’Look, guys; we are going to come with all of these sponsors. Let’s put it back on.’ And that’s exactly what we did. And I really have to give credit to Tecate; they stepped up with a seven-figure amount. It’s a multi-year deal with Telefutura to really bring boxing back.
"So we’re really excited because they’re so many young, exciting fighters out there,” continued Schaefer. “Luis Ramos, we recently signed Frankie Gomez, one of the most talked-about amateurs in a long, long time from East L.A. So there’s a lot of young fighters. It’s a perfect platform."
There are a few significant tweaks that have been made to this franchise.
Schaefer says that the goal here isn’t to just air fights, but to build the fighters’ profiles."What we asked Telefutura to do, as well, is not just show these fights, but actually create vignettes, almost like small versions of ‘24/7’ to really introduce some of these young fighters, they’re upbringings, their family, their surroundings, their training, their trainers and significant others in their lives. So the audience can really establish and create the connection with these young, emerging stars. They gladly agreed to that, so it’s really exciting to have a partner in Telefutura who gets it." Golden Boy hopes to feature about 10-12 of their youngsters as they work their way up the boxing ladder.
One of the problems with the original version of “Solo Boxeo” was that with its 8:00 PM Eastern start time, it made it very difficult to hold shows on the west coast. The reality is, that around 5:00 PM in Southern California, you’re more likely to be stuck in gridlock, than at a fight card. Now, the telecasts will begin at 11:30 PM.
"That was another important point," said Schaefer, "At 5:00, you’re right; on the west coast, people are in their cars, really stuck in their cars in traffic or on their way home. They certainly aren’t going to make it to a venue. So that created a big problem. Telefutura gladly agreed to have the 8:30 [Pacific] starting time and on the east coast, these shows will not start at 11:30, but we’re going to tape them. So it’s not going to be too late."
Before, “Solo Boxeo” shows were mainly divided up between Top Rank (which now has their own series on Fox Sports Net/Espanol) and Golden Boy. Now, all 50 broadcasts will be under the GBP umbrella.
"But the way it’s split up, it’s very interesting," explained Schaefer, "There’s going to be 30 events coming live from the United States. Very much supported by activations with Tecate in the big Hispanic markets like Chicago, Texas, Southern California, Arizona, and so on, all across the nation. 30 live events. And then there’s going to be 12 events which are going to be originating from mainly Mexico and some of them from Argentina, as part of our HBO Plus shows down there. So all those people who complain that they could not see the HBO Plus shows (writers note: I’d be one of them), they’re going to be able to on Telefutura. And it’s going to be a consistent production; the same guy who’s producing the HBO shows, Frank Belmont, is going to produce those Telefutura shows.
"And finally, that brings us to 42; the last eight events are going to be special events, sorta like ’Legendary Nights’, where we take big fights and we re-format them with the fighters talking about what went through their minds, maybe even some of the older fights,” added Schaefer. “Let’s say, Barrera-Pacquiao I, from San Antonio, which really was in many ways the launching platform for Manny Pacquiao. Do something special with a fight like that and show the behind-the-scenes footage, as well. And we’re going to do that.
"That will make up those 50 events."
According to “The Badger,” David Itskowitch of Golden Boy Promotions, this is the early slate for “Solo Boxeo”:
5/7: Danny Garcia vs. Christopher Fernandez, The Arena (the New Alhambra), Philadelphia, PA
5/14: Carlos Velasquez vs. TBA, the Paradise Theater, Bronx, New York
5/21: TBA vs. TBA, Sundance Square, Ft. Worth, Texas.
That TBA vs. TBA match-up is about an even a fight as you could ask for.
Lightweight prospect, Luis Ramos Jr., 14-0 (7), will be one of the young prospects regularly featured on the new-and-improved “Solo Boxeo” and he was originally slotted for the Friday night card, but he has been moved to the Mayweather-Mosley undercard.
"The reason is, what we wanted to do is showcase him and Luis has worked hard and we feel that he’s ready to step it up and we feel that’s a great platform for him. He deserves it; he’s worked for it," said his manager, Frank Espinoza, who told Maxboxing that Ramos is facing Allen Litzau.
Why is Itskowitch “The Badger”? Well, he is a proud graduate of Wisconsin...By the way, there is another edition of “Top Rank Live” on FSN/Espanol this Saturday night from Merida, Mexico with Tomas Rojas facing Jean Piero Perez in a super flyweight tilt and Jose Pinzon facing Jaime Barboza for the WBC super lightweight youth championship, although Barboza is 31...Middleweight hopeful Peter Quillin is now training with Freddie Roach. OK, as of now, who isn’t training with Freddie Roach?...I read some stuff where Manny Pacquiao is somehow being linked to some assassination attempt of a politician in the Philippines. This is exactly why I thought he should steer clear of politics ‘til at least his boxing career was finished...This week’s edition of “The Main Event” features Sugar Ray Leonard and Al Bernstein of Showtime....