Flash-forward to September 2011, when after four years of tension, the company broke off its tempestuous relationship with The Ring’s crew of editors and writers, sacking most of them, including the freelancers. It moved what’s left of the operation from the Philadelphia suburb of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, to its corporate headquarters in Los Angeles. Henceforth Michael Rosenthal and Douglass Fischer, who’d been running its website, an unabashed Golden Boy propaganda sheet, would also direct the magazine.
Schaefer, a former Swiss banker from a family of Swiss bankers, had apparently grown tired of dueling with the writers and editors he’d inherited with the magazine, writers and editors who dared to treat his promises as sincere. My very last column in the November 2011 issue disparaged not one but two upcoming Golden Boy fights. (Both cards did indeed stink.) I never specifically mentioned that these were Golden Boy events, but everyone knew.
The signs of this crack-up were there all along. When a publication wins a Pulitzer, owners bust buttons and champagne is served. Yet when our people won prizes in the annual Boxing Writers Association of America competition—our esoteric version of the Pulitzers—we never heard a thing from management. The pressure was always to sell the product, and the product wasn’t just the magazine. It was the whole company.
When I called Schaefer’s office for this article I was referred to Jeff Schowalter, Golden Boy’s vice president of finance. He insisted that all decisions about The Ring were made by The Ring, so he had nothing to tell me. I pointed out that editor Collins didn’t fire himself, and it must have been Golden Boy that moved magazine headquarters to Los Angeles since these things don’t happen by themselves. “What you have told me now is completely incorrect,” he responded. “Not factually correct. And that’s all I’m gong to say.” So according to him, much, if not everything you read in this piece is a fabrication.
The other major promoters, without exception, never believed Golden Boy would keep its word and play it straight, and their behavior toward us changed when the sale was announced. But even hard-boiled journalists can suspend their bullshit detectors when they hear something they want to believe, and in the beginning we believed the pledges of editorial independence. “It was a bad marriage from the start,” Collins said after the carnage. “Based on my experience, I have very serious doubts that a partnership between a legitimate journalistic enterprise and a promotional company could ever work.”
A year after taking over the magazine, Golden Boy brought in its own people, working out of Los Angeles, to direct The Ring’s Internet presence, which was placed outside control of the magazine’s editors. A peculiar setup. Very possibly the company saw the website as a prototype of where it planned to take the magazine all along. On the site, fights and fighters promoted by Golden Boy bask in an eternal spring under the well-known Ring logo. If you click on “Fight Night Club,” a tab that’s part of the editorial content, a page provides information on Golden Boy fight cards at Club Nokia in Los Angeles. It’s not labeled as an ad. The site also streams live telecasts of Golden Boy fights, with a site writer doing commentary.
When De La Hoya discussed the sport’s future in a Broadcasting & Cable magazine interview published in September 2010, he sounded like a cross between John D. Rockefeller and the little chicken hawk that’s always angling to barbecue the mildly concerned Foghorn Leghorn. Golden Boy, he said, should “sign all the talent and get all the TV dates…. When you have five or six promoters, it’s very difficult.” Using a cliché to urge the pursuit of original ideas, he said it’s time to think outside the box and let his company do it all. Rival promoter Bob Arum responded with typical fight biz diplomacy: “I mean, this guy is really so dumb.” But that doesn’t explain Oscar, at least not entirely.