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.
De La Hoya, who turned pro after winning gold in the 1992 Olympics, was a gifted lightweight and junior welterweight, lightning quick, courageous, and tough. When his body forced him to campaign at higher weights he lost effectiveness but remained boxing’s own Elvis. Young women threw him their underpants. He earned the biggest purse ever paid in boxing when he fought Floyd Mayweather, who beat him, but just barely. After all receipts were in, his take was around $50 million. A poor kid from East LA, he used to carry around a food stamp salvaged from his youth. He showed it to me years ago. “I don’t ever want to forget where I came from,” he said. When I first started covering boxing an old-timer told me, “There’s no middle class in boxing.” Either you travel to a fight in a private jet or an old Toyota. Oscar made it onto the jet.
When Vittorio Parisi, a Renaissance man from (where else?) Italy, learned of the coup at Ring he e-mailed his resignation from its ratings board in protest. (His name is still listed on the board’s roster, but Parisi says this is against his wishes.) He sent me a copy of the e-mail, and with the permission of Parisi, a symphony orchestra conductor who operates his own boxing website in Italian, I sent it around to others in the boxing world. Among the responses was one from Debbie Caplan, a contracted publicist for Golden Boy, who copied in all forty-two respondents: “I for one am glad to know that Ring will be in the most capable hands of Mike Rosenthal. The Journalists [sic] that will be joining the effort are true professionals and boxing experts.” This, by the way, is the same Debbie Caplan who’d insisted that a sensational series of photos depicting De La Hoya in drag were Photoshopped. When they first raged across the Internet in 2007, she told the New York Daily News, “They’re not real. His head’s too small and it doesn’t even look like his body.” Four years later, after coming out of rehab for cocaine and alcohol, Oscar, to his credit, admitted that was him in the fishnets and lipstick.