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Wilder vs Breazeale Odds Review

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Showtime Boxing delivers WBC world heavyweight title action this Saturday night live from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center as champion Deontay Wilder (40-0-1) defends his belt against mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale (20-1). The fight is the first of a series of heavyweight bouts coming in the next six to eight weeks and if you look at Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury’s upcoming bouts for comparison, the Wilder-Breazeale match-up is the most competitive at the books as of right now.

Not that it is a competitive line, as Wilder is currently a 10/1 (minus-1000) favorite with Breazeale returning +650. If Wilder loses this fight he will likely see big money paydays against Joshua and Fury go by the wayside. Breazeale may be able to insert himself at the top with the two Brits with a win, but more likely for Breazeale would be a rematch with Wilder. Joshua, Fury and the sport of boxing at large will leave a lot on the table with a Wilder loss.

Wilder’s profile has been elevated after his controversial draw against Tyson Fury and, as a mandatory WBC opponent, Breazeale doesn’t have anywhere near the “Q Score” of Fury. This doesn’t mean he can’t present Wilder with a few wrinkles.

Wilder is six-foot-seven inches tall and he has not had a lot of opponents look him in the eye other than Fury. Breazeale is the same height and though the “Bronze Bomber” is a former Olympic bronze medalist, Breazeale had a somewhat longer amateur career as a foundation. He will weigh in at around 250 pounds, so he will have roughly 30 pounds on Wilder. If he can manage to avoid Wilder’s Sunday punch he has a chance to steal rounds by being busier, as Wilder doesn’t throw a lot of punches.

The lone loss of Breazeale’s pro career came in a failed world title bid against Anthony Joshua where he was stopped in the seventh round. Wilder will feel pressure to improve on Joshua’s performance against the common opponent. Breazeale and Joshua met in June of 2016 and the odds during fight week looked like a crush match:

Heavyweight 12 rounds –

Dominic Breazeale +2000 over 3½ +310

Anthony Joshua  -4000 under 3½ -400

As you can see, Breazeale paid off if you chose the “over”. Expect a motivated Breazeale this Saturday. We will see if that is enough against Wilder who is on the verge of the paydays he has always dreamed about.

WBC world featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr (29-1) faces Spain’s Kiko Martinez (39-8-2) in the event’s co-feature. Martinez has held a world title at super bantamweight and his resume includes fights against Leo Santa Cruz, Carl Frampton, Scott Quigg and Josh Warrington, so he is certainly battle-tested. At 33 years old and fighting up a weight class from his prime years, Martinez will present the same gritty style he has always employed. That may not be a great idea against the hyper-technical Russell Jr, whose lone loss is via majority decision to Vasyl Lomachenko.

This is clearly a showcase fight for Russell Jr. He and his team believe he is ready to be recognized at the top of the pound for pound lists and certainly bigger fights await. Though talented, Russell Jr has maddeningly fallen into a pattern where he has fought just once a year since 2016. More activity would help Russell Jr’s chances of becoming a star, as the talent seems to be there.

Check your local listings for the start times on Showtime. Nine fights in all make up the Barclays Center card, with Gary Russell Jr’s brothers Antuanne and Antonio both scheduled for eight round bouts. At last look, these are the prevailing odds:

Barclays Center – Brooklyn, New York – Showtime – Saturday, May 18, 2019

Featherweight 12 rounds –

Kiko Martinez +1800 Over 9½ +165

Gary Russell Jr -4000 Under 9½ -205

Heavyweight 12 rounds –

Dominic Breazeale +650 Over 9½ +235

Deontay Wilder -1000  Under 9½ -275

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It’s Just Another Day for Birthday Boy Ben Davison, Boxing’s Hottest Young Trainer

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Happy birthday to British boxing coach Ben Davison who turned 29 today, Nov. 29. Davison is in Las Vegas where many people come to celebrate a birthday, but for him it’s merely another day at the office.

Actually, he’s currently plying his trade at two “offices.” In the morning, he’s at the Top Rank gym where his main focus is preparing unified 140-pound world champion Josh Taylor for his Feb. 26 title defense in Glasgow against Jack Catterall. In the afternoon he joins the horde at Bones Adams gym where Devin Haney is putting the finishing touches on his preparation for Saturday’s encounter with Jojo Diaz at the MGM Grand Garden, a Matchroom promotion that will be live-streamed around the world on DAZN. Davison will be in Haney’s corner assisting Haney’s dad Bill Haney.

Few people had heard of Ben Davison before April of 2018 when Tyson Fury introduced Ben as his new trainer at a glitzy London press conference to announce Fury’s comeback fight with sacrificial lamb Sefer Seferi. At that juncture, the Gypsy King had been out of the ring for 30 months during which he battled depression and addictions and allowed his weight to balloon to almost 400 pounds.

It seemed odd to many people that Fury, who was previously trained by his uncle Peter Fury, would choose an obscure trainer, a man younger than himself, to prepare him for his comeback. The presumption was that he was throwing a bone to the fellow that helped him get back in shape.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of boxing trainers. One is primarily a conditioner and the other a strategist whose strength is devising a battle plan. Boxing pundits, who knew little about Ben Davison other than his connection to Tyson Fury, rucked Ben into the first category.

Davison lived in Tyson Fury’s home for 14 months during which he oversaw the greatest renaissance in boxing history in the words of Daily Mail writer Simon Jones. But Davison was no generic physical fitness instructor. “I would study two, three, four fights of Deontay Wilder every day,” he told this reporter, recollecting the months he spent with Fury preceding the first Fury-Wilder fight.

When viewing a tape, says Davison, it’s important to throw out all preconceptions regarding what a fighter does well and what he does not do so well. “Casual fans tend to see only the punches,” he says. “They miss the subtleties.”

This doesn’t sound like the musing of a one-dimensional boxing coach.

Following his bout with Otto Wallin, Fury replaced Davison with SugarHill Steward, previously known as Javan “Sugar” Hill, the nephew and protégé of the renowned Kronk Gym maestro Emanuel Steward. Ben’s pride was wounded, but he did not let the disappointment color his feelings about Tyson Fury. “We will always be friends,” he says.

Davison could have stayed on with Team Fury, albeit in a secondary role to Steward, but he had another fighter under his wing in Fury’s cousin, Billy Joe Saunders, and new opportunities were opening up. He chose to move on.

A bantamweight from Glasgow, Scotland, Lee McGregor, had approached him about becoming his primary coach. Davison was now free to give McGregor the proper attention. And as luck would have it, McGregor’s best buddy was Josh Taylor who had become disenchanted with his father/son management team of Barry McGuigan and trainer Shane McGuigan.

Lee McGregor was 9-0 when Davison entered the picture. He’s now 11-0 and set to defend his European title on Dec. 18 with Armenia’s Narek Abgaryan in the opposite corner. Josh Taylor was fresh off his grueling battle with Regis Prograis in the finals of the World Boxing Super Series when he severed his tie with the McGuigans. The Scotsman then owned two pieces of the 140-pound world title and under Davison’s tutelage he went on to win a hard-earned decision over Jose Ramirez, thereby acquiring the other two pieces and becoming only the sixth boxer of the four-belt era to become an undisputed champion.

Nottingham’s Leigh Wood would be Ben’s next title-holder. On July 31 of this year, in his second fight with Davison, Wood wrested the WBA world featherweight diadem from Can Xu with a 12th-round stoppage. Wood was comfortably ahead on the cards going into the final round.

Davison’s relationship with Devin Haney was born out of a chance encounter with the boxer at Jorge Capetillo’s gym in Las Vegas. Capetillo was Tyson Fury’s cut man for Fury’s bout with Otto Wallin.

Ben struck up a conversation with Devin after watching the fighter beat the tar out of two sparring partners. As they were discussing the finer points of boxing, Haney called his dad over to give a listen. The elder Haney was impressed and when Devin entered the ring to fight Jorge Linares, there was Ben Davison working alongside Bill Haney in Devin Haney’s corner.

It has been noted that all of Davison’s marquee fighters were well-formed when he took them under his wing. For example, Leigh Wood had been a pro for almost 10 years before hooking up with him. This has led skeptics to wonder if he can build a fighter from scratch. Mark Dickinson, one of Ben’s newest charges, may provide the answer.

A highly decorated amateur, Dickinson has only one pro fight under his belt. He eliminated his opponent in 36 seconds. His potential is such that Davison did not leave him behind when he jetted off to Las Vegas with Team Josh Taylor.

There have been two important fights during Davison’s current stateside stay, both of which have implications for fighters with whom he is involved.

There has been talk of Josh Taylor moving up to welterweight to challenge Terence Crawford. That match may yet to come to fruition although Davison concedes that it became a harder fight to make when Crawford announced that he was leaving Top Rank.

Many people were upset at Kenny Porter, Shawn Porter’s father and trainer, for stopping the Crawford-Porter fight. The stoppage, which came in round 10, struck many as premature and the elder Porter made no friends when he rationalized his behavior by saying that he wasn’t satisfied with the way that his son had prepared.

Davison is of the opinion that father knew best. “We don’t know what went on at Shawn’s training camp. Kenny may have seen some things that he hadn’t seen before. Shawn was becoming fatigued and when a fighter becomes fatigued, he becomes more reckless and is thus more vulnerable. So, what was the point of continuing?”

Davison also refuses to say anything negative about Teofimo Lopez who was on the wrong end of a big upset this past Saturday in New York. “I would never kick a man while he is down,” says Davison. “He probably had a lot going on outside the ring the last year.”

The Lopez- Kambosos shocker opened new vistas, at least in theory.

Before he stepped into the ring with boxing’s newest Cinderella Man, Teofimo was contemplating a move to 140 where his most attractive opponent would have been Josh Taylor (assuming Taylor gets by Jack Catterall). That match is still live, but now Devin Haney suddenly has a new option should he get by Jojo Diaz on Saturday. A match between Haney and multiple-belt champion George Kambosos would be a delicious pairing and the Aussie appears to be on board with it although he would be chalked the underdog. In fact, Matchroom has arranged a meet-and-greet between Kambosos and credentialed media this coming Thursday in Las Vegas.

Back in London, more exactly Essex, Ben Davison runs the MTK Performance Center, a gym that shares space in the same building with the electrical testing company founded by his father. Ben spends a lot of time on the road, needless to say, but he’s reached the stage in his career when he can afford to hire someone to mind the store when he is out of town and pay several assistants to lighten his workload wherever he happens to be.

One of those assistants is Lee Wylie whose primary role is that of a video analyst. If the name seems familiar, that’s because Wylie’s byline has appeared in several online boxing magazines, including right here at The Sweet Science! In common with former TSS writer Frank Lotierzo, Wylie has a keen eye; he sees things when he watches a fight that aren’t apparent to laymen and Ben Davison is now the beneficiary of his insights.

If you happen to see Mr. Davison in the next few days, wish him a belated happy birthday. Enjoy the tailpiece of your twenties, sir, life comes at you fast.

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The Hauser Report: The Strange Odyssey of Lopez-Kambosos and Triller (Part Two)

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Initially, Triller scheduled the lightweight title-unification bout between Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos for June 5, 2021. But on April 27, it was announced that Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul would be contested on June 6. Wary of the competition for pay-per-view buys, Kavanaugh changed the date for Lopez-Kambosos to June 19. Performances by Meek Mill, Myke Towers, and Lunay were to be included in the show. A reliable source says that Triller’s projected budget for the event was $18 million.

Then, on June 15, 2021, it was announced that Lopez had tested positive for COVID-19 and the event would be rescheduled for August 14. On June 23, the fight was postponed yet again; this time to September 11.

There were more changes to come. On July 9, it was reported that Triller planned to move Lopez-Kambosos to a fifth date (October 17) and that the fight would be held in Australia. In response, David McWater (Teofimo’s manager) stated that Lopez didn’t want to fight in Australia (Kambosos’s homeland) for logistical reasons relating to the need for him to quarantine for fourteen days once he arrived there and that he also objected to the new date.

“If they want to move it that far back,” McWater said, “the IBF will rule. If we have to, we’ll give up the title and [Kambosos] can fight Isaac Cruz somewhere [for the vacant title] for $70,000.”

An August 9 IBF ruling split the baby. Lopez-Kambosos, the sanctioning body decreed, could be held as late as October 17. But Lopez could not be required to travel abroad to a location that subjected him to a 14-day quarantine period.

The projected date changed again – and again – thereafter.

On August 23, Triller announced that Lopez-Kambosos would take place on October 5 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. It then shifted the date to October 4. Lopez and Kambosos signed contracts for October 4. But on September 20, Kavanaugh told journalist Ariel Helwani that he planned to switch the fight to October 16 at Barclays Center because he didn’t want to compete for viewers against the October 4 Monday Night Football game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers. Team Lopez objected, citing their already-signed contract and the fact that changing the date a mere two weeks before the fight could wreak havoc with Teofimo’s plans for making weight, sparring, and the like. Kambosos also demurred. Then, on September 23, Teofimo Lopez Sr. said that his son had agreed in writing to allow Triller to move the date to October 16, bypassing manager David McWater and attorney Pat English in the process.

On September 27, Triller reached a six-figure settlement with Madison Square Garden, and the issuing of refunds to fans who had purchased tickets for October 4 at MSG began. But Kambosos still hadn’t agreed to the October 16 date and was demanding that Triller place his share of the purse in escrow before he flew to the United States for the fight.

There was a school of thought that Kambosos didn’t want to come to New York because of the birth of his child and death of his grandfather (both of which occurred on September 24). More likely, he was worried about getting paid the full amount that he would be owed for the fight.

On September 28, Greg Smith (an attorney representing Kambosos) sent a letter to the IBF asking that Triller be declared in default of its purse bid and “barred from future purse bids for its egregious behavior.” More specifically, Smith alleged that Triller had violated IBF Rule 10.F.2 (“Failure of Promoter to Comply with Obligation”).

Triller suggested in its response that the problems it had endured with regard to Lopez-Kambosos were the result of a cabal among the powers that be in boxing to crush a new entity that was threatening the status quo.

On October 6, the IBF ruled that Triller was in default of its purse-bid obligations and that Matchrom Boxing was entitled to promotional rights to Lopez-Kambosos by virtue of its (second place) $3,506,000 purse bid. It further ruled that Triller, by its conduct, had forfeited its $1,203,600 deposit (20% of the winning purse bid), and that this amount would be added onto the purses that the fighters received from Matchroom.

On October 20, 2021, Matchroom announced that Lopez-Kambosos would take place on November 27 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden and be streamed on DAZN.

During the buuld-up to the fight, Kambosos said the things that one often hears from a prohibitive underdog:

*         “No one has ever turned round to Teofimo and said, ‘I’m coming straight at ya. I don’t care what you’ve done.’ They’ve all been scared of him. I don’t know why. He’s a young little kid. I’m not scared of any man. I’m bigger, stronger, faster and more explosive and more violent.”

*         “I know this kid’s got a suspect chin. If I can crack him with one shot, the speed and power that I possess and the explosive shots that I pop off, don’t be surprised if he goes down in three.”

*         “I’ve got a big motor. Every round, I keep getting better and better and keep throwing more punches. My speed and the way I move and explosive power and shots that I land and throw and the punches in bunches and the combination punches that I have in my artillery and my stamina and my fitness is just too much for this kid.”

Lopez predicted a first-round knockout and got into the holiday spirit of things with the declaration, “I feel like, if I break his f****** eye socket, I’m sorry but I’m not sorry. I feel like, if I snap his vertebrae, I’m not sorry. I really want to show everybody what my power is capable of and what my mind is capable of. If I really want to hurt someone to that extreme, I will.”

There was a stupid cursing and shoving confrontation between Teofimo Lopez Sr and George Kambosos Sr during a fight-week media workout, the verbal highlights of which were:

Lopez Sr: “Kambosos, you’re gonna get your ass kicked. First round, baby. F*****’ chicken. F*** you, mother******.”

Kambosos Sr: “F*** off, mother****** Come on, you big mouth. Come over here. You wanna walk across this f*****’ line? I’m gonna f*** you up first.”

The final pre-fight press conference on Wednesday featured more inane trashtalking with the fighters taking the lead.

“After this fight, I don’t want to have no handshake, none of that,” Teofimo Jr told George Jr. “We’re gonna put your ass on a f****** stretcher.”

Beyond that, Lopez spoke for many when he said, “I’m ready to get this over with. It’s been nine months. Get this over with and focus on the bigger fights coming up.”

The promotion didn’t generate much interest beyond hardcore boxing fans. College football is entering crunch time. The NFL season is approaching its stretch run. DAZN has limited penetration of commercial markets in the United States. And the fight itself was perceived as being of limited merit.

A dreary six-bout undercard augured ill for the main event. But Lopez-Kambosos turned out to be a scintillating fight.

Lopez came out hard, almost contemptuously, at the opening bell, gunning for a quick knockout. Kambosos made him miss but wasn’t making him pay. Then Teofimo got careless and George dumped him on the seat of his pants with a sharp right hand as Lopez was loading up for an overhand right of his own. Teofimo was sufficiently dominant for the rest of the stanza that two of the three judges (and this writer) scored round one 10-9 for Kambosos instead of the traditional 10-8 that normally accompanies a knockdown.

Thereafter, Lopez was more controlled in his aggression. He kept pressing the action, stalking, throwing punches with bad intentions. But Kambosos is slick and quick with a good chin and sneaky right hand. He set traps again and again and wasn’t afraid to trade with Teofimo when the situation called for it. Also, too often, Lopez stood directly in front of Kambosos without moving his head and paid a price when George got off first.

By round eight, the area around both of Lopez’s eyes was bruised and swelling. Kambosos was cut above his own left eye and appeared to be tiring. In round nine, Teofimo landed his best punches to that point in the fight. In round ten, he dropped Kambosos with a chopping right hand behind the ear.

Now Kambosos was fighting to survive. And he did.

In round eleven, with Lopez bleeding badly from a gash on his own left eyelid, referee Harvey Dock called a temporary halt to the action while a ringside physician examined the cut. The fighting resumed. Lopez couldn’t close the show. It was high drama.

This writer scored the bout 114-113 for Kambosos. The judges favored the challenger by a 115-111, 115-112, 113-114 margin.

Lopez went into denial mode after the decision was announced, complaining in an in-the-ring interview, “I won tonight. I don’t care what anybody says. I don’t believe it was a close fight at all. At the end of it all, I scored it 10-2.”

The heavily pro-Lopez crowd (which knew what it had just seen) booed Teofimo for that proclamation.

Lopez lost because he was certain that there was no way he could lose. And from the day the fight was signed, he conducted himself accordingly.

So . . . Where does the odyssey of Lopez-Kambosos and Triller fit into the overall business of boxing? Let’s start with some basics.

Once upon a time, the money that flowed into boxing was generated directly by individual fights. In days of old, the primarily source of income was the live gate. Then revenue from television based on advertising sales and pay-per-view buys became the dominant factor. Smaller revenue streams such as income from sponsorships were also involved. But as of late, television networks and other entities have been putting up money that isn’t being recouped from income generated directly by fights.

HBO invested heavily in boxing to build its subscriber base and got good value in return. Boxing fans saw the fights they wanted to see. During the glory years of HBO Sports, being an A-side fighter on HBO didn’t just pay well. It gave a fighter credibility. Boxing fans trusted HBO to deliver good fighters in entertaining fights with honest well-informed commentary. The network flourished, in part because of its boxing program.

PBC was built in large measure on a financial model that relied on a huge influx of cash from investors (who were hoping for a profit but appear to have lost hundreds of millions of dollars).

Then a group of businessmen from the United Kingdom backed by a Ukrainian-born billionaire announced their intention to take over and revitalize boxing in the United States as part of a plan to generate subscription buys for a streaming network called DAZN. To date, DAZN has further marginalized boxing in America and lightened Len Blavatnik’s wallet.

In sum, money alone doesn’t lead to success. The people charged with spending that money have to spend it wisely.

One year has passed since Triller’s November 28, 2020, Tyson-Jones offering. As of this writing, Ryan Kavanaugh hasn’t come close to duplicating the success that he enjoyed with his initial foray into the sweet science. In early-2021, everyone’s eyes were focused on Triller. What would Triller do next? Now Triller is almost an afterthought in conversations about the business of boxing.

On April 17, Jake Paul knocked out former MMA fighter Ben Askren in one round on Triller. That event also featured live music and a more traditional boxing match between Regis Prograis and Ivan Redkach. Like other Triller spectacles, it was a showpiece for potential investors and aimed at building Triller’s user base. But like its successors, it appears to have been mired in red ink. And Paul left Triller soon afterward in favor of a multi-bout deal with Showtime.

An August 3 Triller fight card combined with a hip-hop “rap battle” sold out the Hulu Theater and was labeled the first of “twelve monthly shows” that Triller would present at Madison Square Garden. The second show has yet to occur. An August 4 Triller press release stated, “At its peak, the venue had just shy of 8,000 people inside with an additional 4,000 congregating outside.” Asked about these numbers, Madison Square Garden director of public relations Larry Torres responded, “It was a sold out show with a capacity of 4,961 and I’d say another 200 credentials. Not sure where the 8K number is from or the 4K outside number.”

The September 11 Triller event headlined by Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort was an ugly farce. On October 16, in lieu of Lopez-Kambosos, Triller (through DiBella Entertainment) promoted a club-fight card with four bouts on it at Barclays Center. Most recently, on November 27 (the same night as Lopez-Kambosos) Triller unveiled what it labeled a “revolutionary new combat team sport” called Triad Boxing. Next up, on December 2, DiBella Entertainment will promote an all-heavyweight club-fight card on Triller’s behalf at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York.

Most people in boxing no longer consider Triller to be a serious long-term player in the sport. It’s good when people put money into boxing. But their business plan has to be sustainable.

This is Part Two of a two-part series. Part One can be found here.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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The Hauser Report: The Strange Odyssey of Lopez-Kambosos and Triller (Part One)

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The Hauser Report: The Strange Odyssey of Lopez-Kambosos and Triller (Part One)

On Saturday night, November 27, Teofimo Lopez fought to defend his multiple 135-pound titles against George Kambosos at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. The primary storyline coming into the bout wasn’t the fight. Lopez was a 9-to-1 betting favorite, and very few people expected Lopez-Kambosos to be competitive. The fight generated publicity in the nine months that preceded it because of its business backstory. But Lopez-Kambosos evolved into a tense, hard-fought, bloody spectacle with Kambosos emerging victorious on a 115-111, 115-112, 113-114 split decision.

Lopez, now 24, turned pro after the 2016 Olympics. Top Rank (his promoter) put him on a fast track, and Teofimo delivered. He won the IBF lightweight title with an impressive second-round knockout of Richard Commey in 2019 and added the WBA and WBO belts to his inventory with a unanimous decision over Vasyl Lomachenko in October 2020. That brought his record to 16-0 with 12 knockouts.

Kambosos had pieced together a 19-0 (10 KOs) record against pedestrian opposition and became the IBF’s mandatory challenger by virtue of a split-decision victory over Lee Selby last year. In theory, boxing’s mandatory-challenger rule is designed to ensure that champions go in tough against the best available challenger at least once a year. But it has been subverted to the point where, too often, the mandatory challenger is an easy mark.

When boxing fans talked about dream fights to be made at 135 pounds, the names were Lopez, Vasyl Lomachenko, Devin Haney, Gervonta Davis, and Ryan Garcia. Kambosos wasn’t even in the conversation. But Lopez was obligated to fight him if he wanted to keep his IBF belt.

Top Rank, which had several years left on its promotional agreement with Lopez, offered Teofimo his contractual minimum of $1.25 million for the bout. David McWater (who manages Lopez) countered with a demand for $5.5 million. With a divide that wide, Kambosos’s demands were irrelevant. Under IBF rules, the matter went to a purse bid with the proceeds to be split 65-35% in favor of Team Lopez.

Enter Triller.

Triller’s origins were explored on this site in a two-part series entitled “Triller, Holyfield, and Trump: Did Evander Get Hustled?” The company is largely under the control of Ryan Kavanaugh, a 46-year-old businessman with a checkered past. Kavanaugh made headlines and a lot of money when he founded an entertainment company called Relativity Media that purported to use sophisticated algorithms to eliminate the risk from film financing. There were some big early successes. Then things fell apart and Relativity Media filed for bankruptcy. There have been numerous other legal proceedings involving Kavanaugh since then.

Ryan Kavanaugh

Ryan Kavanaugh

As with Relativity Media, Triller’s foray into boxing started with a commercial success – the November 28, 2020, exhibition between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones. Tyson-Jones was a way to drum up interest in, and exposure for, Triller. But the extraordinarily popular reception that it received encouraged Kavanaugh to delve further into the boxing business. Things have gone downhill from there.

Triller holds itself out as “a vehicle for fighters to grow their brand, connect with fans, and build their social media following as they progress in their careers.” Boxing on Triller is largely a social media event, which is not necessarily a bad thing for the sport. These days, presidential elections are won and lost on social media.

But we’re living in an age when some businesses are operated as financial instruments to be built up and sold for a profit rather than being run as self-sustaining businesses that are profitable in and of themselves. Triller might fit that mold.

The purse bid for Lopez-Kambosos was held on February 25, 2021. Considerable behind-the-scenes maneuvering preceded the opening of the envelopes.

On February 11, according to a report in The Athletic, Top Rank president Todd duBoef sent an email to Kevin A. Mayer (who was about to become the CEO of DAZN). That email read in part, “This is a follow-up to our conversation. Attached is an article which quotes Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn’s desire to make a bid on DAZN’s behalf for Teofimo Lopez v George Kambosos. Top Rank signed Lopez out of the Olympics and is in the middle of a long term Promotional Agreement. Lopez has been a mainstay and anchor on ESPN and ESPN+. If the article is true, I was shocked to see this brazen act by DAZN, particularly after I cleared ESPN programming off of May 8 for DAZN’s Canelo v Saunders big event, moving our scheduled event (Ramirez v Taylor) to later in the month. I appreciate your attention to this and look forward to starting our conversations in the coming weeks.”

Mayer, according to The Athletic, responded, “Thanks for sending this, Todd.” He then forwarded his response to DAZN Group COO Ed McCarthy with the notation, “Ed, let’s discuss, but I think Todd is making a fair point. He’s doing us a big favor on the Canelo fight. Let’s think hard about this please?”

“After the email exchange,”The Athletic reported, “McCarthy and duBoef spoke by telephone. Following that call, duBoef believed that Hearn wouldn’t bid on Lopez-Kambosos and that Top Rank could enter a bid that would win the rights to the fight without going far above its original offer that called for a purse of $1.25 million to Lopez.”

duBoef later told The Athletic, “Eddie can bid all he wants. But if you’re asking me to do things for you and we’re talking about business together and things that [DAZN] wants to do internationally, if you’re asking more to expand our relationship and ‘can you help me here?’ I find it to be a brazen act if you’re enabling Eddie. Is that collusion? No.”

But there was a school of thought that, if nothing more, it was an attempt at collusion.

Meanwhile, Peter Kahn (who managed Kambosos) had his own take on things. Kahn told The Athletic, “Top Rank in essence was attempting to bully DAZN into not bidding, which means Top Rank would have been able to come in and possibly steal that bid for a low number. And I really wasn’t gonna let that happen. So I basically threw a Hail Mary and I flew out to California. I met with Ryan Kavanaugh. I explained to him the situation. I said, ‘Ryan, if you want to show people that you’re serious about being in the boxing space, not just about influencers, not just about crossover fights and legends, but if you really want to make a splash, this is your opportunity.”

And made a splash, Kavanaugh did. Top Rank bid $2,315,000 at the February 25 purse bid ($1,504,750 of which would have gone to Lopez had the bid been successful). Matchroom, despite duBoef’s lobbying with DAZN, bid $3,506,000. Triller bid the outlandish sum of $6,018,000.

“He knows it was a premium,” Kahn said later of Kavanaugh’s bid. But Kavanaugh bought into Kahn’s logic; to wit, “In order to really secure that opportunity and show people that you want to make a statement, that you want to be disruptive, you’re going to have to bid this type of number.”

Pursuant to IBF rules, $3,911,700 (65 percent) of the winning purse bid was allocated to the Lopez side of the equation. Under the terms of Teofimo’s promotional contract with Top Rank, twenty percent of that ($782,340) would go to the promoter. Thus, Lopez and his management team were in line to receive $3,129,360 (far more than the $1.25 million they’d been offered by Top Rank to fight Kambosos).

Arum looked at the bright side of things, saying, “We made a lot of money in five minutes. Almost $800,000 is pretty good money. Sh**, that’s really great because Lopez vs. Kambosos is not a premier attraction.” But he was less philosophical when talking about DAZN and Eddie Hearn

“He lost and pissed us off at the same time,” Arum said of Hearn. “It sent a message to us. But he better watch out the next time he goes to a purse bid when the fighters have no connection to ESPN or Top Rank. Maybe we’ll jam a bid up Hearn’s ass. We’ll get back at them. I’m angry at them, yeah.”

Meanwhile, Triller issued a press release referencing itself as a “disruptive property” that was “reimagining the sport of boxing for a new, engaged generation.” And Kavanaugh proclaimed, “We are working to reshape the vision of excitement and storytelling in a sport we love. We’re here as a friend to the boxing world. We’re here not to attack it, but to bring entertainment to what has traditionally been a purist sport. Our view is that we want to make it look and feel different. We’re going to deliver a different experience that has something for everyone. We want to show we’re taking the sport of boxing seriously and respecting boxing. We’re not trying to make a mockery of it. That’s what this fight does for us.”

Triller’s purse bid for Lopez-Kambosos made it a player in legitimate boxing. It also meant that Triller was supplanting DAZN as the primary force in inflating license fees in the sport. And – temporarily, at least – it led to artificially high expectations from fighters as to what they might receive for future fights.

Predictably, Hearn used the occasion to take a swipe at Arum.

“Teofimo Lopez took the chance for small money to fight Lomachenko because he believed he would win and he believed he would get the financial rewards he deserved,” Hearn said. “But guess what? When he won, they wouldn’t give it to him. This whole problem has been caused by Top Rank. Bob’s been out there, ‘Oh, Eddie Hearn, I’m f****** pissed off that he’s bid and he’s gotta watch himself now.’ F*** off! It’s an open market. If you can’t do a deal with your fighter and that comes into the open market, you pay the consequences. And the consequences is someone else has popped up from nowhere and taken one of your biggest assets on your platform, for ESPN, and put it on another platform. It’s a disaster for Top Rank. I told him I’d bid. You want no one to bid so you can get your guy cheap? It doesn’t work like that. Don’t tell us what we can and can’t do. It was arrogance, quite frankly. You think that I would phone a competitor and say, ‘Don’t bid on this fight’? They created this mess. And it went horribly wrong because we don’t get told what to do. The fight come up on the open market. Our broadcaster told us, ‘We’d like that fight.’ And we bid.”

Kavanaugh took a conciliatory tone toward Top Rank after the purse bid, stating, “We are in no way competing with Bob Arum. Eddie Hearn is Arum’s true competition. We’re just doing it to build a brand. We don’t compete with Arum or ESPN because we are a different model. We hope they see us as a way to create more marketing for their fighters. Teofimo will come in with a certain amount of followers and leave with, hopefully, three-to-four times that amount. That will be good for Bob too. We think we’re great for everyone in the sport.”

Todd duBoef also voiced a positive view, saying, “Triller is a social platform and they’re very good at that. If they can expose our asset, our fighter, Teofimo, to a different audience that expands his popularity, I think it’s terrific. We all benefit. I would like to have done the fight for our platform [ESPN], but it ends out working well for everyone.”

Still, the relationship between Top Rank and Lopez had been fractured. And there were people whispering in Teofimo’s ear – shouting is more like it – that Arum’s public statements and duBoef’s email exchanges with DAZN had given Lopez grounds to break his contract with Top Rank.

After the purse bid, Teofimo declared, “I love ESPN and the platform and everything they have done for Team Lopez. However, I am very thankful that my team and I stuck to our guns. We knew what we were being offered was disrespectful, and we expected the open market would value us differently. And it showed today. The six million dollars from Triller says that Top Rank doesn’t value the best fighter on their roster.”

In response, Arum noted that Top Rank had several years left on its contract with Lopez and said, “Teofimo has a contract with us. There will be regular negotiations on his fights. If he wins [against Kambosos] and comes back to us and wants the same money that he got before, the answer is ‘no.’ So he sits out for a while. You can’t pay what you don’t have. He either fights or he doesn’t fight. Maybe Triller is so happy with Lopez they will give us a big number and buy out our contract with Lopez, which is fine also.”

That earned a rejoinder from Lopez, who proclaimed, “If they can’t treat their fighters, or at least me, in a way of respect, then I’ll find it somewhere else because I know what I’m worth. Obviously, Triller knows my worth. It sucks, it really does, to have it go this way. So congratulations, Todd duBoef. You lost your best fighter from your stable.”

Then Teofimo Lopez Sr (who trains his son) got into the act, saying, “We already took a low rate for the Lomachenko fight. When we took less money to get those belts, I told my son, ‘Once you have those belts, you can do whatever you want.’ And that’s what we’re doing right now. This is big. This is like the Muhammad Ali era when Muhammad stood for his rights.”

That was an ill-considered remark. Ali gave up the heavyweight championship of the world and risked going to prison for five years to stand up for his religious beliefs. All Team Lopez did was maneuver to get more money. It had every right to do so. But Teofimo was sacrificing nothing. Indeed, Richard Schaefer (who has never been thought of as a fan of Bob Arum) told this writer, “Let’s be fair about it. Top Rank did a fantastic job of building up Lopez. And the fight against Lomachenko – which did the most to make Lopez what he is now – was promoted during a pandemic.”

Thereafter, an accord was reached. On June 12, it was announced that Top Rank and Lopez had extended their contract and that the new deal provided for an increase in Lopez’s minimum purses moving forward.

Meanwhile, Triller was forging ahead. On March 22, 2021, it announced that Peter Kahn would become Triller Fight Club’s chief boxing officer (a position he would hold until stepping down six months later). Jim Lampley was hired to handle blow-by-chores for at least four future Triller events (he has yet to call one). And the expectation in some circles was that, going forward, Triller would cherry-pick among high-profile boxing cards that were up for purse bid. But Arum sounded a cautionary note, saying, “They don’t know what the hell they’re doing. I’ll let them do their thing. I’m not going to get involved in the sideshow business.”

In other words, it was possible that Ryan Kavanaugh had figured out something that Arum, Hearn, Al Haymon, Frank Warren, and other top promoters hadn’t. But it was unlikely. And now that Triller was moving to a new level, it was worth asking, “Could Triller actually promote a major world championship fight? Or would the result be like hanging a painting by a kindergarten student in the Metropolitan Museum of Art?”

This is Part One of a two-part series. Part Two will appear on TheSweetScience.com tomorrow.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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