Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya said the main reason Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez opted to return to HBO when he signed an exclusive multifight agreement with the network last week — and dumped Showtime, his TV home for the past five fights, in the process — was because he wanted to be with HBO.
Alvarez, a former unified junior middleweight titleholder, received a handsome offer to remain with Showtime but “Canelo didn’t want to hear it. He wanted to be with HBO,” De La Hoya told ESPN.com on Sunday night. “The big problem I had was Canelo wants to fight on Cinco de Mayo weekend and he wants Sept. 16 [weekend]. Those are the big Mexican holidays, and he doesn’t want to be second to nobody.
“I was stuck between a rock and hard place. Saul wanted to go with HBO, and HBO really wanted him. When you have a 24-year-old fighter who knows that he is the next superstar and has it in his head that he wants to go to HBO, it’s a difficult position for me to be in because, obviously, we do a lot fights on Showtime.”
Pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr., whose win against Alvarez in September 2013 set numerous all-time boxing revenue records, is in the midst of a six-fight contract with Showtime and is its priority, not Alvarez. And Mayweather has been fighting on the May and September pay-per-view dates, even when he is not facing a Mexican opponent. Alvarez wants to fight on those dates, and HBO plans to help De La Hoya make that happen.
“I have to do what Canelo asks me to do,” De La Hoya said. “I’m not going to jeopardize my relationship with Canelo. The biggest factor for him was being second to nobody. So that’s what I did — I made the deal with HBO, where he won’t be second. You’re dealing with someone who is 24 years old. He’s a superstar in Mexico and realizes his potential in the States. He has another 10 years to go, and he wants to capitalize as much as he can.”
When the deal was finalized, Showtime Sports chief Stephen Espinoza lashed out in several interviews, saying De La Hoya was “deceitful” and had reneged on a verbal agreement to sign Alvarez with Showtime.
De La Hoya said that is “100 percent not true, but I’m gonna take the high road and not even go there because, obviously, the ultimate decision was leaving it up to my fighter, and the ultimate decision was made to go to HBO. HBO came with a huge offer, but the deciding factor wasn’t the huge offer. It was in Saul’s head that he wanted to be with HBO.”
Although HBO and Golden Boy did not make the terms of the deal public, sources told ESPN.com it’s a three-year deal that calls for at least one live HBO fight per year, with the others ticketed for HBO PPV.
Alvarez is supposed to open the deal Dec. 6 on regular HBO at a location to be determined, perhaps Houston. No opponent is signed, and, although former welterweight titlist Joshua Clottey has been linked to the fight, De La Hoya said Alvarez could face brawler James Kirkland, who recently turned down a fight with Gabriel Rosado for Nov. 8 on HBO’s Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev telecast.
“Absolutely, it’s a possibility. Maybe Kirkland,” De La Hoya said.
De La Hoya was due to be in New York by Monday night and said he planned to meet with Alvarez and HBO this week to talk about the particulars of the December fight.
De La Hoya added that he hopes the Alvarez deal with HBO won’t negatively impact his dealings with Espinoza and Showtime, which has been the exclusive home to Golden Boy’s major fights since HBO booted the company off the network 18 months ago — before ironing things out in the past few weeks.
“I have Leo Santa Cruz signed to Golden Boy, I have Deontay Wilder signed to Golden Boy, I have ‘Kid Chocolate’ [Peter Quillin] signed to Golden Boy. We have business to do,” De La Hoya said, naming three boxers who have been regulars on Showtime. “But I didn’t have those fighters calling me every day saying they wanted to be with HBO, so we have business to do and fights to make. This is nothing personal.
“When I said I wanted to work with every promoter and deal with all the networks and make good fights, I think this is another indication that I am dead serious.”