Hey Oscar, how 'bout a Golden return to free network television?

By Michael Gonzalez


Hey Oscar, how 'bout a Golden return to free network television?

Last year, Oscar De La Hoya proclaimed he would use all of his influence and crossover superstardom to save boxing from a dire existence and place it back in the upper echelons of the sports food chain.  Golden Boy Promotion’s CEO, Richard Schaefer, recently stated that De La Hoya would fight three times in 2008, with the first fight being described as a "for the fans" type match in a large outdoor stadium, either the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA, or Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on Cinco de Mayo weekend, a traditionally big pay-per-view weekend for boxing. 
The fight would be shown on HBO as part of their free preview weekend and because it would be in such a large venue, offer reasonably priced tickets. De La Hoya would use his star power to lure in new fans, while still satisfying the junkies by not making it a pay-per-view fight.
Well, Oscar, if your goal is to attract new fans, why not use all your clout to have the fight shown on free TV?  
By making it network TV, you’re sure to reach a much wider audience, as not everyone has cable and not all cable packages have the option to receive HBO, even if it is offered free of cost (because of necessary equipment to receive the signal – the cheap package.) The kid who mows my lawn, who I’ve affectionately nicknamed “Don King,” because he’s all about his paper, and his tough-as-nails little brother Rudy will miss out on the fight. Trust me, they are prime candidates to become boxing fans and they are at a very impressionable age.
It’s time to target the young fellows and give them a taste of the good stuff.  I contracted the boxing bug at the glorious age 8. It was my father’s decision that I was now mature enough to attend fights (and observe he and my uncles on their alcohol-aided adventures). It was July 23, 1988, and Rocky Lockridge was set to defend his IBF super featherweight title against hometown favorite Tony “The Tiger” Lopez in Sacramento.
The Arco Arena was electric in anticipation when finally, Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger blared over the public address system and everyone lost their mind. The atmosphere only intensified throughout the back and forth collision. When it was all over, “The Tiger” earned his IBF stripes and the fight was named the 1988 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year.
I could barely contain myself as the crowd made its procession to the parking lot, still euphoric from the high that only boxing can deliver. I intensely threw sloppy combinations as strangers would pass by patting my head and offering words of encouragement, but what really sealed the deal was "la caja negra".
La caja negra, or black box, meant I never had to lobby my parents into ordering a pay-per-view card or premium cable station, which made us super aficionados. And for a family of struggling Mexican immigrants, the black box was the only way we where watching those fights.  La caja negra kept my passion for the sport burning.  The cable companies are a bit wilier now and la caja negra became useless circa 2000, but since then I have ordered every major pay-per-view offered except for a David Tua card and just a few others.  I even paid to see the De La Hoya vs. Yori Boy Campas mismatch– live when I was a starving college student on vacation in Las Vegas (the best fight of the night was a four-rounder squeezed in before the main event; the fighters eagerly ran out of the tunnel before coordinators could change their mind and traded non-stop for twelve minutes).
By going the network route, you’ll have commercials engaging all types of people at all hours of the day, and with the writers strike I’m sure networks would pounce.  It would be a bigger, better version of the successful 24/7 show to hype the September match with Floyd Mayweather Jr.  Jjust look at what Dancing with the Stars did for Mayweather  You could also put some of the young lions from your stable on the undercard, a passing of the torch of sorts.
It makes sense.  The Latino fan base has been carrying boxing for years, why?  Because of tradition, a tradition of a steady year round diet of free boxing on just about every Spanish programming network, it’s become a staple.  You could even simulcast it on a Spanish network.
You may not earn as much, but you’re the only fighter capable of pulling this off and I don’t see an heir apparent that could take your place. It would be a noble act and a push in the right direction.
The people who make money from this game have been milking its shrinking fan base for years and have treated it as we as a species have treated the environment, in order to stay relevant, changes must be made.
Boxing, when done right, can create the sublime.  To see two bitter rivals embrace after thirty-six minutes of combat, feeling the mutual respect earned only in the ring.  The moments when a child can turn to his father in awe, knowing they’re experiencing the same powerful emotion, just as a fellow could relate to a stranger across the globe.
Boxing only needs a vessel, it sells itself.


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