A snapshot into how social media has changed the fight game, and the ongoing saga of the big payday versus more likely longevity.
What was previously disregarded as just another mismatch engineered by adviser Al Haymon atop an HBO televised doubleheader morphed into case studies of a number of contentious topics in the sport by the time fight night rolled up around 8 p.m. PT Saturday evening.
Among them: a canvassing of many of the seven deadly sins that find their way into boxing, as well as the way in which rapid minute-by-minute reporting has perhaps affected boxing more than any other major sport. This, all over a fight that was supposed to take place in a junior lightweight division that many regarded as one of the shallowest stateside. But the result, in which Adrien Broner scored a technical knockout over Vicente Escobedo in five rounds, wasn’t the story Saturday night.
First, the seven deadly sins. Concerning solely Broner, who we weren’t sure was going to fight in any capacity until mere hours before he stepped into the ring, there consists quite a few: Gluttony, for starters, as made evident by his tweets of Twinkies and Twix ice cream bars not far out from the date of the bout; and pride, as in the way Broner brushed off his wrongdoing and disrespected everyone involved with the card, thinking (or knowing) that he’ll be back on HBO and getting paid in his next appearance.
The other deadly sin that is a bit more difficult to assign is greed. Was all of this just a master plan orchestrated by the Escobedo side to shoot for the moon and get all that and more? Or was it more likely just a case of being offered an amount of money you could not possibly say no to, whatever the risk?
With Escobedo, who simply put was violated as a professional fighter this past weekend, there had to consist some level of envy. Both Broner and Escobedo are promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. The former 2004 U.S. Olympian Escobedo was once plugged as the next Oscar De La Hoya and was the first really promising prospect the fledgling promotional outfit took on right out of the gate.
Looking back, it would be safe to say Escobedo’s career was a test run for the southern California based company at guiding a career from beginning to end. Weighed against what the average boxing promoter could do for their fighters, Golden Boy did not do too bad with Escobedo, though definitely there was higher expectation given it was De La Hoya and a former Olympian from California.
The Weight Debacle
What Broner represents is Golden Boy’s more precise and careful matchmaking and promoting, something from which Escobedo did not really benefit. You could argue Escobedo never should have fought as a 135 pounder, yet most if not all of his big fights took place in that division. Maybe the biggest letdown was staging his fight with fellow northern Californian Robert Guerrero on the East Coast rather than in California where both fighters would have been better off getting exposure on the local circuit.
Although Escobedo was a long odds dog to beat Broner, at least he was finally getting a big time opportunity in the weight division he belonged at all along. At least we thought he was, until Broner came in more than three pounds heavy on the day before the fight. Broner stepped off the scales and nearly immediately began taking in food and drink according to several reports, showing he had no intention of evening the playing field a bit of an already unevenly matched fight.
Escobedo’s team worked out a deal in which Broner was supposed to weigh no more than 140 pounds, 10 pounds above the limit they were supposed to weigh initially, at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time the next morning. Yes Broner came in at 143 pounds at the second weigh-in.
The naturally gifted Joan Guzman is one of a few fighters who has seen their career derailed by weight issues. Guzman missed making 130 pounds and 140 pounds just like Broner did; the only difference was that Guzman missed those marks in two separate fights. Broner missed those weights in two consecutive days. Guzman ironically fought Saturday night buried on a Solo Boxeo card and should be a cautionary tale for Broner and fighters like him who think they are above reprieve when it comes to professionalism.
In fact, perhaps the best display of Broner’s indifference to the shit storm he caused was in the postfight interview, where he could have at least thanked Escobedo and his team for singlehandedly keeping him out of hot water with a number of important influences in the sport. If Escobedo wasn’t talked back into the ring, any number of people from HBO to Golden Boy to the local ticketbuyers who were coming to see Broner would have sworn off on him if everything fell apart at the last minute.
Boxing Media’s Role
Now to address how this was handled by the boxing media as news poured in on a minute-by-minute basis, thanks to Twitter.
Before Twitter came onto the scene in the late aughts, only a handful of people would have been aware of most if not all of the drama surrounding Broner-Escobedo this weekend. If you were hardcore enough, you would have found out what was going on in only a handful of places, namely Fightnews or a rogue boxing site or message board.
In that setup, you had to be interested enough to seek that information out. In the Twitterverse, news seeks you out. If you follow only a handful of boxing people but use Twitter frequently, you likely would have been made aware of some of what was going on Friday and Saturday in regards to the weight issue.
What Twitter basically boils down to in a nutshell is walking by a conversation over and over again. You can come across something as it is actively being discussed or as the news is actually breaking, but you’re hearing different parts of the same conversation enough that you are more likely to find out what is going on.
When it was announced Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. ET in a Boxingscene report that Broner came in heavy and a source within Team Escobedo was quoted as saying the fight was off and that Broner’s side couldn’t just throw money at a problem to fix it, it looked safe to assume that was the end of things.
The source wasn’t named as anything but a member of Team Escobedo, so we have no idea how close to the developments this person actually was to fully trust their interpretation of what was going on. An even smaller possibility was that this source could have been using the exposure to draw even more money out of the situation than they otherwise would have been able.
When all this was breaking I got in touch with one of the fighters who was going to be majorly affected by whatever decision was made regarding the main event. That fighter told me they were under the impression that the Keith Thurman-Orlando Lora junior welterweight fight would be bumped up to a main event and the Omar Figueroa-Dominic Salcido fight would have been made the co-feature if Escobedo balked on the over-the-limit junior lightweight bout. Though it was someone who you would expect would know what was going on, I didn’t find it concrete enough to do anything but tweet that information and note that it was not 100 percent confirmed.
The report on Broner-Escobedo being off was reported from the West Coast, though someone on the scene was quoted in the story. That Ohio isn’t exactly a boxing hotbed these days meant there weren’t a high number of capable boxing writers in attendance like you would see at a big fight in Las Vegas, which in turn meant the story of weight wasn’t being covered as well on the scene. You did see a number of reports citing that Broner said the fight was still going on, yet that wasn’t given much credence amongst the belief that the fight was already off.
That this information can become available at a moment’s notice and then sent out to the masses is a great but also dangerous thing. Sometimes, the drive to be first with a story carries more importance than getting someone completely on the record, and in the case of Escobedo-Broner, there wasn’t a large time frame in which to fully investigate the validity of the report that the fight was off.
It did not help that neither HBO nor Golden Boy Promotions issued any sort of press release or statement regarding the status of the fight. Imagine being someone who was driving from a neighboring state to see Broner-Escobedo and reading on your timeline that the fight may not happen. Imagine if you were someone who worked on setting up the ring, the lights, matching the card, setting up the arena, and you were under the impression it might fall out completely.
If it were not for Twitter and other forms of social media, most of us would have found out the weight drama when HBO came on the air at 7 p.m. Pacific time. Instead, hardcore and casual fans alike were given hourly updates that the fight was off, then it was back on, then it was off, all the way up until four or five hours before fight night. This fight was off and on more times than Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey Jr. were in and out of rehab during their prime years of mischief.
The only word from Golden Boy really was via the @ringmagazine Twitter account, when someone that was not identified tweeted this quote from Eric Gomez: “Whoever wrote that the fight was off – F__K YOU, the fight is on.”
It is possible that the minute-by-minute reporting helped big time in getting Escobedo handsomely paid for fighting a guy two weights bigger than himself. In the end, Escobedo’s team signed a confidential agreement to take the fight, and it was later noted by Ring’s Doug Fischer that the WBO would allow Escobedo to maintain his #1 contender status in their 130 pound rankings since he was not fighting a true 130 pounder anymore.
Escobedo And Broner, Going Forward
That ranking aspect more than any could have contributed to Escobedo eventually agreeing to take the fight. This wasn’t a situation where Escobedo was someone deep down the rankings where it was going to be his only opportunity if he decided to walk away. Escobedo was the #1 contender; Broner, the WBO titleholder at the time, had not made weight and already announced intentions of moving up after the fight anyway.
Escobedo would have been presented an opportunity to fight for the vacant title in a much more advantageous position, though for admittedly far smaller of a payday. Given the thinness of the division, Escobedo would have to be given a good shot against anyone that was matched with him, and also wouldn’t have been coming in with the deck stacked against him.
Escobedo’s post-fight interview was a bit difficult to watch, in itself. The frustration he was feeling manifested itself to where he had a hard time answering Max Kellerman’s questions. Wouldn’t it be possible that Escobedo had mentally checked out of the fight when it was looking like it was off? Some inside the sport say there is no harder thing to do but get back into a fight mode when you think it has already passed you by.
Yes, Escobedo got life-changing money according to most reports on how his purse was upped. But isn’t it the job of his promoters to put him in a position where he is getting the highest reward along with the lowest risk of physical deterioration? Another question, since we all know which side of this equation Broner’s adviser Haymon was on — would Haymon ever allow a fighter of his to be talked into what Escobedo ended up going along with in the end?
Given what happened years ago when Arturo Gatti helped Joey Gamache develop an extended case of arrested consciousness by outweighing him by more than 20 pounds prior to knocking him senseless, the weight disadvantage was a serious one for Escobedo. Is there a certain amount of money for which one will knowingly take a bigger risk of danger? Given the recent birth of Escobedo’s daughter, it becomes even more difficult to think about turning down a sum of money that will hopefully set your family up for life.
Eventually, Golden Boy came through on behalf of Broner to keep Escobedo in the mix while Broner didn’t even do his part to apologize for the mess he made. To put it bluntly, a case could be made that Golden Boy risked the career of Escobedo in order to save the one of Broner, the fighter with more long term potential. It was a gamble they felt they had to take, and luckily for all parties involved it came off without serious incident.
Mark Ortega can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com and followed via Twitter at www.twitter.com/MarkEOrtega. Mark also contributes to renowned boxing publications RING Magazine and Boxing Monthly, and is a member of the Boxing Writer’s Association of America and RING Ratings Advisory Panel.