Golden Boy Promotions Jumps In With Two Feet
By Felipe Leon
Fighters are the most important piece in the boxing business. Without them, there is no boxing, plain and simple but right along with them are the promoters who with their financial investment and business acumen provide the platform for the fighters to perform.
Since the mid-sixties the most prominent promoters in the world have been Top Rank led by Bob Arum and Don King. Both men have at one point or another have thrown their hat in the female boxing world, more prominently in the late 80 and 90s but soon did not see it as a viable part of their respective companies.
In 2002 Oscar De La Hoya decided to take what he learned from his years with Arum and he began his own company, Golden Boy Promotions. Slowly but surely De La Hoya and his team began to grow his company and soon was competing with Top Rank with King for the most part out of the picture.
Despite having such names as Kaliesha West, Melinda Cooper, Celina Salazar, Ana Julaton and Mariana “Barbie” Juarez on their cards through out the years in the United States, it wasn’t until last year and their series at the Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles, did the company really began to set a direction for female boxing on their cards.
East L.A.’s Seniesa Estrada was the first to be featured on the Estrella TV network on a Golden Boy Promotions card beating Cristina Fuentes in a flyweight six rounder in June of last year while four months later super middleweight Maricela Cornejo defeated Eliza Olson also on a six rounder on the same network.
Finally, near the end of last year, the Los Angeles-based promotional company announced they had signed their first female boxer in 2012 London bronze medalist Marlen Esparza, 27, of Houston, Texas, to an exclusive promotional contract.
Esparza made her debut under the Golden Boy banner on March 25th with a four round decision over the over matched Rachel Sazoff (0-3) in Indio, CA, live on ESPN.
The signing was a long time coming.
Both Oscar De La Hoya and the company’s now president Eric Gomez made their way to Cancun, Mexico, for the WBC’s first female boxing convention as the special guests of the organization’s president Mauricio Sulaiman.
“I am still on the fence because it hurts me to see women get hit but at the same time its equality and equal rights,” De La Hoya said to Fightnews.com’s Bob Newman at the time. “Women are as tough or even tougher than guys. As a person who has feelings it is a hurt that I feel when a women gets hit but you think about how women want to be champions just like the men which is no problem. They have every single right too so being here is obviously is leaning me towards maybe one day scheduling female boxing on Golden Boy cards.”
With Esparza showing interest in going pro, De La Hoya recognized she was the right fighter, in and out of the ring, to be the first to be signed to his company. “The fact that she can fight, the fact she can perform inside the ring but obviously the person she is outside the ring. She is very marketable, most important she can fight, I think having to sign Marlen is going to open up the door for other women, other female fighters we will have the opportunity to sign. Marlen is the first of many we are going to work with in the near future.”
Gomez, who is in charge of the day-to-day dealings of the company, seconds De La Hoya’s feelings on the Mexican-American fighter.
“We wanted to get the right person, we wanted to get someone we felt was the right fit for Golden Boy,” Gomez explained. “We think we found that. She is easy to promote. She is a very good fighter, ex-Olympian, she won a medal in the Olympics, she has many sponsors but here in the United States it has been a little more difficult promoting women so we wanted to be very, very careful. We got a good response with Marlen and we are hoping to work with a lot more women.”
Always the promoter, Gomez understands the fact Esparza speaks fluent Spanish as well as having a connection to the Hispanic audience is something that can be worked on to improve her popularity. Part of those plans is to take Esparza south of the border to Mexico where female boxing is not only respected but also heavily promoted on both of the biggest television networks in the country, Televisa and Azteca.
“Yes, definitely, a lot of the good fighters are in Mexico. At one point or another we are going to have to take a trip down there and do something. Houston as well, we want to build her market in Houston. We have many, many plans for her, she only has one fight. It is going to take time; we are going to take our time. We want to build it right because we want to be able to sustain women’s boxing. We don’t want to do just women’s fights. We want to be able to sustain it and if there is a true market here in the United States I think it can be very successful.”
As mentioned before, Esparza made her pro debut on ESPN that was quite possibly the biggest platform any woman has performed yet this year despite Amanda Serrano being featured on Showtime Extreme and Claressa Shields on ShoBox.
“They got a great response,” Gomez said of the network’s opinion of Esparza. “Her fight from all the fights, we had three really good fights, her fight was featured on Sportscenter. They are very high on her. ESPN has a rich tradition of doing women’s fights. I think they did a lot of the Laila Ali fights early on and they had a lot of prominent boxers fight on there. They are excited about her and they want her back on the network.”
So according to Gomez, the company is ready sooner than later to sign their next female fighter to their ranks. “I think we are ready now. We had a very good response with her in her first fight and now she will be on this big card on with ‘Canelo-Chavez’ and a lot more people will get to see her. We are ready now and we are starting to look who is the next person we can sign. We are ready now.”
Gomez did not divulge whom they had in their sights while the company’s namesake, De La Hoya, did give an indication of who he would be interested in signing next.
“I have to see the whole package,” he shared. “There is young a lady of Claressa Shields who I would love to work with so we will see what happens.”
(Photo by Ray Flores)