Boxing: Stephen Espinoza

Publicist Swanson wins via TKO1

November, 16, 2013
Some of her colleagues were chuckling post-fight, as the publicist to Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather was interviewed by the boxing writer, and being asked how she felt getting a win in her fighting debut.

But nobody was chuckling about Kelly Swanson's in-ring demeanor on Saturday night, at a jam-packed Gleason's Gym in DUMBO; the debuter, who strode to the ring in a blue robe with the words "The Communicator" stitched on the back, with cornerman Hopkins whispering encouragement and combat tips in her ear, showed a sharp left hand which made her foe Amy Handelsman do a 180 in the first round. Swanson quickly whacked Handelsman with combos, forcing a standing eight. The action resumed, but not for long. Swanson moved in for the kill, let her hands go, and the ref was forced to step in and halt the scrap. The end came at 53 seconds elapsed in round one.

The fight was the main event of a charity card, Fighters 4 Life Showcase, to raise money for at-risk youth, who can learn about fitness, and self-discipline and work towards positive goal-setting at Gleason's.

Afterwards, Swanson was barely breathing hard as she dissected her performance and the experience. Lisa Milner, Swanson's right hand for the past few years while helping promote Mayweather and Hopkins fights, was howling as she watched me query Swanson, who's done the same to the best in the business in her 20 plus years in the game. "The butterflies as you're getting ready, getting your hands wrapped, everything, are incredible," Swanson told me. "But once the bell rings you just get into it and fight."

Hopkins pre-fight told me that he'd told Swanson to keep it simple, don't try and get fancy. She complied, but with extra zest, firing with the same firmness and directness she often exhibits doing the publicity chores.

A celeb-studded crowd packed the joint, as Rosie Perez, and fighters Peter Quillin, Danny Jacobs, Yuri Foreman, Marcus Browne and Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza attended, to raise funds for the kids, and cheer on the publicist, who did indeed live up to the name "The Communicator:" Swanson communicated some serious intent with a thudding left hand, and even better, serious skills as a fundraiser: she raised $11,270 for the charity, tops among the 12 participants in the event.

Showtime, HBO both have boxing Dec. 7

October, 8, 2013
Fight fans, fire up the DVRs, because we have a dueling dates situation emerging, on Dec. 7.

Showtime will present fights taking place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn that evening, and HBO will also put on a show, topped by a Guillermo Rigondeaux title defense against Ghana-born Bronx resident Joseph Agbeko. Top Rank will lead the Atlantic City promotion, which will unfold most likely at Boardwalk Hall's intimate theater.

The Barclays card is still in a state of flux, though it is getting close to being fully firmed up. Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza told me that it is looking like an NYC duel between Bensonhurt's Paul Malignaggi and Brownsville's Zab Judah in a welterweight clash will be the main event, while a title defense by WBA interim welterweight champion Keith Thurman against journeyman-turned-contender Jesus Soto Karass will be chief support.

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Could Thurman or Garcia test Mayweather?

September, 19, 2013
Come one, come all, step right up and test yourself against the greatest boxer of his generation, and perhaps, of all time.

The search is on for someone, anyone, who can test Floyd Mayweather (45-0 with 26 KOs), the superlative ring technician who made a very good boxer named Canelo Alvarez look very average on Saturday night.

I asked Al Bernstein, the Hall of Fame broadcaster who helped call on Showtime pay-per-view the Mayweather win in Las Vegas to chime in and offer some clarity on what direction Floyd goes next.

"Right now I don't see a welterweight who can give him a genuine challenge," Bernstein told me. "I think in a year Keith Thurman (current interim WBA welter champ; 21-0 record) would be my choice as a 147-pound challenger. For now, the path would probably be another foray into the 154-pound division to create a match that would be difficult for him. Clearly either Sergio Martinez or Gennady Golovkin coming down to 154 would be quite interesting."

In the scrap right before Mayweather again showed his thorough dominance of the form, Danny Garcia (27-0; current WBC and WBA 140-pound champ), the 25-year-old Philadelphia-based boxer, impressed even those who had held out labeling him the real deal and insisted he'd elevated himself to a certain level on the backs of faded foes. Garcia showed poise and strategic superiority of an ultra-vet in figuring out power-punching Argentine Lucas Matthysse, and earning a unanimous decision. Perhaps he could be slotted against Mayweather next May, when Floyd gloves up again?

"Danny Garcia could move up to 147, but I don't know if that is marketable enough or if Garcia can make that move up and be a threat to Floyd," Bernstein said. "I do know three fighters who would make great matches for Floyd, but unfortunately Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns and Sugar Ray Robinson are not available."

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How about Mayweather-Quillin?

September, 18, 2013
I’ve been mocked in the not too distant past for suggesting that Floyd Mayweather is such a ring talent that it would be wise to widen the scope of the search for future foes beyond the 147-to-154-pound region. I got whacked around like a piņata at a kids party for suggesting super-middleweight Andre Ward may be the only person anywhere near Floyd’s weight class to test him. I was dismissed for being a Floyd hater, with the critics deeming me a lunatic for suggesting that Mayweather, really best suited to fight at welterweight, tangle with Ward, even if Ward offered to make a catchweight of say, 162 pounds. And what if Ward's contract called for him to gain no more than two pounds post weigh-in, he could come in to the ring weighing about what Canelo weighed on Saturday? I still think I'm not a lunatic.

We should not, I don’t think, dismiss potential matchups like Mayweather-Ward or Mayweather-Bernard Hopkins, because I still don’t see anyone at or near the 147-154 pound class giving “Money” problems. But, what about 160 pounds? How about Peter “Kid Choclate” Quillin? Maybe Floyd could be persuaded to edge up to 160 pounds and challenge Quillin for his WBO strap? They could do the bout in Brooklyn, and the fantasy matchup gets one step closer to reality with the knowledge that Quillin is a Golden Boy fighter, and fights on Showtime, which is the company Mayweather signed has his mega-deal with.

I reached out to Quillin’s co-manager, Jon Seip, and broached the subject with him. Could he see a Mayweather-Quillin faceoff?

“I can’t see Floyd going to 160,” he told me. “Not when Sergio Martinez and Gennady Golovkin can go to 154.”

OK, but if an overture were made, would Quillin do it?

“We will listen to any fight,” he said.

And would Quillin shrink down to, maybe, 156, to even the playing field?

“No,” Seip said.

Regarding Martinez and Golovkin, both those gents work under the HBO umbrella and I don’t see that relationship switching. Just to be sure, I reached out to Team Martinez’s Nathan Lewkowicz; his dad Sampson Lewkowicz advises Martinez, who is promoted by Lou DiBella. “Sergio has a contract with HBO and he’s loyal to HBO and HBO has done right by him,” Nathan told me.

Sort of sounds like as of now you can shelve the Mayweather-Martinez meetup, eh?

Readers, you dig a Mayweather-Quillin scrap, if "Money" signed off on it, and liked the idea of questing for a middleweight crown?

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Weigh-in goes smoothly; Schaefer exhales

June, 21, 2013
NEW YORK -- Promoter Richard Schaefer breathed a sigh of relief when the Friday weigh-in for the Saturday card at Barclays Center concluded, and no premature violence broke out.

The event unfolded at Brooklyn Borough Hall Outdoor Plaza. Welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi and up-from-lightweight Adrien Broner talked trash and glared at each other, but held it together and no melee occurred.

Schaefer's ace in the hole is fighter Bernard Hopkins, who works for Golden Boy and was right there, in between the main-event boxers as they did a staredown after making weight. "I can take a step back and I don't have to worry about it and I know Bernard will have it under control," Schaefer said. "He's my secret weapon."

Schaefer said he thinks some last-minute smart money will go toward Malignaggi, and the 11-to-1 odds in favor of Cincinnati boxer Broner set by the smarts might be too high.

If Broner beats Malignaggi, a scrap with Marcos Maidana could be in the works, Schaefer said. "Who wouldn't want to see that?" he asked.

Other possibilities for Broner, if he prevails, include the Andre Berto-Jesus Soto Karass winner; Devon Alexander; Amir Khan; or veteran Shane Mosley, who won in his comeback fight against Pablo Cano last month.

Schaefer also said that the winner of a Danny Garcia-Lucas Matthysse fight, which Schaefer is working on, would be a good fit against Broner.

Asked about the rumor that 140-pound standout Garcia is more likely to first have a rematch with Zab Judah than meet Matthysse, his mandatory, Schaefer said, "I don't know where those rumors came from about Zab."

He said both teams indicated to him that they want to get it on. Judah will be in the mix again soon, the promoter said, but the people are demanding Garcia-Matthysse. "I don't believe in marinating too much," he said.

Floyd, Canelo were 'serious' and 'intense'

June, 21, 2013
Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza presided over a Tuesday session which brought Floyd Mayweather and Mexican phenom Canelo Alvarez together for some photos in Los Angeles. I asked Espinoza what he gleaned from the meetup.

"Both guys were very serious," he said, as he waited for the Malignaggi-Broner presser to begin on Thursday at Barclays Center. "Intense. Quiet intensity, because of the language barrier." (Alvarez is still working on his English; Mayweather doesn't speak Spanish.)

Espinoza joked that it's a good bet Floyd learns a few Spanish phrases in order to better needle Canelo in the coming months, heading to their Sept. 14 scrap in Las Vegas.

Did Espinoza read anything into their body language? "Canelo didn't seem intimidated at all," he reported. "He's a really cool customer."

Floyd, Alvarez: Monday in Times Square

June, 19, 2013

Showtime has pulled out all the stops for the first event in its 11-city, two-country tour to hype the Sept. 14 showdown between pound-for-pound boss Floyd Mayweather and Mexico's Canelo Alvarez.

Mayweather and Alvarez will meet and greet fans on Monday at the Pedestrian Walk in Times Square, on Broadway between 46th and 47th streets. Fans are encouraged to arrive by 2 p.m.; a news conference is set to start at 3 p.m.

"An event this big deserves a big stage -- and there's no bigger public stage in NYC than Times Square," Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza told NYFightblog.

"The symbolic hub of New York City is the perfect place to host the kick-off for the biggest boxing event of the year."

The Mayweather-Alvarez fight will take place in Las Vegas.

Here are the dates for the prefight tour:

Monday: New York
Tuesday: Washington
Wednesday, June 26: Grand Rapids, Mich., and Chicago
Thursday, June 27: Atlanta
Friday, June 28: Miami
Sunday, June 30: Mexico City
Monday, July 1: Houston and San Antonio
Tuesday, July 2: Phoenix and Los Angeles

Mayweather-Canelo set for Sept. 14

May, 30, 2013
All-time great boxer Floyd Mayweather is throwing it in the faces of doubters who thought he might avoid Canelo Alvarez, the 22-year-old Mexican hitter with a 42-0-1 (30 KOs) record.

Shortly after 10 p.m. on Thursday, Mayweather (44-0 with 26 KOs), the 36-year-old Las Vegas resident, took to Twitter to announce that he'd be returning to the ring on Sept. 14 in Las Vegas.

"I chose my opponent for September 14th and it's Canelo Alvarez," he tweeted. "I'm giving the fans what they want. It will be at the MGM Grand."

The fight will be the second of his six-fight deal with Showtime. Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza told NYFightblog that he sees Alvarez, who turned pro at age 15 in Mexico, as a stiff test for Mayweather.

"Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez are the two biggest stars in boxing, and Mayweather versus Canelo is by far the biggest fight possible," Espinoza said. "Boxing fans worldwide have been clamoring for it. Neither Floyd nor Canelo ever wavered in their desire to make the fight happen and to give the fans what they want. Rarely has a fight this big gotten done so quickly and painlessly."

The two junior middleweight title belts held by Canelo will be up for grabs, but the bout will be fought at a catchweight of 152 pounds or less. Mayweather has campaigned at 154, but his frame is more comfortable at 147 pounds, so this arrangement is somewhat of a compromise.

The Sept. 14 date is a bonanza for Mexican fight fans, and the promoters of A-list fight cards featuring A-grade Mexican talent, as it will fall on Mexican Independence Day weekend. Canelo exploded as a certified ticket mover with his last fight, which took place on April 20 in San Antonio against Austin Trout. Canelo knocked down Trout in the seventh round and took a unanimous victory in 12 rounds in front of 39,472 fans at the Alamodome.

This matchup, with the Mexican who has taken the matinee idol reins from Oscar De La Hoya, who now promotes him, comes as a surprise to Floyd doubters who thought Mayweather might steer a path around the sturdy and composed boxer.

Mayweather and Canelo each fought Shane Mosley. Floyd did it first, in May 2010, and after being buzzed in the second round, he coasted to a unanimous win. Canelo scored a unanimous decision over Mosley in May 2012, and Mosley hung up the gloves shortly after, though he re-entered the ring two weeks ago, with a win over Pablo Cano.

More drama ahead of Garcia-Judah fight

April, 25, 2013
If the Saturday clash between WBA and WBC 140-pound champion Danny Garcia and ex-junior welter and welter titlist Zab Judah contains half the drama that the buildup to the fight has provided, then fans at Barclays Center and watching on Showtime will have gotten their money's worth.

Team Garcia and Team Judah butted heads on Tuesday, at a promotional appearance held at the Modell's sporting goods store across from the arena, with the Garcia crew maintaining that Judah crashed the event and thus spurred a dustup. No punches were thrown, but Garcia's dad/trainer Angel Garcia yelled at Judah, the 35-year-old Brooklyn-born hitter, and tried to flip a table. Promoter Golden Boy didn't want a repeat performance, or even a full-blown rumble, so they sent out word on Wednesday night to both camps that the final press conference would run differently than normal. The fighters would appear at the arena separately, and wouldn't cross paths, the promoter decided.

So, after Oscar De la Hoya talked about the headline bout, and the undercard attractions, and let fighters like Peter Quillin and challenger Fernando Guerrero speak, the dais was cleared, and the Garcias sat down. Angel, who has history of being incendiary and provocative, apologized to Modell's for the dustup the other day. The 25-year-old Philadelphian Danny Garcia (25-0 with 16 KOs) then took to the mic and said he was "gonna destroy" Judah (42-7 with 29 KOs). "I'm injury free, the most motivated I've ever been, and I'm more dangerous than I was before," Garcia said. He promised to "beat the s---" out of Judah and then sat down.

The press was then told that Judah had been waiting at the arena, but had left. De La Hoya commented to the press that Judah's conduct was "unprofessional." Lo and behold, 10 minutes later, word spread that Judah was on his way back, and would make an appearance.

Fifteen minutes later, after Team Garcia was hustled out, Judah, along with his father-trainer Yoel and about eight other crew-members, took to the mic. "You called me unprofessional," Judah accused De La Hoya, who was about seven feet away from him, on the stage. Bernard Hopkins stepped between the men, to blunt any escalation.

"He made a comment," Judah said of De La Hoya. "You got to fix your facts first. I never had a problem with you!" Oscar took sips from a water bottle, a tight look on his face, but he didn't respond.

Judah complained that he'd been in the arena, with some of his crew, since 11 a.m. He said that he felt disrespected, a second class citizen and deserved better with almost 17 years in the pro game. He took questions from the press and said that he did indeed return to Barclays after reading on Twitter that De La Hoya called him "unprofessional."

He said he crashed the Modell's event not to make trouble, but to support fellow Brooklyn and New York talents Danny Jacobs, Peter Quillin and Marcus Browne. He implied that he did so to send a message that Brooklyn is his turf. He said, "I was born and raised in Brooklyn!" The veteran fighter had choice words for the senior Garcia, who he called a "dopehead" and a "custie," which is street slang for a user.

Judah then got off the stage and was barraged with more questions from the press. After a few minutes, Oscar came over and shook his hand, nodded at him, without saying anything, and left. Judah explained further that he came back for the presser to show he's "not a quitter, not a runner."

A source from Showtime told NYFightblog that Judah called Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza after the boxer left and said he was coming back, to clear his name. The source said that both camps were informed Wednesday night that the press conference would be formatted like this, so Judah should not have been surprised at the lengthy wait.

A weigh-in is to be held Friday at Barclays, at 1 p.m., and is to be open to the public. A source close to the promotion told me that switching the weigh-in to a private event is likely not an option, so probably arrangements will be made so once again, Team Judah and Team Garcia don't cross paths.

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Is Floyd on CBS, off PPV, a pipe dream?

March, 27, 2013
Stephen Espinoza runs boxing at Showtime and has put his stamp on the program in a big way, with the signing of the game's top pugilist, Floyd Mayweather, to a mega-deal that will span six fights and guarantees Floyd somewhere in the neighborhood of $38 million a fight.

Espinoza chatted with NYFightblog on Tuesday afternoon, at the Vanderbilt Suites at the MetLife Building on Park Avenue, during a media luncheon to shine the spotlight on Robert Guerrero, Mayweather's opponent for a May 4 fight. This will be the first fight for Floyd under the Showtime banner, after fighting on HBO since 1997.

I asked Espinoza if we might see Floyd fighting on CBS, not on Showtime pay-per-view. In my mind, it's a no-brainer that the sport needs to birth more fans. The best fights and fighters have been behind the PPV paywall for 20-plus years now, and as a result, there are only about 1.2 million, give or take, hardcore fight fans in the U.S. That is the rough number of people who tune in to the top fights offered by HBO and Showtime, and can be relied upon to buy top-level PPVs.

Is it a pipe dream, I asked Espinoza -- an attorney who worked for Mike Tyson, and then Golden Boy Promotions before being named Showtime boss in November 2011 -- to think we might see Mayweather fight on CBS on a Saturday night?

"No, it's not a pipe dream," Espinoza told me. "Floyd is known for doing the unexpected."

I have to imagine that it would be a hard lift to try to achieve the same money take from advertising and sponsorships and such, compared with the numbers generated by hardcore fans ponying up 1.5 million times, at $60 a pop, generating $90 million. Advertisers throw about $4 million per commercial at the NFL during the Super Bowl.

Yes, fight revenue has to be shared with the cable providers, the fighters are richly compensated and the promoter gets a cut. But even after that pie gets divvied, there's more to be made via the PPV model than the ad-based model. So, how is it not a pipe dream? "It would have to be a very different, an alternative business model," Espinoza said.

I see it as a smart investment, even if you don't quite match the PPV take. Why? Because you will be giving easy access to stellar prizefights, not making people traverse a moat to get to the fight, drawing from a pool of 110 million households, versus about 100 million households wired for cable/satellite. It's never easy to take the long view, and leave some money on the table, but I get the feeling that Espinoza and some other influential dealmakers share my thinking.

We, boxing fans who love the sport and want to share our addiction, certainly hope so. We deserve it, because we have to dig harder into our pockets than other fans of other sports.

Schaefer: Floyd likely to pick next foe soon

November, 27, 2012
The head of Showtime Sports, Stephen Espinoza, and Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer both attended the Miguel Cotto open workout at Gleason's Gym Tuesday, and NYFightBlog picked their brains for intel on what's on the docket on the network, and what's next for some of the best and brightest on the Golden Boy roster.

Espinoza said that Jan. 19 is set for a Devon Alexander-Kell Brook showdown, and that event will likely land at the MGM in Las Vegas. He said bomber Lucas Matthysse and Selcuk Aydin would likely strut their stuff on the card as well.

IBF welter champ Alexander sports a 24-1 mark, vs. 29-0 for the Brit Brook, who sports the nickname "The Special One" but who hasn't been with anyone nearing the quality of the slickster Alexander. And who might Matthysse tangle with? "We'll match him with an action guy," Espinoza said.

Also, Showtime will be featuring content from a Feb. 9 Barclays Center card, promoted by Golden Boy. You might recall Philly's Danny Garcia topped the Oct. 20 inaugural show; he will again be heading up the bill, meeting Brooklyn native Zab Judah, the talented and mercurial speedster who is telling one and all that he will put it all together, mentally, physically and spiritually, against the WBC and WBA 140 pound champ, who sent Erik Morales' head into the fifth row on Oct. 20.

Peter Quillin, who rose in everyone's eyes with a mashup on Hassan N'Dam, taking that man's WBO middleweight belt, will glove up. It has been rumored that ex-middleweight champ Jermain Taylor will get the assignment. The Twittersphere isn't overjoyed at the prospect, judging Taylor too far past his prime. I seem to recall that Taylor had a contract when he took part in the Super Six tournament, so maybe Showtime still owes him a fight or two?

Schaefer was still buzzing a bit from the solid Robert Guerrero showing Saturday night, as the Ghost took out Andre Berto in a Basilio-ish rumble. Schaefer said he has been talking with Team Mayweather about putting Guerrero in with Floyd, and the promoter said we could know next week who and when Floyd will fight.

Schaefer said "Floyd likes challenges" and will likely pick from among Guerrero, Canelo Alvarez and perhaps Cotto in a rematch for his next outing.

"Floyd doesn't shy away from anyone," Schaefer said. "Now, he will say, 'Let's see what the money is.'"

Schaefer said Mayweather doesn't fear one guy or the other, and wouldn't regard the junior middleweight Canelo as too big or strong. Of course, there is no shortage of people wanting a poke at Mayweather, but Schaefer thinks Guerrero "jumped the line." He said he has a fine relationship with Mayweather advisers Al Haymon and Leonard Ellerbe, so conversations will be taking place the next few days, Schaefer said.