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The Boxing Esq. Podcast, Ep. 55: Haymon Sports’ Tim Smith

31
Jul

The Ring is proud to present “The Boxing Esq. Podcast with Kurt Emhoff”.  Emhoff, an attorney based in New York City, is a top boxing manager who has represented over 10 world champions in his 20-plus years in the sport. 

His guest on this episode the Vice President of Communications at Haymon Sports, Tim Smith. They spoke about the PBC’s game plan in not rushing to be first to come back to the airways Post-COVID and how their schedule of fights came together over the months that they were off-air.

They got into the difficulties of putting on shows with the various medical and logistical problems associated with COVID and how PBC prepared for the inevitability of a fighter testing positive – as it happened on their very first show with Stephon Fulton.

Additionally, they spoke about the excellent schedule of fights that PBC rolled out on Showtime including the Charlo twins shared PPV, Gervonta “Tank” Davis vs. Leo Santa Cruz, Nordine Ouballi vs. Nonito Donaire and what to expect for the upcoming schedule for PBC on FOX.

Below are a few excerpts from the interview:

 

On PBC’s strategy of hanging back and not rushing to be the first entity back with boxing post-COVID shutdown:

“Well hanging back, but also working. We have a number of champions. We have a number of guys that are top contenders and everything. But, you want them to be able to come back during the time where you can put them in meaningful matches. But you want them to be safe as well. So a lot of the time has been spent putting together those meaningful matches – championship matches, high caliber, 50-50 match-ups. Working on matches to build the prospects and keep the contenders climbing the ladder. And then just working on the safety protocols. Just taking a page from the book of everybody that’s come back and sports and also taking the advice of all the healthcare experts and the governmental authorities that are overseeing the protocols. 

But, you don’t want to come back or we didn’t want to come back just for the sake of being the first one out of the gate and coming back and not having a good enough product that we’d be proud to put the PBC label on and be in a situation where if someone did come down with a COVID that we would be able to have in place inadequate replacement so that you wouldn’t lose the match and the match would remain competitive. So that is part of the delay in coming back. Because you have to take all those variables into consideration. And everybody that has been involved on that side has done a remarkable job with having contingencies in place so that those matches don’t suffer. Or they don’t get scratched completely because you don’t want to do a disservice to your network partner and leave them high and dry and they would have an inferior product to put on the air. And you don’t want to disappoint the fans. 

At the end of the day, it is the entertainment business and you want the people to tune in and be entertained. So you don’t want a lot of showcase fights or a lot of mismatches and you want championship matches where there’s something on the line. Where both the participants are going at it fairly hard because they want a coveted prize. They want a world championship. So, I say all of that to say that we took a measured approach and came back with a product that we think everybody is going to enjoy and something that we would be proud to put the PBC label on.”

On the type of protocols the PBC has to implement to put the shows on: 

“I think those protocols that are in place are very good protocols. I don’t know the entire detail of what it is, but I know that there is a lot of testing involved. I know before people get there, they have to be tested in their hometown before they leave home. Then once they get there, they have to be administered another test. And, then they are within the bubble of moving back and forth between the secure areas and everything. 

And then they have to take another test before they can go into the arena where the fights are going to happen. So there’s a lot of testing that’s going on. And I know a lot of our fighters have been tested multiple times leading up to this to make sure that they were healthy even before they got to the hotel and in the arena. So, all of that is in place so that you have an environment where no one is going to get sick. Obviously, you know, there are occasions where people get sick and we’ve had that this week with Stephen Fulton right. You know, but that in and of itself shows that these protocols work because he never got into the containment area of the arena.

They caught it before he could get that far. So, unfortunately, he had to be replaced in the main event, but the replacement (Tramaine Williams) is equally up to the task. He’s an undefeated young fighter. And again, he comes in with an opportunity. He was going to be fighting a title eliminator, but he got a battlefield promotion. And now he’s got a chance at a world title. In this particular case, it worked out for him. But again, it’s a matter of having those people in place so that you don’t lose the quality of the matchup, you know and that’s very foresighted on the part of the people that we have putting these matches together and putting these shows together.”

On the constant rumors that Showtime is going out of the boxing business:

“Here’s the thing that always surprises me is how boxing writing is like an echo chamber and it’s just groupthink. And when you look at it and when you think about it, it’s like, what would make you think that they’re going out of business now? If you were doing some reporting and you found out that maybe the new owner of CBS, Viacom, or if you talked to somebody that was on the board of Viacom and they said, “Oh, I’m going to make it my business to get rid of boxing.” And you wrote a story about that. Then you could say, well, you know what, Showtime isn’t long for this world because there’s a guy on the board of directors of Viacom that hates boxing and doesn’t think it’s worth it. 

Showtime is a subscription business. It’s not tied to ratings. It’s tied to subscriptions. Now, if they started dropping subscribers, because the subscriber said, Oh, I hate boxing. And they just started to lose a couple of million subscribers. And then they did research and found out that those couple of million people that left, left because they hated boxing. Then they’d be going like, you know what? We got to get out of boxing programs to try to bring those people back. But as far as I know, there hasn’t been a mass exodus of people.  While ratings are important.  People like to know what’s being seen by people and ratings and everything. They have a commitment to the sport. They have a history in the sport and despite the noise in the echo chamber, they were still getting good matches. They were still getting good entertaining fights. 

And I gotta tell you, ShoBox is a nice entertaining series. You see a lot of guys that are developed on that series. So, the whole thing with people saying, they’re going out of business – are you looking at the overall product or are you just part of the echo chamber? And I always thought during the pandemic that of all the entities that were involved in boxing, Showtime was best suited to spin out and be in a position to have some really meaningful fights and be able to come out on its feet because they had the ability to continue to pay people. They had a budget that they weren’t going to tap into for four months.

And I don’t think CBS or Viacom came to them and said give me back the money that you budgeted for these fights. Because the programming was going to spend forward, you know what I’m saying? So you can go full out and you can spend some money and you can continue to pay guys what you’ve been paying them before. I thought that Showtime was in the best position to do that. To make meaningful, interesting, compelling matches, and spin out of the pandemic in good shape. And, you know, going back to last year, I still thought that Showtime was going to be able to make some good matches. They still had some quality fighters that were still fighting on the network, despite some of them being shifted over to Fox.

But think about it, everybody can’t fight on Fox,. Somebody’s got to fight on Showtime and Premier Boxing Champions is the feeder system for both networks. So it’s not like Showtime has Top Rank and Fox has just PBC and, and Matchroom or Golden Boy, or however it’s split and none of these guys are gonna be able to cross-pollinate or anything. The PBC is going to put guys on either network, depending on what works for each network. And, you know, Showtime is going to be in a position to bid for fights. They’re going to bid for the fights that make sense for them. I can never understand why people just, you know, and I don’t say people cause I think fans sort of get it. But I can never understand why writers don’t think a little bit more about what they write or do a little bit more reporting and try to understand what it is that they’re, they’re saying or what it is that they’re reporting on. Make a couple of phone calls, make some phone calls, talk to some people, and get an understanding of what the sport is all about. But don’t get caught in a situation where you’re just buying something that somebody says because they’re pushing an agenda or a narrative or whatever. And don’t get caught in an echo chamber where you’re just repeating something that someone else says, because you think it’s the popular opinion to have – particularly with no basis with no foundation for what you’re saying. So, I digressed again, but I’m just very passionate about, I’m just very passionate about people thinking.”

On the potential star power of David Benavidez:

“I like Benevidez because this guy has star power. People are attracted to him. Kids are attracted to him. We did a function out in LA before he fought Dirrell on the Porter-Spence undercard. And we did these open workouts at LA Live. There’s like this little Plaza at LA Live that connects to the streets. So we did these open workouts for the fans and everything. And he had more people there for him. And he was throwing cards and candy and signing autographs and taking pictures. And it was so weird. People were passing their babies for him to hold the baby. So they can take a picture with the baby. Sorta like when the kid grows up, they’d be able to say, Hey, when you were a baby, David Benavidez, you remember the great star David Benavidez. And I was like, what is this guy running for mayor of Los Angeles or something? People were passing their babies for pictures. You’ve got like incredible star power. People love him – old people, babies, young people, girls, you know, I mean, everybody, like, you know, boxing fans, everybody loved him! So he’s got some kind of magnetism or charisma or something. There’s something about him that people are just attracted to and drawn to. And, if he can make his way through this and become a unified champion, he’s going to be a megastar. I’m sure probably he’ll go up to 175. But he’s going to be a real, real big star if he can just keep it all together.” 

On how the Jermell Charlo-Jeison Rosario junior middleweight unification fight got made:

“I know that there was an immediate rematch for J-Rock (Julien Williams) in this deal and he said, Hey, look, I’m going to step back and let it simmer for a little while. Good for him, to realize that maybe it’s not so good to jump right back in that situation and it just opened the way for this to happen. This is one of those situations, like I said, that in 2020, we get back down to the next step in the next phase of this. And I’m so happy that this wasn’t kicked down the road to 2021. And we get a chance to see this right now. This is a fantastic matchup and Rosario is a very, very, very tough guy. Oh man. He was just unmovable against J-Rock. I mean he just wasn’t going to be denied.”