LAS VEGAS – Fight week kicks off Monday and for the next six days, the eyes of the sports world will focus squarely on Floyd Mayweather as he prepares to face Marcos Maidana at the MGM Grand Garden on Saturday in what is expected to be another rousing financial success.
Mayweather is in the stretch run of a career in which he's earned more than a quarter of a billion dollars and become one of the greats in his sport.
He has four fights left, if he is to be believed when he says he'll retire after his current six-fight pact with Showtime ends, and then it will be off to boxing immortality.
This time, however, Mayweather is only a peripheral piece in what is emerging as not only the biggest story of this year but also of the past decade, one that could significantly alter the boxing landscape.
It's hardly a secret that Richard Schaefer, the CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, and Oscar De La Hoya, the company's founder, namesake and president, are at odds.
Schaefer admitted as much to Yahoo Sports in March that he was having problems with De La Hoya, but said at the time he was trying to work out the issues.
"A couple of years ago there were these rumors around that Oscar and me had these issues, but everything got worked out," Schaefer told Yahoo Sports on March 26. "I've been married a long time; actually, tomorrow it will be 21 years. Sometimes, you have issues and you work them out. But you know what? Sometimes you don't work them out and you wind up not working them out. That's why sometimes marriages end in divorce. Sometimes, they don't.
"I have been 14 years here and I have friends who have been friends of mine since childhood. As I said, I've been married 21 years. I'm not the kind of guy who walks out if there is the slightest problem. You try to work them out. Sometimes you're able to work them out and sometimes you are not."
As much as De La Hoya tries to brush it under the rug – last week, he told the Los Angeles Times that he'd signed Schaefer to a contract extension through 2018, which Schaefer promptly denied – the story is quickly gaining momentum.
Neither side is willing to explain the origin of the dispute, but have little doubt Mayweather is in the middle of it.
De La Hoya brought Schaefer into boxing at a time when he desperately needed someone to advise him and manage his affairs. Schaefer did a brilliant job as De La Hoya's manager and worked collaboratively with Top Rank to put on several major pay-per-views.
Schaefer also worked to build Golden Boy Promotions into arguably the sport's top promoter. For most of De La Hoya's career as an active boxer, which ran from 1992 through 2008, Top Rank was far and away the sport's most powerful promoter.
In De La Hoya's early years, Don King Productions and Main Events were strong rivals, but Top Rank had the largest, deepest stable and year in and year out put on the biggest shows.
Many of them were headlined by De La Hoya, and some of those that weren't, were headlined by Mayweather. At one point, Top Rank had massive draws and popular attractions such as De La Hoya, Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, the late Diego Corrales and Erik Morales all under contract at the same time.
Family discord tore Main Events apart, at least for a while, and as King aged and his fighters left him, he became less and less relevant in the big picture.
In the previous decade, Golden Boy began its ascent into the promotional big leagues. But it wasn't until 2007 when Golden Boy put on the De La Hoya-Mayweather fight that it had the wherewithal to threaten Top Rank for supremacy at the sport's highest level.
That was all because of Mayweather. It was clear De La Hoya's greatest days were behind him, and, indeed, he fought just twice more after losing a split decision to Mayweather on May 5, 2007, that did an astonishingly high 2.5 million on pay-per-view.
In the middle of the previous decade, Mayweather was becoming disillusioned with the way Top Rank was promoting him. He wanted to fight more often on pay-per-view and he wanted to market to the hip-hop crowd and major urban markets.
Top Rank was trying to build him in the manner it had done with Sugar Ray Leonard, and was trying to promote him as the All-American boy with the incredible talent and captivating smile.
After a pair of somewhat successful pay-per-view shows, against Arturo Gatti (369,000) and Zab Judah (378,000), Mayweather finally split from Top Rank for good.
Mayweather worked with Dan Goossen for one show and did 320,000 buys for a fight with Carlos Baldomir, before beginning his relationship with Golden Boy in 2007.
Mayweather needed a company with a valid promotional license because his company, Mayweather Promotions, wasn't licensed to do business in Nevada.
Schaefer was infuriated with Mayweather throughout the promotion for the De La Hoya fight. Clearly at the time, Schaefer's loyalties were with De La Hoya and he was angered by stunts that Mayweather pulled on the promotional tour such as when he stole De La Hoya's lunch.
On a flight to England, though, Schaefer and Mayweather had a heart-to-heart talk, and Schaefer began to understand and appreciate Mayweather.
That bond has grown so close that Schaefer speaks openly of it.
Schaefer's children are friends with Mayweather's children. Mayweather keeps Schaefer in the loop on all his moves and seems to have a great deal of trust in him.
"The thing is, Floyd and I have a tremendous relationship," Schaefer was saying at Mayweather's media day at the Mayweather Boxing Club last week. "We are very close."
Schaefer obviously could see what was happening in the business. Mayweather was becoming a burgeoning star, and his powerful adviser, Al Haymon, was wildly expanding his interest in the sport.
Schaefer began to align himself with Mayweather/Haymon and it's now at the point where the bulk of Golden Boy's business is done as a collaboration with Haymon and Showtime.
Once his fight career ended, De La Hoya had little to do. He was always a personable fighter, but he wasn't particularly effective as a promoter. He wasn't well-spoken at the podium ad-libbing about other fights, and he took a role as sort of the anti-Mayweather, always picking the opponents Golden Boy had signed to face Mayweather.
It happened with Juan Manuel Marquez. It happened with Shane Mosley. It happed with Victor Ortiz and it happened with Cotto.
Throughout that period, De La Hoya's personal issues were mounting. Embarrassing photos of him were released by a Russian woman showing him wearing fishnet stockings, a wig and high heels.
De La Hoya denied the authenticity of the photos and his legal team aggressively went after the woman, alleging the pictures were manipulated.
It was only when De La Hoya admitted he was a drug and alcohol addict who had considered suicide did he admit the photographs were genuine.
He twice went into rehab centers in an effort to straighten out his problems. He went in once on the night Golden Boy was promoting a fight in which Bernard Hopkins was trying to set a record in 2011 as the oldest boxer to win a world title.
The second known stint came last year, as fight week activities were kicking off for the Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez bout.
By that point, De La Hoya had become a liability, often frustrating Schaefer with comments on social media, particularly Twitter, that created issues for the company.
De La Hoya has only recent begun to appear in public again following his most recent rehab stint, and he's alluded on and off to his problems with Schaefer on his social media feeds.
He's also practically begged Top Rank and its CEO, Bob Arum, to do business with him again. Schaefer has flat-out said he will no longer work with Arum.
So, while it's hard to know exactly what the problems between De La Hoya and Schaefer are and how deep they run, it's likely centered around the fact that De La Hoya isn't thrilled with Schaefer's alliance with Mayweather and Haymon, and that he feels he's being pushed out of his own company.
It's also more than likely Schaefer has become frustrated by De La Hoya's social media blunders and addiction issues, making him far less valuable and necessary to the company.
On Saturday at a fight card in Carson, Calif., witnesses said De La Hoya arrived and walked past Schaefer without speaking.
It will be fascinating to see if the two are together much during the public promotional events for Mayweather-Maidana, or if they keep their distance.
A split, though, seems inevitable, even though Schaefer joked last week, "Well, I still have my keys."
As often happens in boxing, lawsuits are likely to be filed and much of the dirty laundry between some of the biggest names in the sport could be aired in the courtroom unless there is a settlement.
But if, as seems likely, a suit is filed that puts De La Hoya and Schaefer opposite each other, the question would be which of them would promote Mayweather's remaining fights.
Those fights are very lucrative for Golden Boy, but De La Hoya wouldn't have the knowledge or the ability to pull that off without Schaefer.
But could Schaefer legally work for another promotion other than Golden Boy until the litigation is settled?
There is big money at stake that could impact the lives of many involved.
That's why the Mayweather-Maidana fight is only the second most significant fight worth watching this week.
- Sports & Recreation
- Oscar De La Hoya
- Floyd Mayweather
- Richard Schaefer
- Top Rank