- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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AROUND THE RING
De La Hoya takes on new kind of Ring
Oscar De La Hoya, who used to buy The Ring magazine as a kid, remembers the first time he saw himself on the cover.
"I was an amateur and they had the whole  Olympic team on the cover," he told ESPN.com. "Seeing myself on the cover, I was like, 'Oh, I made it!' Even though I was still an amateur and hadn't won the gold medal yet, I just had the feeling of, 'Wow, I'm getting there.' Being on The Ring cover is like an honor. That's the way I saw it."
A few years later, De La Hoya was featured on the first of his many solo covers.
"When they asked me to do a photo shoot, I was ecstatic," he said. "To be on The Ring cover, you have to be a good fighter. They don't just put anybody on the cover."
Now, De La Hoya owns the iconic, 85-year-old "Bible of Boxing," closing a deal three years in the making this week to purchase Ring and other boxing and wrestling publications.
"I've been thinking about this for many years," De La Hoya said. "I have been reading Ring magazine forever. Now that we own it, it's a dream come true. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would own it."
Technically, a company called Sports and Entertainment Publications purchased a group of magazine titles from Kappa Publishing Group. Sports and Entertainment Publications is a company under the umbrella of Golden Boy Enterprises, De La Hoya's holding company whose assets include Golden Boy Promotions, real estate and various entertainment, sports, media and financial services.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com that the acquisition cost "seven figures -- it wasn't eight figures."
But with the purchase come the inevitable questions: How can the venerable publication maintain its credibility and how can its championship belts and rankings be viable given the obvious conflict of interest of having De La Hoya, one of the sport's leading promoters, in charge?
De La Hoya said he understands the skepticism; boxing has been beset by scandal after scandal, including one involving Ring rankings in the 1970s. But he is ready to deal with it.
"We'll have no say over the editorial content of the magazine," De La Hoya said. "We're promoters who are going to be fair to everyone. That's the responsibility we carry. I'm sure we're going to read the magazine one day and we will be criticized. Our fighters won't be on the cover every month. You'll be seeing Top Rank fighters on the cover.
"The editors make the choices, but I understand what people are thinking. Here you have Golden Boy buying Ring magazine and people will be thinking, 'Now they will rank all of their fighters in the top 10.' But Ring has a reputation of being straightforward and being honest, especially with their rankings. We don't want to look at them or touch them. It means so much to the boxing world."
With the proliferation of sanctioning organizations and their blatant corruption, a few years ago Ring restored its tradition of bestowing titles to the "real" champion in each division based on a specific criteria. It doesn't charge sanction fees for titles, enforce mandatory defenses or strip champions. Titles can be won only in the ring, and slowly Ring belts have gained a foothold.
De La Hoya said Ring will be held in an editorial trust "where they will be operating totally independent of any influence from me or others from the Golden Boy companies as it relates to editorial direction or content.
"We have nothing to hide," De La Hoya said. "We're obviously more than happy and willing to answer any questions. We're doing the right thing for boxing. We're doing the right thing for the fans."
Publisher Stu Saks and Editor-in-Chief Nigel Collins will remain in their positions, De La Hoya said.
"There are things I read in Ring that I don't like. But that's not going to change," Schaefer said. "I want them to continue to do things the way they want to do them. If we do things wrong, we should get criticized."
Schaefer also said he understands the coming scrutiny.
"If we do something wrong, we destroy The Ring value and the brand, and that means we made a pretty poor investment," the former Swiss banker said. "Why would we do that? We want to increase the value and visibility of The Ring. I think we can make a lot of positive impact. We want to create value, we don't want to destroy value. When it comes to the rankings, we think that Ring magazine's are a very valuable platform, and rather than destroying it, we want to expand on it. If we wanted to influence them or the editorial process, we would destroy value and recognition.
"But I can certainly understand some people might be skeptical. I'm not surprised. It puts extra pressure on us to show the critics that they are wrong. We will take this iconic brand and give it the exposure and the love it deserves. We have ambitious plans, but we won't get involved in the editorial side or rankings. We will get involved with the look, the feel, the advertising, distribution and taking The Ring brand into the 21st century."
De La Hoya said it would take up to a year to implement the noneditorial changes he has in mind.
"Our plans are for it to grow, to increase the circulation," he said. "We want to make not only the boxing world aware that it's out there, but the people in general who watch the fights on TV. There are fans all over the world and we want to make it more accessible. We want the Web site to be the boxing Web site. But it takes time. We have to look at things. We don't really see much change with the staff. They are very competent. They have the experience and know what they are doing. The changes we would make are to add on and make sure the magazine is everywhere. We're also thinking about doing a Ring Espanol.
"Our actions will speak louder than words. In time, we will answer all those questions that doubters have. Sure, it's business, but at the same time, you have think about history. This is a huge responsibility. This is Ring magazine. It's been around for 85 years."
De La Hoya, who has paid millions in sanctioning fees throughout his career, said that taking over Ring is perhaps his way of picking a fight with the sanctioning organizations.
"I have nothing against the sanctioning bodies, but I have to do what is right for boxing, right for the fan," he said. "Right now the fan is confused. Who is the champion? If you are the Ring magazine champion you are the legitimate champion in the weight class and, most important, you don't pay any sanctioning fee. So are we taking on the sanctioning organizations? In a way we are. Maybe it's the start of something. I just want to do what is right for boxing, and nothing is going to stop me."
• Former light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver mostly likely will face Australian Danny Green and junior middleweight titlist Vernon Forrest will make his first defense against mandatory challenger Michele Piccirillo on a Dec. 3 Showtime card, Showtime boxing boss Ken Hershman told ESPN.com. The bouts will probably take place at the Foxwoods resort in Connecticut. Green is keeping his options open, though, and the bout hasn't been finalized yet. He has a TV date in Australia on Oct. 26, and his camp is talking to ex-super middleweight titlist Markus Beyer of Germany about going to Perth to fight in case the Tarver deal falls through.
• Now that Showtime's calendar for the year has been filled and there is no room for a proposed main event involving welterweight titlist Kermit Cintron, he will go back to his original plan: facing Jess Feliciano on the rescheduled Nov. 23 Fernando Vargas-Ricardo Mayorga Showtime PPV card. Cintron-Feliciano had been scheduled for the undercard when it was slated for Sept. 8, but when it was moved after Vargas became ill with anemia, Main Events explored other options for the Puerto Rican puncher.
• Ex-welterweight titlist Luis Collazo, coming off left hand surgery as a result of an injury suffered in his decision loss to Shane Mosley in February, returned to the gym this week, trainer Nirmal Lorick told ESPN.com. Lorick said Collazo will be ready fight later this fall and hopes promoter Don King can find a spot for him on one of his upcoming shows. One possible fight: an eliminator against Joshua Clottey, the winner of which would become Cintron's mandatory.
• Ex-junior lightweight titlist Jorge Barrios of Argentina, whose torn retinas were discovered during a routine physical, has been cleared to fight, Golden Boy vice president Eric Gomez told ESPN.com. The tears forced him to withdraw from a scheduled Sept. 15 fight against champion Juan Manuel Marquez. "The doctor cleared him to fight and he has started training again," Gomez said. "He's good. One of the tears was very minor, the other was a little more severe, but they were both cleared. He could be ready to fight in maybe a month." Gomez said he will have Barrios on standby to challenge titleholder Joan Guzman in a rematch on Nov. 17 in case Humberto Soto, who is supposed to fight Guzman, loses a tune-up fight in Mexico this weekend.
• Junior flyweight world champion Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon (29-0, 6 KOs) of Puerto Rico, who took a split decision against Mexico's Hugo Cazares (25-4-1, 19 KOs) Aug. 25 to win the recognized 108-pound title, will honor the rematch clause in their contract, Gomez told ESPN.com. Gomez said he got the word from Calderon promoter Peter Rivera this week. Under their agreement, Calderon will be allowed to take an interim defense while Golden Boy will give Cazares a fight before they rematch March or April.
• Manny Pacquiao, who has been working with trainer Freddie Roach at home in the distraction-filled Philippines, is scheduled to return to Roach's Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, Calif., on Sept. 22 to complete his training for an Oct. 6 rematch with Marco Antonio Barrera. Pacquiao, of course, was originally supposed to return to the U.S. on Aug. 25 and is notorious for skipping or "missing" scheduled returns.
• Tickets for the Dec. 8 showdown between pound-for-pound king and welterweight champ Floyd Mayweather and junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton go on sale Monday at 1 p.m. ET through Ticketmaster (priced from $150 to $1,000). Fans are limited to two tickets apiece and the bout is expected to be a sellout. There are already media reports in Hatton's native England that there are nowhere near enough tickets to satisfy the legion of Hatton fans expected to travel to Las Vegas. The fighters embark on a media tour next week to promote the HBO PPV event. They'll open Monday in Los Angeles, head to Mayweather's hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., on Tuesday and New York on Wednesday followed by two stops in England, Thursday in London and Friday in Manchester, Hatton's hometown.
• Although he won't be part of the HBO broadcast on Oct. 13 in suburban Chicago, Nate Campbell (31-5-1, 25 KOs), an overdue mandatory challenger for the winner of the main event, will stay busy on the undercard against Humberto Toledo (31-4-2, 19 KOs). Campbell won two elimination bouts in a row and has yet to receive his long-deserved title shot.
• Super middleweight contender Allan Green (25-1, 17 KOs), having recovered from surgery in July that included the removal of 85 percent of his colon, will return to action Oct. 19 in a 10-round untelevised bout in Miami, Okla., promoter Tony Holden's matchmaker, Bobby Dobbs, told ESPN.com. Despite being ill for months, Green fought Edison Miranda and lost a decision in March and then knocked out Darrell Woods in the first round on ESPN2 July 13. A couple of days later he had surgery.
• Top Rank announced that it has re-signed Maywood, Calif., lightweight Urbano Antillon (19-0, 12 KOs). Antillon will box Oct. 4 (Versus) at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas. Antillon got the valuable TV slot when heavyweight Audley Harrison and Top Rank could not come to an agreement on his opponent. Junior flyweight titlist Ulises "Archie" Solis of Mexico defends against mandatory challenger Bert Batawang of the Philippines in the main event.
• Two-time light heavyweight title challenger Paul Briggs (26-3, 18 KOs) of Australia suffered an ankle injury in training and has withdrawn from a fight scheduled for the Oct. 6 Oleg Maskaev-Samuel Peter card at New York's Madison Square Garden, according to Don King Productions.
• Condolences to promoter Dan Goossen, trainer Joe Goossen and the rest of one of boxing's first families on the death of matriarch Anna May Goossen, who died Sept. 10 in Los Angeles. She was 86. Mrs. Goossen had eight sons, two daughters, 34 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren. A service celebrating her life is scheduled for Monday at St. Francis de Sales Church in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
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"This is unbelievably bad luck. I've been in intense preparations for nine weeks, had no problems whatsoever, and then a disc goes and slips in my last week of training."
-- Un-retiring ex-heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko, who suffered a back injury and needed surgery last week, leading to the cancellation of his Sept. 22 comeback fight against Jameel McCline.
2hMichael C. Wright