Anschutz Entertainment Group acquired a significant ownership stake in Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions on Thursday, creating a partnership between one of the world's largest sports conglomerates and the boxing superstar's burgeoning promotions company.
AEG, which owns or operates dozens of sports and entertainment venues including Los Angeles' Staples Center and London's O2 Arena, becomes the second-largest shareholder in Golden Boy behind De La Hoya. The former Olympic champion founded the company in 2001 to guide the careers of top fighters including Sugar Shane Mosley, Ricky Hatton, Bernard Hopkins, Winky Wright and Juan Diaz.
Golden Boy will use the deal to put boxing events in many of AEG's arenas, probably starting later this year. The cash purchase also could help Golden Boy add bigger, younger names to its roster of mostly older fighters.
"To be able to bring an 8,000-pound gorilla when it comes to sports and entertainment into the world of boxing is really a vote of confidence for our sport," Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said.
De La Hoya beat Steve Forbes last week at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. -- another venue run by AEG. De La Hoya is also his company's most valuable asset, but he has vowed to retire after two more fights this year.
"This is a wonderful time for the sport of boxing, and it's only going to benefit the fighters we are looking after," De La Hoya said. "Ever since I fought at the Staples Center in 2000, it has been an incredible relationship, and those are the type of people we want to partner with, people with the integrity and honesty and [belief in] looking out for the athlete."
In addition to its arenas, AEG owns the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer, along with an interest in the Los Angeles Lakers. De La Hoya recently acquired a hefty ownership stake in Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo, another AEG-owned franchise -- and last week, Staples Center announced plans for a 7-foot-tall bronze statue of De La Hoya on its grounds next to the statues of Magic Johnson and Wayne Gretzky.
"It has been a vision of ours that boxing has not seen its better days," said Tim Leiweke, AEG's president and CEO. "We thought the future of boxing was going to be Golden Boy. They have some of the best fighters, the best vision and great integrity."
Schaefer is exploring the possibility of formally kicking off the relationship with a fight in London or Los Angeles, perhaps in a three-continent pay-per-view card starting in Shanghai. He also proposed early discussion of matching Hatton and IBF 140-pound champion Paulie Malignaggi in the AEG-managed Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., later in the year.
Golden Boy and AEG already have worked together on many promotions, including fights by Golden Boy stars Hopkins, De La Hoya, Marco Antonio Barrera and Israel Vazquez in Los Angeles. The companies wouldn't disclose the price or size of AEG's deal, but Leiweke said the amount was "not insignificant, so it was a big commitment for us."
AEG's purchase doesn't come with a guaranteed slate of Golden Boy events to be showcased in AEG-owned venues, and Golden Boy's fighters will be free to fight anywhere. Leiweke knows De La Hoya's Los Angeles fans will be hoping he brings his proposed September rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. to Southern California, but it's likely to be held in Las Vegas.
"That's Oscar's decision," Leiweke said. "The fact that we're going to create content in our buildings is great, but our bigger goal is to support the fighters."
De La Hoya also said he's healing fine from his unanimous decision over Forbes last Saturday, though doctors discovered a hairline fracture around his right eye. He says he'll be ready to fight Mayweather in September, if boxing's pound-for-pound king agrees to the fight.