Boxing

Showtime Sports Boss Dishes on Failed Spence-Crawford Talks

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In a recent interview, the head of Showtime Sports, Stephen Espinoza, gave his take on the failed Errol Spence-Terence Crawford negotiations.

Talks for the proposed welterweight unification mega-fight fell apart last October after initial media reports indicated that all parties had agreed to terms and an official signing was imminent.

Crawford, the WBO 147 lb. titlist, would quickly move on to a bout with David Avanesyan in a BLK Prime pay-per-view event for a reported purse of $10 million. He’d also be the first to get his side of the failed negotiations story out to the public.

According to the 3-division world champ, the problems leading to the end of talks revolved around the fact that there was no guaranteed purse, as well as his desire to have full transparency with regards to event costs and spending.

“I ain’t ever heard of a fighter taking zero guarantee in a fight,” Crawford said via Instagram Live feed, prior to the Avanesyan fight, “but that’s something that I was willing to do to make this fight happen…I never was offered a guarantee, not once. I never was given anything, but ‘here, you want this fight? We’re gonna f**k you but you got what you want.’…I told ‘em ‘alright cool, I’ll take no guarantee, I’ll take the less end of the money, whatever it is you want I’ll take because that’s how much confidence I got that I’m gonna beat that man…

“Even though I know I was getting f**ked in the long run, I just wanted a little transparency. I’m like, okay, if I’m gonna bet on myself and I’m gonna go against all the odds, then I want a little transparency. Of course I want to be able to write off on things that’s gonna affect my check. Of course I want to see if the numbers add up to what they’re telling me.”

Espinoza, in a recent video interview with FightHubTV, seemed baffled and a bit incredulous when talking about Crawford’s take on things.

“Pay-per-view guarantees didn’t come into existence until three years ago,” Espinoza said. “So the reality is for the longest time and for the bulk of the pay-per-view business, there were very few guarantees. So now to come in and say that ‘I’m the first one in history not to get one,’ that’s just factually incorrect.

“I can give off the top of my head 20 different fights. There have been Tank Davis fights where he didn’t get a guarantee. There have been Mayweather fights where he didn’t get a guarantee. So look, that perspective is just flat-out wrong.

“The transparency is absolutely baffling. He got that in black and white. I’ve seen the contract. It’s there in black and white. The reality is, we would have to account. We collect the money; we do the accounting. You can’t do accounting without being transparent.

“It depends on what transparent means. To most people, transparency means, ‘I know what the revenues are. I know what the expenses are. I know what the deductions are.’ It’s all out in the open.

“That has never been an issue on this fight or any other fight that we’ve been involved in.

“Here’s where it gets complicated. If you’re saying, ‘I get the right to approve expenses.’ First of all, I have a problem with that because what’s going to happen when I tell you, ‘This is what TV production costs,’ and you say, ‘No, I think it would be cheaper.’ So wait a minute. Now, I can’t produce it?

“We’ve been doing this quite a while. I know what it costs. If it costs pretty much the same as other big pay-per-views, there’s an industry standard. We’re not going to go into a promotion and have the risk of someone saying to us two weeks out, ‘No, I don’t like that contract. I’m not signing.’

“Or go into it saying, ‘we’re waiting for a fighter’s signature, and I don’t know when he’s going to get around to reviewing this expense and approving it.’ It’s just not a realistic way to do business.

“You’ve got to have a certain level of trust. There are certain protections for disclosure up front, but the reality is to be able to approve everything along the way; one is ever going to do that because the reality is there’s no way people are going to go into it and start spending the budget money and go into a promotion and then two weeks out, someone gets a bug up their a** about an expense. And they say, ‘You know what? I don’t want you to spend any more marketing money.’ Who is going to go into a deal where you’re at someone else’s mercy until the very last second?

“…That’s not a realistic way to make a deal. That’s not a realistic way to do a boxing promotion.”

Espinoza’s take has Crawford’s general truculence causing a good amount of the tension and delay in negotiations.

“I don’t want to point fingers, but if you ask this side, I think a lot of the dragging on was due to Terence’s own asks and the timetable he was responding,” the Showtime exec continued. “It seemed like a lot of time would go by after each offer, and there was a stubbornness that dug in after certain points that we thought shouldn’t have been insurmountable.

“I’m sure he has a different take on it, but we know what the issues are. There’s nothing new. These are all issues that all big fights are based. The thing is, nobody wants to get back and be in this soap opera of weeks and weeks of negotiating.”

But would he revisit Spence-Crawford talks if the possibility of the big bout came up again?

“I know there’s a lot of different versions of what happened. I know that from this side, it felt like the rug being pulled out from under us with very little notice, and so there’s a little bit of damage control that can be done there.

“It doesn’t mean we’re not going to jump back in negotiations if there’s an opportunity to do so. There’s got to be a different dynamic. There were certain points where a range of issues that Terence brought up that really didn’t get resolved and lingered out there, and then things all fell apart. So no one wants that dynamic again.

“So in order for this to be a productive thing moving forward, there’s got to be a different way going about it rather than sitting there and going an inch at a time over months and months.

“So if this is going to get done, we all know what the issues are and what the basic structure is. Either people are interested, or they’re not. No one wants to waste any more time.”

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Paul Magno has over forty years of experience in and around the sport of boxing and has had his hand in everything, from officiating to training. As a writer, his work has appeared in several online publications, including Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports, FightHype, Max Boxing, Boxing.com, Inside Fights, The Boxing Tribune, The Queensberry Rules, and Premier Boxing Champions. You can reach him at: [email protected]

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