One of the big questions being asked in boxing right now seems to be “Is Al Haymon good or bad for the sport?”. It is a question that at this time last year may have been an easier one to answer. The vast majority of people in and around boxing, as well as the fans, wouldn’t have hesitated for a second. A resounding “bad” would certainly have been the response.
For the last number of years, it has seemed as though Al Haymon had a sole goal in his managerial or advisor role: to protect his fighters from defeat and simultaneously guarantee them big paydays against lower level opposition. That would normally be a tough task. It would require a genius negotiator to sell uneven, uninteresting match-ups to T.V companies for huge amounts of money. Luckily for Al, he had the greatest bargaining chip in the game in his possession.
Al Haymon’s relationship with Floyd Mayweather Jr spans a decade and is a partnership that has been extremely fruitful for both. Haymon has been instrumental in turning Mayweather into a superstar.
According to the LA Times, Haymon aided Floyd in buying out his contract with Bob Arum’s Top Rank promotions, in 2006. This was the turning point of both their career’s. Up until then, Floyd had yet to be involved in a true super-fight. He was the pound for pound best fighter in boxing, but he wasn’t a star. The fight that would change all that was his 2007 bout with Oscar De La Hoya. It was a massive global success, one that would not have happened had Floyd remained shackled to a promoter who refused to work with the “Golden Boy”.
His association with Mayweather gave Haymon power.
Mayweather could be used as leverage against HBO, the subscription channel that, up until 2013, televised all of Floyd’s events. The threat that Haymon could bring their cash cow elsewhere loomed over every negotiation. When Floyd decided to make the jump to rival company Showtime for a massive guaranteed contract, Haymon continued his practice there as well. The Showtime fights that featured Al Haymon associated athletes were regularly panned by fans and the media. Haymon was also seen as the main barrier to several attractive bouts being signed during this time period.
Then it emerged that Haymon had struck a deal with NBC. There was a great deal of uncertainty among those in the sport about what this would mean. On the one hand, it seemed like fantastic news. Boxing hadn’t been broadcast on network television in the United States for decades. A deal with NBC meant that the sport would reach a much wider audience than was possible with the subscription channels.
The problem was nobody had any faith that Haymon would present quality action, and therefore it was felt that he may do the sport a great disservice.
When the fight schedule for the early broadcasts was announced, it quelled the anxiety regarding the quality that would be on offer. The debut card featured strong match-ups, with Adrien Broner vs John Molina and Keith Thurman vs Robert Guerrero topping the bill.
For the most part, this has continued.
The fights haven’t always delivered, but Haymon has been trying to put together even fights, featuring his best fighters. This, combined with his seeming disregard for the ubiquitous multitude of meaningless title belts, means that there is much to be positive about in the early days of the Premier Boxing Champions series.
Unfortunately, a court case currently ongoing hints at some sinister dealings, and strengthens the argument that Haymon’s intention’s are set on monopolizing the game.
On May 6 of this year Oscar De La Hoya’s pomotional company Golden Boy Promotions announced that they were suing Al Haymon to the tune of $300 million. According to ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael, Golden Boy allege that Haymon has “repeatedly violated antitrust laws and the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act”. The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act was passed to ensure fair treatment of fighters and dictates that one entity can not act as both the manager and promoter of a fighter. Most people in the sport agree that Haymon is acting as the de facto promoter of all the fighters that he manages.
Ivan Goldman later added to the manager’s woes. The boxinginsider.com scribe reported that John Frierson of the California State Athletic Commission had confirmed that they had busted Haymon for illegally blocking venues in the state. In order to halt the access of other promoters to certain venues, Haymon had been booking dates at several arena’s and later cancelling them.
There seems to be little doubt that Haymon is set on gaining total control over the sport of boxing, and that he is using some illegitimate methods to do so. He currently has a stable of 180 plus fighters, a number of which he took from Golden Boy, and doesn’t conduct business with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions or Oscar De La Hoya’s outfit.
The question is, how would a Haymon led monopoly effect the sport?
Many people refer to the Ultimate Fighting Championship when analyzing this situation and its easy to see why. Though they haven’t created a complete monopoly, the UFC possess by far the biggest market share in Mixed Martial Arts. When making this comparison, most observers will point to the fact that top class MMA practitioners make a great deal less money than their boxing counterparts.
According to mma-manifesto.com, Cain Velasquez earned $400,000 for his unsuccessful title defence against Fabricio Werdum at UFC 188. This is a meager sum in comparison to the money Wladimir Klitschko makes when puts his belts on the line. In 2013, for example, Klitskchko earned in the region of $15 million for his hammering of Russian challenger Alexander Povetkin.
The twist is that, while it may not be good for the fighters, it might be exactly what the fans are looking for. The positive side of the UFC’s near total control is that the fans almost always get the fights they want to see. There are few places to run and hide if you want to make big money in MMA. If Dana White suggests that you take on a particular opponent, you have few options. It is one of the main reasons why the sport has grown exponentially in the last five or six years.
While boxing has struggled with it’s image, due to the likes of the Mayweather/Pacquiao saga, MMA has increased its reputation for giving value for money.
Ironically, Al Haymon has been at the centre of boxing’s matchmaking problem’s on a number of occasions. His fear of a fighter losing name value in defeat brought about a strategy of preservation. If, however, he achieves a monopoly this will no longer be a worry. Should one of his fighters be defeated, it will be by another of his fighters. Its a win-win situation.
The scenario that the sport finds itself in is a complex one. Whether or not Al Haymon is benefitting boxing or not is difficult to say. A Haymon led monopoly would have it’s positives and it’s negatives, but so does the current system. One positive development, which has emerged due to Haymon’s prodding of the status quo, is that other promoters have shown a greater willingness to work together.
In an effort to stave off extinction at the hands of an entity with domination in mind, they have little choice.