Al Haymon’s ‘Phantom’ Reveals Plenty by Questions He Won’t Answer
By Ivan G. Goldman
I recently interviewed an imaginary stand-in for boxing impresario Al Haymon. But as you probably already guessed, not even his apparition would answer my questions. Nothing new about that. The actual man won’t talk to the media and just getting a photo of this dude is a major triumph.
But manager/adviser Haymon, perhaps the most important behind-the-scenes operator in boxing, is employed in the public arena — in a sport that’s dependent on fan support. So shouldn’t he be just a little communicative? It strikes me that maybe we can learn something from him by the replies an imaginary Haymon refuses to make. So here are some questions for the real Haymon.
Okay if I call you Al? Great. Al, sometimes I refer to you as the Rasputin of boxing, which likens you to a secretive manipulator who wielded much power in the court of Russian Czar Nicholas II. And sometimes I call you the Godfather of Boxing, referring to a fictional, all-powerful Mafioso capo. Which comparison do you prefer?
You work closely with Golden Boy Promotions and have been ushering your fighters to that company for some time now. But there’s clearly some kind of rift between its president, Oscar De La Hoya, and CEO Richard Schaefer. Schaefer says he won’t comment on the rumors and Oscar tweeted that he’ll comment on them later, which tells us there is trouble. Otherwise he’d just deny the talk. Are you afraid any of this turmoil will blow back on you and your fighters?
Can you comment on some of the rumors swirling around? Are any agencies investigating Golden Boy? If they did, would they find anything you consider incriminating? Have any agencies subpoenaed files, computer contents, or anything like that?
The New York Times says you have no office or phone network. To me, this seems incredibly naïve, since it would probably require two or three people just to handle all the contracts and payments going back and forth among you, the fighters, venues, sponsors and everybody else. But you’re definitely not easy to hunt down. If a Girl Scout wanted to sell you cookies, where would she find your office?
Promoters and managers generally manage to pop into the ring moments after a televised contest ends. I once pointed out that Don King would crash through Alabama’s defensive line to get to a TV camera. But it’s not clear whether you even attend fights. What’s the deal? Harry Truman used to say if you don’t like the heat, stay out of the kitchen.
About three years ago HBO analyst Max Kellerman said on camera that you seem “to wield influence out of proportion with others in boxing.” He added that somehow your fighters manage to fight on the network against overmatched opponents in fights that “usually wouldn’t be seen on HBO.” Shortly thereafter you started taking your fighters, sometimes in batches, sometimes one at a time, from HBO to Showtime. This includes Floyd Mayweather, who’s the biggest draw in the sport. Was any of this retaliation for Kellerman’s remarks?
I understand you just added junior welterweight titlist Lamont Peterson and his brother, lightweight Anthony Peterson, plus junior lightweight Rances Barthelemy to your already huge stable. Because you have no relations with the press or public, you have no Website or anything like that listing your fighters, but there must be at least two dozen, right?
HBO clearly hates your guts. So if the only premium network that wants to do business with you is Showtime, are there really enough shows over there to keep all your fighters busy? I mean look at the math. Even if Showtime did 20 big shows a year, that doesn’t leave enough airtime for all your guys unless the network were to ban non-Haymon fighters. Seems to me that more than a few of your guys will wind up being disappointed. Or am I wrong?
Would you agree that signing fighters to exclusive network contracts, ensuring HBO fighters can’t fight Showtime fighters and visa versa, is terrible for the sport? If you disagree, explain why not.
Apparently your contracts with fighters almost never list you as a licensed manager. Is it because this allows you to avoid regulation by state commissions?
One more question for now: Al, what’s your piece of the action?
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in 2013 by Potomac Books, a University of Nebraska Press imprint. It can be purchased here.