By Ivan G. Goldman
The California commission caught boxing godfather Al Haymon blocking preferred Los Angeles venues in an effort to sabotage the shows of his competition, says commissioner and ex-cop John Frierson.
“He was holding up the dates at the Forum and at Staples Center,” said Frierson in a startling revelation. “We took that away.”
Frierson said Haymon, who this year launched a new entity called Premier Boxing Champions, or PBC, was apparently reserving the venues long enough to disrupt the competition and would then pull out later. The Forum and Staples Center are the two biggest boxing venues in the Los Angeles area.
Even in the fiercely competitive world of professional prizefighting, such mean-spirited practices are unique. Only a limited number of venues in Los Angeles work well for big boxing shows.
Frierson didn’t specify the precise actions used to halt the blocking practice, but the commission’s licensing power over promoters, managers, fighters, and others who seek to do boxing business in the state can be an effective tool.
“We’re the commission,” Frierson said. “We can stop it and we did.” Apparently the sabotage was ended months ago.
It’s not known at this time whether the dirty pool Frierson described has also been used in other leading boxing locales such as Las Vegas and New York.
I tried to get an answer from that part of PBC that’s supposed to deal with the mass media, but the company is a sinkhole where questions are routinely ignored. For years the reclusive Haymon, a former concert producer, famously refused to reveal the whereabouts of his office or even whether he had one. He doesn’t speak to mass media, period. Even photos of him are rare. The PBC office is in Las Vegas.
The sabotage that Frierson revealed is almost a mirror image of a nasty trick Freddie Roach described when he was preparing Manny Pacquiao to fight Floyd Mayweather. “Al Haymon’s people,” said Roach, would call Manny’s prospective sparring partners and offer them more money to stay away from the Pacquiao camp. Haymon is Mayweather’s “adviser.”
“When I was a youngster,” said Frierson, who fought in the amateurs, “gangsters ran boxing. Blinky Palermo and those guys. Now it’s a different crew in ties and suits, and they go around the law.”
Frierson agreed that Haymon appears to be dancing along the edge of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Act, a federal statute that prevents a single entity from acting as both promoter and manager. That’s because the two functions are at odds. The manager is supposed to negotiate for the fighter to get the best deal possible from the promoter.
Frierson said “you can’t get the FBI interested” in enforcing the Ali Act. Its resources are committed to disrupting terrorists and other dangerous criminals, and the agency gives regulating boxing a low priority.
The Association of Boxing Commissions sent a letter last April to new U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking the Justice Department to investigate Haymon’s business practices.
Last month Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, which Frierson said was particularly damaged by Haymon’s alleged venue-blocking tactic, sued Haymon and various other entities connected to him, including Waddell & Reed Financial, Inc., and its related hedge funds, which appear to be the primary source of funding for Haymon’s PBC. PBC broadcasts shows on various networks, including CBS, NBC, and Spike.
The Golden Boy suit, seeking $300 million in damages, alleges repeated violations of the Ali Act and antitrust laws. The venue-blocking tactic “was really hurting Oscar,” Frierson said.
A key element within the suit deals with the relationship Richard Schaefer, former CEO of Golden Boy, had with Haymon. Under the terms of an agreement with his former employer, Schaefer has been barred from participating in boxing promotion, but the ban reportedly expires sometime in August.
In the last several years Haymon has become the most dominant figure in professional prizefighting. The PBC once declared on its website that it had approximately 200 fighters under contract, though that appears to be an exaggeration.
Frierson, who served 26 years with the LAPD and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, has sat on the commission for fourteen years. He’s also served as its chairman. Although commissioners hold part-time positions, he takes a particularly keen interest in the boxing business and can frequently be spotted at shows.
Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available now from Permanent Press wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.