The Al Haymon Hustle and How Fans May Pay the Ultimate Price
By Dennis Cruz
Mega-powerful boxing adviser Al Haymon has scared much of the established boxing world with a quick and comprehensive talent grab and the off-putting trait of not wanting any publicity for it.
Over the last several years, the former concert promoter/media mogul has amassed the greatest collection of talent ever assembled in one stable. In the last few months, specifically, Haymon has spread his signing frenzy to include former champs, prospects, and foreign talent.
When based over at HBO, accusations were made that he had an eerie level of influence over the cable giant’s management. Now based out of Showtime, some are saying that Haymon not only controls management, but is essentially running the entire boxing department.
Boxing insiders are intimidated by his presence and the media is suspicious. But it doesn’t matter to Haymon because the Wild West world of a regulation-resistant boxing left the window wide open for his entry into the sport and as long as he can control the futures of enough talent, no amount of angst or hand wringing will be able to get him out.
And, so far, the talent seems very pleased with Haymon’s work.
WBC junior featherweight world titlist Leo Santa Cruz just made $750,000 for, literally, fighting his sparring partner on the Mayweather-Maidana II undercard. Junior welterweight kingpin Danny Garcia made $700,000 on Showtime for fighting an undersized, overmatched, and utterly hapless Rod Salka. Haymon even managed to guide burn-out Jermain Taylor back to a world title and the challenger’s share of a million dollar ESPN payout.
Much has been made of Haymon essentially forcing Peter Quillin to vacate his WBO middleweight title rather than face Top Rank’s Matt Korobov on a card funded by a Roc Nation Sports’ purse bid. Yes, Quillin was encouraged to give up a career-high payday of $1.4 million, but taking into consideration that the marginally talented clubber has been earning well above market value for his last five fights and may not have even had the WBO belt in the first place without Haymon, the Haymon-issued step aside edict didn’t seem a big deal for Quillin.
Haymon has been an expert at enticing talent and then rewarding it handsomely with money from easily-duped TV execs. Go up and down his roster of fighters and you will find nothing but fighters making more money than what their apparent market value would seem to command. And none of this muscle has cost him a dime.
It’s now being reported that Haymon is on the verge of signing a lucrative deal with NBC, which would bring boxing back to network TV, but could absolutely decimate Showtime if the reports are true.
The hustle of Haymon has played a role in the disintegration of Golden Boy Promotions, and is now threatening current network sugar daddy, Showtime. And, again, there’s nothing that anyone within boxing can do to stop him because, frankly, the sport’s power brokers decided long ago that in order to properly control the fighters, it would be necessary to keep the business structure real easy to manipulate on the fly. Haymon is merely using the window intentionally left open by the sport’s money men.
Back several years ago when his entire stable consisted of junior middleweight champ Vernon Forrest, Haymon saw how easy it was to move around within boxing’s lawless business structure and reportedly told then-vice president of HBO sports programming, Xavier James, “If I wanted to, I could run boxing.”
Less than a decade later and with the boost of his mutually-beneficial relationship with Floyd Mayweather, it seems that Haymon is now putting that idea into action.
However, as with most hustles, someone is going to emerge from the whole deal as the mark, the victim.
Showtime may lose money in the short term, but will survive. The fighters may, at some point, find that the big money is gone without premium cable cash flowing freely, but the money is obviously still there for them and they will continue to be paid above market value for, at least, the next several fights.
The only loser in all of this would appear to be the fans, who have had to deal with an absolutely dreary 2014, as big names made big money for fighting glorified sparring sessions while backstage politics created chaos for Showtime, Golden Boy, and anyone wanting to do business with either.
The optimist wants to believe that this mess will straighten itself out the coming year as Haymon’s plans are forced to the forefront. The realist, though, wonders why, with everyone making so much money delivering garbage soft touches to the fans, would there be a rush to change anything?