By Sean Crose
Some would say it came straight from the horses’ mouth. Those who have blamed manager/adviser Al Haymon for concocting August’s Danny Garcia-Rod Salka match (some would call it a mismatch) can now nod their heads in satisfaction for being proven correct.
“At the end of the day, I don’t pick my opponents,” Garcia claimed during a Wednesday media conference call. “My manager, Al Haymon does, and I never go against him.” Criticism of the upcoming match, both in the media and online, has been intense, making it seem as if Garcia himself was the only person NOT going against his manager.
“He (Haymon) picked the Matthysse fight, and he picked the Zab Judah fight, and he picked the Herrera fight,” Garcia continued. “He’s picked all my fights, so I never question him about any decisions.” To be sure, those who question Haymon always appear to be individuals who are not a part of Haymon’s stable of fighters.
In fact, Haymon’s fighters seem to have a deep (some might even say unsettling) devotion to the man. While Haymon himself may not exactly be a recluse, he is most certainly media adverse. That means fans, critics and analysts can only judge Haymon by the fights he gives the nod to and by the impact he has on those he most directly affects.
And those Haymon most directly affects – his fighters – have an unusual habit of seeming to almost parrot each other in their heartfelt utterances. Ask a close follower of the fight game how many times he or she has heard a Haymon boxer say he “would like to thank Al Haymon,” and you’re apt to get an eye roll. While Haymon may not be a cult leader, observers can’t be blamed for noticing an almost cult like devotion amongst those who have placed their careers in his hands.
Indeed, Haymon inspires such trust in his fighters that men like Garcia sometimes seem unwilling to offer an opinion on certain matters, even if those matters effect them directly as individuals. “At the end of the day,” Garcia claimed on Wednesday, “it’s what Al wants.” That may be true, but what Al wants may not be what the fans want. And turning off the fans can have consequences.
After all, it’s safe to say that most fans would have preferred to see Garcia fight fellow junior welterweight Lamont Peterson rather than Salka. Even Peterson himself admitted to wanting that particular bout to happen. One can only wonder, then, what the ratings will be for Showtime once the network airs the Garcia-Salka battle.
“We obviously did want to stage that fight,” promoter Oscar De La Hoya said of the potential Garcia-Peterson matchup. “but it wasn’t a fight that was available. It just wasn’t available.” Why? Because, if Garcia himself is to be believed, Al Haymon said so.
The truth is that Haymon has been accused for quite some time now of setting up soft opponents for his fighters. The choice of Salka as an opponent for Garcia certainly isn’t going to put an end to those accusations, either. For Salka was not even a top ranked junior welterweight when he was chosen to fight Garcia. In fact, he wasn’t even a top-ranked lightweight. He was, well, just a lightweight.
What’s more, he now has to fight Garcia at a 142lb catchweight. “I feel a lot more energized,” Garcia said on the call. “I’m able to walk around a little bit more comfortable.” No matter how it may turn out, it seems boxing fans can thank Al Haymon for the Garcia-Salka fight on August 9th.