There are few sports more star-driven than boxing. The NFL doesn't rely on a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning the same way boxing desperately needs guys like Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr.
In the major team sports, guys like Brady and Manning have influence, but they're just one piece in the cog. When Brady missed almost the entire 2008 season, the NFL didn't see a drop in ticket sales, merchandise sales, television ratings or overall interest.
Try the same thing in boxing. Guarantee in 2013 that neither Pacquiao nor Mayweather fights and the sport will take a precipitous drop. Big stars are extraordinarily important for boxing. Good matches between little known fighters don't sell at the box office and don't attract television ratings.
That gives guys like Pacquiao and Mayweather extraordinary power and influence within the industry. It also makes big-time power brokers of those who work with them.
With that in mind, here are the Top 25 most powerful men (and women) in boxing:
1. Al Haymon – The most powerful guy in boxing is also its most mysterious. You'll rarely, if ever, see him in front of a television camera and you'll never catch him speaking to a reporter. He's not a promoter. He's not a manager. But when Haymon says jump, plenty of people in boxing listen.
He's referred to as an adviser, which is a smart way to avoid having to be licensed by an athletic commission and to skirt the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act. It's illegal in the U.S. to serve as a promoter and a manager, though Haymon does both.
But what he does is, he'll hire a promoter to, essentially, buy his or her license for an event. So, while, say, Gary Shaw Productions may be the promoter of record for an event, he's doing so at the direction of Haymon. It's Shaw who has to follow the regulations required of a promoter by the state athletic commissions, not Haymon, but it's Haymon making the calls.
He also directs the careers of many fighters, serving as a de facto manager. But while managers are required to be licensed by the states, advisers are not.
He's involved with a slew of the sport's biggest stars, including the biggest, Floyd Mayweather Jr. When Haymon wants one of his fighters on television, he gets it. His fighters compete when he says, where he says, on the network he wants and generally for what he asks purse-wise.
There's no one more powerful than that.
2. Todd duBoef – duBoef is the president of Top Rank. He is the promoter of Manny Pacquiao, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and Nonito Donaire. He is very innovative and has made many changes, including revamping the live event atmosphere at Top Rank fights.
He's embraced the use of technology and Top Rank is clearly the leader in the digital space among boxing promoters.
3. Richard Schaefer – The CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, Schaefer for years had to listen as competitors and media moaned about his unfair advantage in landing fights on HBO. Then, when the deal with HBO ended, the former legal counsel for Golden Boy, Stephen Espinoza, was hired to run Showtime Sports. Suddenly, Golden Boy's fights are all over Showtime and Schaefer's competitors are moaning again.
That's the definition of power and influence.
Schaefer works well with Haymon and, as a result of that relationship, he's promoted all of Mayweather's fights since 2007. He also owns Ring Magazine and its website uses it as a propaganda tool when need be. When he complained that media was too influenced by Top Rank's Bob Arum, he used the site he owns and a reporter he pays as the vehicle to do it. That provides him with even more influence.
4. Curtis Jackson – Jackson is a musician who is best known by his stage name, 50 Cent. He recently formed a promotional company, TMT Promotions, which is short for "The Money Team." That is the moniker that Mayweather has given his crew. It appears that Jackson will be Mayweather's promoter going forward.
TMT Promotions has reportedly signed fighters such as Yuriorkis Gamboa, Andre Dirrell, Zab Judah and Andre Berto. None of them are big draws, but it's an indicator that Jackson is serious about promoting.
As long as he's fast friends with Mayweather and Mayweather continues to fight, he'll continue to be among the leading boxing powerbrokers.
5. Bob Arum – The Top Rank founder is a Hall of Fame member who is still very active at 80. And while much of the business is run by duBoef, Arum's imprint is still all over everything Top Rank does.
He has a great knack for understanding how to build a fighter and he gives his very strong team plenty of room to do their jobs. As a result, he consistently comes up with star after star and remains at the top even as others fall into irrelevance.
Arum has stayed current, though he keeps referring to Jackson as "50 Cents." That faux pas aside, Arum is a relentless worker who has relationships with some of the most powerful people in the television, venue and casino businesses.
6. Ken Hershman – The president of HBO Sports, Hershman has the biggest budget and the largest reach of any broadcaster who does big-time boxing. As a result, if he wants a fight to be on HBO, it usually is.
7. Floyd Mayweather Jr.– He's the top boxer in the sport. He's the biggest draw in the sport. He's aligned with the most powerful figure in the sport. Those factors earn Mayweather a spot on the list. The only issue is whether he should be higher.
8. Manny Pacquiao – He's not as big as Mayweather in the U.S., but he's got a bigger fan base world-wide. The Philippines is a boxing-mad country and Pacquiao has great influence with the young boxers emerging there.
9. Stephen Espinoza – Espinoza is the executive vice president and the general manager of Showtime Sports. He controls a big budget and a lot of dates, many of which are going to his old bosses at Golden Boy. But without any significant involvement in boxing from basic cable or over-the-air network channels, he's in charge of the No. 2 outlet in the U.S.
10. Kathy Duva – The promoter at Main Events has laid a strong foundation in a deal with the NBC Sports Network for fights. She's also managed to convince NBC to put fights on the network starting later this year. Right now, most of the fights involve lesser names, but if she has success with the series, it could lead to more high-profile bouts with bigger audiences. But with the television dates and the potential audience she controls, she wields considerable influence among the boxing crowd.
11. Leonard Ellerbe – Ellerbe is the CEO of Mayweather Promotions and is extremely close with Mayweather. He's also close with Haymon and 50 Cent, putting him squarely in the middle of a lot of big deals.
12. Fernando Beltran – Beltran is a promoter in Mexico and delivers many of the top Mexican stars to Top Rank. The Hispanic audience is a significant one for boxing and nobody is stronger with it than Beltran.
13. Oscar De La Hoya – The Golden Boy was No. 1 on this list in 2008. But he's no longer boxing and his influence isn't what it was. He's a liability at times to the company with his Tweeting and he's been taunted relentlessly by 50 Cent. But De La Hoya is still an idol to many younger boxers and his presence without question attracts fighters to Golden Boy.
14. Richard Plepler– Plepler is the co-president of HBO and is the man who hired Hershman. He's not a boxing guy and isn't involved on a day-to-day basis, but it's Plepler who sets the tone for the boxing content that winds up on HBO. The amount of boxing-related shoulder content on HBO has increased dramatically since Plepler has taken a greater interest in it.
15. Keith Kizer – A state regulator ordinarily wouldn't make a list of the most powerful, but Kizer runs the commission in Nevada, where the majority of the sport's biggest events are held. He has great sway with his commissioners and exerts a firm hand over what happens. The fact that Antonio Margarito did not fight again in Nevada after the hand wraps incident with Shane Mosley in California in 2009 was largely the result of Kizer's behind-the-scenes influence with the Nevada boxing commissioners.
16. Wladimir Klitschko – The International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organization heavyweight champion attracts crowds of 30,000 plus in Europe for fights the fans know going in are not going to be competitive. He has a lot of sway with the TV networks in the U.S., as well.
17. Jim Lampley– Lampley is the voice of HBO Boxing and, as such, plays a huge role in how the public perceives the sport. He's also landed a news magazine show in which he's able to explore serious topics in the sport in more depth. He reportedly was involved in a coup of sorts to try to take over the boxing division at HBO last year. It didn't work, but Lampley still remains a major player.
18. Michael Koncz– He's Pacquiao's right-hand man and that alone gives him juice. Whether he retains that when Pacquiao retires, or if he manages to hang around with Pacquiao until the end, can be debated. But he speaks for the champ and that opens plenty of doors for him.
19. Bruce Trampler – Top Rank's Hall of Fame matchmaker, Trampler has the ear of Arum and duBoef. They still won't make a big fight without his OK.
20. Bernd Boente – He's often insufferable and has more feuds than Pete Rose has hits, it seems, but Boente is the personal manager of the Klitschko brothers and wields plenty of power as a result.
21. Eric Gomez – The matchmaker for Golden Boy Promotions is also De La Hoya's boyhood friend. Gomez shapes the career of many fighters who appear regularly on TV and he's earned Schaefer's trust.
22. Gordon Hall – Hall runs Showtime's ShoBox series, which is a steppingstone for young prospects looking to move to the next level. All of boxing's managers have his number on speed dial.
23. Cameron Dunkin – Dunkin is a manager of elite fighters like Donaire and Timothy Bradley Jr. He's one of the best talent evaluators in the business and, despite an appearance he's a Top Rank guy, has relationships with all of the promoters.
24. Mark Taffet – The senior vice president of sports operations and pay-per-view at HBO, Taffet has much say in who appears on the air and how they're presented.
25. Kery Davis – Davis is the senior vice president of sports programming at HBO. It's his day-to-day job to program HBO's boxing shows and he's extremely close with Haymon.
Others also considered – Al Bernstein, broadcaster; Bruce Binkow, Golden Boy Promotions marketing officer; Eric Conrad, Univision; Roberto Diaz, Golden Boy matchmaker; Lou DiBella, promoter; Frank Espinoza, manager; Brad Goodman, Top Rank matchmaker; Dan Goossen, promoter; Max Kellerman, broadcaster; Nick Khan, talent agent/manager; Don King, promoter; Michael Lombardo, HBO; Carl Moretti, vice president, Top Rank; Russell Peltz, matchmaker/promoter; Freddie Roach, trainer; Juan Carlos Rodriguez, Univision; Emanuel Steward, broadcaster/trainer; Sam Watson, Haymon organization.
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