There has been vigorous online debate in the last couple of days since the International Boxing Hall of Fame released the nominees for its Class of 2020.
It’s a huge ballot, which means that many deserving candidates won’t be elected in this cycle. But a candidate whose credentials are so overwhelming that he’d be a slam dunk for induction didn’t even make it on the ballot.
He has, quite literally, changed the game.
In the last decade or so, he’s fundamentally altered the sport for the better for boxers. He’s not perfect by any stretch, and some of his flaws are serious and reasons for not voting in favor of his candidacy. But the good that he has done and the impact he has made far outweigh his shortcomings.
Al Haymon is the greatest manager in boxing history, and there isn’t a close runner-up, yet not only is he not in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, he’s not even nominated.
How good has Haymon been, you ask? Well, consider that Floyd Mayweather got a cut of every beer sold, every ticket purchased, every hot dog consumed and every program that was bought during one of his events.
Before Haymon came along, fighters had to pay their managers a third of their purses off the top. So in the old days — pre-Haymon — a fighter who was given a $1 million purse gave $333,333.33 off the top to his manager. And there was 10 percent to the trainer and various percentages to his cutman and other cornermen.
With Haymon, he takes no more than 15 percent as a managerial fee, and for some of his marquee fighters it’s 5 percent or less. That has forced other managers to reduce the amount of commission they take from their fighters.
Outside of Keith Connolly, the New York-based manager who should have been arrested, prosecuted and jailed for the heist he pulled in landing deals this year for Daniel Jacobs and Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Haymon is leaps and bounds more effective than any other manager.
Promoters frequently complain about Haymon driving up the cost of doing business by what they see as overpaying his fighters.
Perhaps it’s just me, but if I had to choose between a fighter being overpaid and a promoter getting overpaid, it’s not a tough decision. The boxers are the sport.
Haymon has also provided his fighters with maximum flexibility by choosing a promoter on a bout-by-bout basis. The standard practice had been in the past to sign a long, multi-fight deal with a promoter, and that’s still in use with many fighters.
But Haymon advises his fighters not to sign with a promoter and instead hires one each time they have a fight scheduled. That ensures that the promoter is putting his/her best effort forward each time out for a boxer.
That ties in with Haymon’s two biggest flaws: He won’t make the fights the fans want to see if, like in the case of WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford, the fighter is aligned with a promoter and a television network that aren’t in sync with his. Also, Haymon doesn’t believe in promoting.
Marketing, promotion and public relations are absolute essentials. The NFL is the country’s most successful sports league, and it spends hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps more, on an annual basis marketing and promoting itself and its players.
Boxers are in far greater need than NFL players of a strong, consistent and coherent marketing and public relations plan, but Haymon doesn’t believe in it and so many of his boxers suffer as a result. A boxing promotion far too often looks like loosely organized chaos.
Haymon’s other flaw is that he’s not easy to make a deal with if you’re not already aligned with his side.
A welterweight title unification bout between unbeaten IBF/WBC champion Errol Spence Jr. and Crawford would be a massive fight and a shot in the arm for the sport since it would match not only the top two welterweights in the world but also potentially the top two boxers regardless of weight.
Crawford, though, has a TV deal with ESPN and is promoted by Top Rank, so the result is that not only is there no momentum toward a Spence-Crawford showdown, Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions doesn’t even acknowledge Crawford’s existence.
Individually, neither Spence nor Crawford is a huge draw, but together they would put on a mega-event that would captivate the sports world. In a way, it’s like the Canelo Alvarez-Gennadiy Golovkin fights. Alvarez is a mega-star. While Golovkin is a great boxer, he isn’t good at generating business unless he’s fighting Alvarez. But his two fights with Alvarez were massive, and are ranked Nos. 3 and 4 in the largest gates in boxing history. Each pay-per-view exceeded a million sales.
Golovkin can’t do that with anyone else, but he can with Alvarez. And as big of a star as Alvarez is, he didn’t do anywhere near those kinds of numbers for fights against the likes of Liam Smith and Amir Khan. Together, though, it’s a monster event, and that’s what Spence-Crawford would be.
That’s a big reason to vote against Haymon’s candidacy, but he’s done so much more good that one flaw, no matter how big, can and should be overlooked.
His founding of the PBC created many jobs and gave fans fights on a regular basis for free on network television or on basic cable, without having to pay for premium cable or an over-the-top service.
Mayweather became the highest-earning athlete in sports history under Haymon’s direction, and for that reason alone, he deserves to be enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Haymon doesn’t speak to the media and is rarely visible in public. He’s like the Wizard of Oz, working unseen behind the curtains to maneuver the chess pieces across the board.
He’s had his share of misses, but he’s done so much for so many that his omission from the Hall of Fame ballot is unconscionable.
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