There are a lot of exciting fights happening this weekend or set to happen in the very near future. What will likely be a very exciting heavyweight bout for an actual title belt, occurring in Vegas versus Germany for a change, is Bermane Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs) vs. Deontay Wilder (32-0, 32 KOs) Saturday, January 17 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and airing live on SHOWTIME at 10pm ET. Next Saturday, January 24th, there is the beginning of the end of what has been an action packed trilogy with Mike Alvarado (34-3, 23 KOs) vs. Brandon Rios (32-2-1, 22 KOs), at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colorado, to be televised live on HBO beginning at 9:45PM ET/PT. If the previous two fights are indicative of the level of competition, it should be a real slugfest, as promoter Top Rank and HBO are banking upon. However, the real KO punch that has reverberated throughout the whole of the boxing stratosphere is the stunner that Al Haymon delivered to HBO, Pay Per View and Showtime this Wednesday. Just last week many were disparaging 2014 as a humdrum year for boxing, laying considerable blame on Haymon for allowing – insisting even that his ever increasing stable of fighters maintain their sterling records on Showtime by fighting the equivalent of cabdrivers, bricklayers and otherwise unchallenging matches. Nevertheless, it would appear as of this Wednesday that his many fighters were right in believing that another thing was coming in following Haymon as their pied piper.
This Wednesday, during a huge NBC Sports press conference it was revealed that Haymon has singularly implemented a virtual Coup de Grace over the competition via a series deal with NBC Sports to broadcast 20 live boxing cards in 2015 with five in prime time on the network as the “Premier Boxing Champions”, setting into action a rumored plan to reinvent boxing by moving it away from cable networks and Pay Per View by returning professional boxing to network television and rendering the sport accessible once again to the masses. The idea behind the move on the part of Haymon is to effectively bring professional boxing back to being a household sport similar to NFL Football or Major League Baseball. Indeed the reclusive Haymon (who was, true to form, not even visibly present for the Wednesday’s press conference announcing the NBC venture), a Harvard MBA with a very successful past in concert promotion, appears to be on the verge of bringing boxing back to what one boxing twitter commentator rightly coined as Camelot; a return to the days of breakout stars like “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard fighting in homes across the country without the economic roadblocks of additional payment or monthly subscription.
The future appears bright for the fans and the fighters alike with the necessary caveat that this impressive stable of warriors Haymon has painstakingly amassed must now actually fight real riveting competition on that shiny NBC sponsored center stage – unlike what took place on Showtime. Love him or hate him, Haymon has done something that boxing fans have been longing for for years. Yet and still, as for the continued health of boxing as something other than a monopoly controlled by one benevolent or despotic ruler, the ultimate verdict has yet to be seen and recorded. Indeed, in looking over the preparation of this incredible feast, one might want to take note of the eggs cracked – in fact smashed in executing the recipe should everything go to mush.
Perhaps the biggest casualty of Haymon’s fete is presently embattled Showtime Sports Executive Vice President Stephen Espinoza. It is no wonder that seconds after Al Haymon’s NBC coup was unveiled to the world and twitter verse at large, pictures of Bernard Hopkins’ (55-7-2, 32KOs) cursory colon exam by his doctor in preparation for his fight against Sergey Kovalev (26-0-1, 23KOs) were rampant with various obligatory memes that what Hopkins’ doctor was doing to The Alien was what Haymon had done to Showtime’s Espinoza with the bill for the procedure left for big boss CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves to pay. It is no secret that Espinoza, believing Showtime would get an unprecedented edge over the competition in the bargain, got in bed early with Haymon inking a deal that had all of Haymon’s fighters dominating Showtime’s boxing roster with very generous terms for Haymon and his fighters in the process. Despite the fact that Espinoza is now very publicly claiming that he is “ thrilled about the deal” between Haymon and NBC Sports as a “tremendous opportunity” for the “individual boxers” and “the sport overall” in what is likely a wise attempt at damage control as counter move, it stands to reason that Espinoza, whether he was or was not given feasible notice by Haymon about the 2015 NBC deal, could not have figured on Haymon doing this loop de loop around Showtime, delivering tepid fights to the cabler as a warm-up for when his fighters would hit the real show on primetime network television via NBC. In addition, the whole business has largely added up to an unconcealed kill shot or at the very least a serious hemorrhaging of the monetary stronghold that cable and Pay Per View have had up to this point in professional boxing. As such, the forthcoming divvying up of this pie is simply not something that any sensible cable or Pay Per View executive would knowingly facilitate or give succor. It follows that Espinoza, left with little other public option, is heartily trying to put a good spin the fiasco, going even so far as to intimate that he has spanking new secret and special plans for Showtime that are yet to be revealed. Okay, maybe…. But barring something truly incredible, even the best of the best spin doctor would be hard pressed to spin a dream out of this sow’s ear and not declare this pig despite all the pretty makeup, entreaties and positive speak, still a rather sad sack of ham.
If anything, Espinoza’s unexpected generosity to Haymon as the businessman who gutted Peter in order to pay Paul is a latent threat for those smaller entities that have aligned with Haymon in his quest to bend boxing’s landscape. If Haymon is willing to do what he did to Espinoza and Showtime in the name of revolutionizing the sport, surely he is capable of things that don’t bode well for other smaller more vulnerable “associate/friend” boxing outfits (DiBella, Goossen) that have gotten close with Haymon’s King Arthur act. Indeed, should Haymon bring on the thunder, few are in a good state to weather the indifference or the wrath of the storm should it come for them unkindly. Some, such as Gary Shaw in folding Gary Shaw Productions into Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports have made some steps towards protected autonomy. In stark comparison, Golden Boy Promotions is licking its wounds along with Showtime from many losses of great talent in the likes of Adrien Broner (29-1, 22KOs) and Danny Garcia (29-0, 17KOs) to Haymon. Indeed now Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (44-1-1, 31KOs) is more precious to Golden Boy than ever – which could be tough for Golden Boy as well as the fans when it comes to pulling the trigger in setting up fights to truly test his limits.
Top Rank, and their always shrewd leader, CEO Bob Arum were more self aware with regard to reading some of the writing on the wall years ago when it came down to protecting themselves from any seismic changes. Intelligently, they implemented a good early plan of continually looking outside of the box and outside of the US towards less tapped and less frequented international pools of burgeoning talent to find a plethora of new and diverse fighters of the likes of Vasyl Lomanchenko (3-1, 1KO), Nicholas Walters (25-0, 21KOs), Zou Shiming (6-0 1KO), Guillermo Rigondeaux (15-0, 10KOs) and others to build up an insulating and enduring wall. This foresight would appear to leave them in the best standing in comparison to most after Haymon’s land grab.
In any event, if the continued health of the business of boxing as a competitive arena proves to now be in question to potential negative effect, there is some real good to come out of this monumental rocking aside from just the return of boxing to prime time network television. Because of the Showtime situation, with CBS Corporation CEO Les Moonves looming and reportedly having given a last life line ultimatum to Espinoza on the subject, 2015 is the most probable time that Floyd Mayweather Jr. (47-0, 26KOs) vs. Manny Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38KOs) will happen – the fight that everyone has been waiting for to settle all of the endless and incessant conjecture, predictions and out of control beefs. Are they a little older than we might have wanted them to be for this battle? Yes – but that is what it is. It’s still a present that along with the gift of prime time network televised boxing few expected to get but everyone has long waited to receive.
Written by Kylie Krabbe
January 16th 2015
Al Haymons Total Takeover
Al Haymon has become the most powerful man in boxing.