Working with Haymon
It’s been said before – actually by this scribe – that when you work with Al Haymon in boxing, you work for him. In other words, whether you are a promoter, manager, trainer or fighter, you basically take edicts from him and follow his orders. Hey, there’s a reason every one of his fighters thank him as if on cue after each bout.
But according to Stephen Edwards, trainer and co-manager of Julian Williams (who defeated Jamar Freeman in Shelton, Washington on Saturday night), this perception isn’t necessarily true – at least not in their case.
“People ask me that a lot of times and I’m being as honest as I can be; Al Haymon is the kind of guy that will ask you who you want, who you can beat and he’ll give you the option. So when you see guys who don’t fight tough, it’s not him telling them not to fight tough; it’s their guys and their teams saying, ‘We don’t want to fight tough’ and, of course, he’s going to accommodate you because that’s his job to accommodate you,” said Edwards on the afternoon on Dec. 4 at the Undisputed Gym in San Carlos, California.
“So when people say that, I always say, ‘If Al Haymon protects all of his guys, then how come Julian Williams fights tough? How come Jermain Taylor fought Bernard [Hopkins] twice, Winky Wright, Kassim Ouma, Cory Spinks, Kelly Pavlik twice? How come Rico Ramos fights tough? It’s the guys that don’t want to fight – it’s not Al Haymon saying, ‘Oh, my God, please don’t fight that killer over there,’ because he’ll ask me, ‘Do you think Julian can beat that guy?’ and I’ll say, ‘Yeah,’ and he’ll say, ‘Well, if you think [Williams] can beat him, you know better than anybody else. I’ll put [Julian] in there with [a particular opponent] but if you don’t think you can beat him, we won’t put him in there with him.’ So he gives you the choice.
“So when you see a guy who’s missing a lot of opponents and always fighting a turkey, it’s not Al Haymon telling them to fight the turkey. It’s those guys that don’t want to fight.”
If this is the case, you must wonder what was going through the mind of Peter Quillin as he recently turned down a career-high payday of $1.4 million to face Matt Korobov. Perhaps Edwards and Williams force the issue with Haymon but it seems like other fighters are more than willing to conveniently hide behind Haymon to avoid certain match-ups.
And with that, comes severe backlash to fighters who are represented by Haymon. The public believes these boxers have a sense of entitlement and privilege that isn’t afforded to others. Williams admits to noticing the backlash, “Yeah, for sure. I think [Haymon] looks out for his fighters and, to be honest with you, Al Haymon lets you fight if you ask him to fight. I think you can’t force guy to get in the ring. [Haymon’]s job is to protect his fighters and I think that’s what he does. He does a great job at it.”
Thus far, Williams hasn’t felt the wrath of the boxing fans the way perhaps Quillin or Andre Berto have in recent years. For the most part, he’s fought the appropriate fights, hasn’t put his foot in his mouth and isn’t perceived to be grossly overpaid for easy match-ups on premium cable.
“But listen,” added Williams, “let me tell you one thing: Al Haymon fighters aren’t the only ones protected; y’know what I mean? I think that a manager’s goal is to protect his fighter, get him paid. If every manager could do what Al Haymon does, they would do it. So I think a lot of things are motivated because they’re jealous. He’s got a lot of control; the guy can pull strings.”
What Williams says is 100 percent true but what disgusts fans is that Haymon’s clients aren’t just protected; they are afforded a certain type of treatment that allows Danny Garcia to face Rod Salka in a gross physical mismatch on Showtime for an incredibly lucrative amount despite the lack of risk involved.
Haymon is very good for his clientele but over this past year, he’s been terrible for the fans whose only real concern involves the fights they get to see. The card this past weekend on Showtime Extreme was nothing more than representative of the “Haymon Invitational,” a series of fights in which the results were basically predetermined.
2015 is set to be a pivotal year for Williams, a talented junior middleweight whose record now stands at 18-0-1 (11). There will be ample opportunities for him to move up the ladder.
“Here’s the thing: Al Haymon’s got so many guys around the 154-pound division, we’re going to have to fight some of those guys eventually,” said Edwards, who wants Williams to fight four times next year. “I understand that; Julian understands that, Al Haymon understands that. So I really don’t worry about that. He compensates us for taking tough fights. Julian gets paid well for fighting the guys that he has. When he fought Joachim Alcine, he was 12-0 [with one draw]. Joachim Alcine had just beat David Lemieux, who had like 26, 27 fights. Julian fought [Alcine] and beat him and [Haymon] recognizes that and he paid us well for taking those kind of fights.”
So while Williams and Edwards make it clear they are willing, it still takes two to tango. What if another Haymon client decides not to face Williams and chooses a path of lesser resistance?
“That is an issue,” Edwards admits. “We’ve had some guys, you know…I’m not big on calling guys out because it’s just not that easy to get on YouTube or something and make a fight. I understand this is a business and Julian right now is that high-risk/low-reward kind of guy. So when you do hear rumors like, ‘Well, who is he to fight? We don’t need to fight that kid,’ I understand that.”
Edwards continued, “I’m not really obsessed with fighting anybody in particular. [Julian] wants to be champion of the division. He wants to unify; he wants to break Terry Norris’ defense record. So he really doesn’t care about, ‘I have to fight this guy’; he doesn’t have a rivalry like that. Whoever is there that’s in his weight, that’s who he wants to fight.”
But there is a certain reality that currently exists in the business. Haymon is persona non grata at HBO and as Williams eventually moves up to 160, that could be problematic as the network has most of the blue-chip middleweights.
“Yes and there’s a boogeyman at ‘60 but I’ll tell you this – and I don’t mind saying it on camera – Julian has told me personally, ‘Man, if I win the title at ‘54 and after I defend it a couple times, I can’t make the weight, we ain’t hiding from [WBA middleweight titlist] Gennady Golovkin. I’m not going to be the guy walking around with a guy in my weight division scared to fight him. I’m not rolling like that. So if Al can get that fight for me, I don’t give a shit about Gennady Golovkin. He’s a great fighter but he’s just a man. I’m at ‘54 now, so it don’t make sense but if I go to 160 and he’s the guy – that’s who I want to fight.’ And [Williams] told me that personally,” said Edwards.
But there are some who will continue to use Haymon as a shield. Haymon is an easy target in many respects given he often makes life very easy for his boxers. Perhaps there are fighters who are satisfied with getting paid very well for very little risk, all the while barking about fights which they really don’t want to partake.
Williams admits when he sees this from his fistic colleagues, it disgusts him. “Boxing is business; that’s just the way it goes. But yeah, of course, I don’t want to name no names but every career and every choice and decision is going to be different. Some people are going to agree; some people are not. That’s just how life is.”
The overall mindset of many of today’s boxers troubles Edwards.
“Yes it does. Honestly, you hear too many guys talking about, ‘It’s a business.’ We all know it’s a business. You’re called a prizefighter…well, obviously it’s a business but I don’t think it’s coincidence that in this day and age, we’re always missing fights. But just 20 years ago, Oscar De La Hoya, Pernell Whitaker, [Evander] Holyfield, guys like Ray Leonard, they always gave us the fights we wanted every time. If there was a killer around, ‘Oh, God; OK, I’ll take that.’ People talk about the fights De La Hoya lost, he was the biggest name in boxing; he’s the only person in the history of boxing that fought the number one pound-for-pound guy four times,” pointed out the “Breadman.”
“So it is messed up in this day and age. I was looking to a fight with two young guys in our division and I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be a good fight,’ but it’s always somebody talking about the business – and don’t get me wrong; you should not get underpaid. You’re risking your life in the boxing ring – but it’s kind of a convenient excuse in this day and age. The worst part is the networks not getting along or certain people not wanting to do business with other people and then you see a guy calling out a guy they know that they can’t fight because he’s on HBO and he’s on Showtime or this guy is with Top Rank [Promotions] and this guy’s with Haymon or something and you know damn well they can’t fight and they’re screaming and hollering their names.
“And you’re like, ‘Well, you know they can’t fight, why would you call out a guy that you know for a fact that the fight can’t be made.”
I was recently sent an advisory agreement regularly used by Haymon (AdvisoryAgreementreHaymonSports,LLC121114).
This is what one boxing insider had to say about it:
“He is refining his agreements as he moves forward. The question that comes to mind is: How could Al possibly breach this contract? The only thing he is obligated to do is give the fighter his advice. He is not even required to get them a fight. And to the extent that he has promised to publicize their careers (which is impossible to quantify), the fighter must reimburse his expenses!!! Don King had absolutely nothing on this guy! At least Don used to promise them fights. If he breached and they had a good lawyer, his fighters could get out of their deals. There is no way out of this contract that I can see, other than to bring a Muhammad Ali Act violation suit based on the premise that he is actually doing the job of promoter while masquerading as an ‘adviser.’
If a fighter who already has a manager signs this, by the way, he will be giving up a fee to the manager plus 15% before paying for training expenses and paying a trainer. Don King would blush.”
Doug Fischer, Ken Miller and I talked about Mr. Haymon on a recent episode of UCNLive.com’s “Ten Count”:
Edwards is one of the brightest guys in the boxing business and one of the most candid. Here’s an interview we did that touched on a wide variety of issues:
So has Andy Ruiz Jr. just decided to not even try and get into shape? He has a lot of natural ability but seemingly not one ounce of discipline…The card on Showtime Extreme went as expected with all of Haymon’s clients notching victories…2014 was the lost year for Adonis Stevenson in many ways; wasn’t it?…So is the “Offensive Rookie of the Year” Odell Beckham Jr. or Zack Martin?…So is this really the end for Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco? That seems hard to believe given his success up there…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at http://twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at http://instagram.com/steveucnlive.