Al Haymon - America Calling
Martin Theobald

It has been announced today that IBF featherweight champion Lee Selby has signed a deal with advisor Al Haymon in the US.  Al Haymon is the figure behind Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), the boxing promotion that is utilising free-to-air TV time in the States.  Their model is to buy the TV time from networks and recoup the value through advertising.  Haymon has a stable of over 200 fighters that he can choose from to televise, as well as the ability to pay other fighters to come and fight on his shows.

The PBC concept has seen a mixed bag of competition to date - there have been some high profile decent matchups (Andre Dirrell vs James DeGale for the IBF super middleweight title, Shawn Porter vs Adrien Broner, Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri to name a few).  There have also been some less that stellar fights, which have added to the general view that Haymon likes to 'cherry pick' the opponents for his highest profile of fighters.

PBC is televised on multiple network across the States (read our piece here ).  But what are the implications for British fighters and what changes are we likely to see for those fighters that work with Haymon?

Well, let's first look at the domestic fighters that have featured on PBC cards.  

  • On April 11th Andy Lee fought Peter Quillin
  • On May 9th Ricky Burns for Manuel Figueroa
  • On the same night Jamie McDonnell fought Tomoki Kameda
  • On May 23rd James DeGale fought Andre Dirrell
  • On May 29th Amir Khan fought Chris Algieri
  • On July 18th Carl Frampton fought Alejandro Gonzalez

So since the first home fighter has featured, we have seen six of our own within four months.  Out of those fighters, one is a Cyclone Promotions fighter (Carl Frampton), one a Frank Warren fighter (Andy Lee), one is solely with Haymon (Amir Khan) and the other three are all MatchRoom promoted fighters.  Looking back at the betting odds for each of the fights, Andy Lee started a small underdog as did Jamie McDonnell.  Ricky Burns was a large underdog and came close to upsetting the odds.  Frampton and Khan started as overwhelming favourites.  James DeGale started around evens.  

This tells you that aside from Burns (who actually nearly upset the odds), each of the fighters that have been used by PBC have either been in close fights or have been put in as favourites.  Burns was arguably brought over as name fodder, being a former two weight world champ who is deemed to have his best days behind him.

Home Fighters Making the Move

As it stands today, Lee Selby joins James DeGale as being MatchRoom fighters who have signed with Al Haymon.  Amir Khan has been for a long time, and Carl Frampton has an agreement in place.

What it does not mean is that each fighter has ditched their domestic promoters and managers.  Khan aside (who has been based in America long term), each of the fighters has stated they are staying with their respective promoters.  Lee Selby has confirmed his manager, Chris Sanigar, will continue in his role.  So why join Haymon then?

We managed to get a quote from one set of fighters that certainly won't be heading Stateside anytime soon.  We queried with Peter Fury, uncle to Tyson, father to Hughie and trainer to both, if they would consider a similar pact with Haymon:

"Only one person we trust and will always be with is Mick Hennessy.  some things are more than business & money" he told us with refreshing loyalty and honesty.

Why Join Haymon?

Simply put, the opportunities to make money are huge.  The Dirrell vs DeGale fight ended up in the US because Al Haymon outbid Eddie Hearn - DeGale earned $1 million for the nights work.  Those fighters that make a home with Al Haymon are richly rewarded - a sample of the published purses so far under PBC cards:

  • Keith Thurman - $1.5 million to fight Roberto Guerrero, who earned $1.225 million
  • Adrien Broner - $1.25 million to fight John Molina, who earned $450,000
  • Abner Mares - $500,000 to fight Arturo Reyes, who earned $20,000
  • Andre Berto - $800,000 to fight Josesito Lopez, who earned $450,000

These are a sample of the purses that have been made available.  Unfortunately in the UK purses are not often published for fighters, so it is difficult to make a direct comparison.  In 2010 the Bureau of Labour Statistics published that the average UK fighter earned £67,905 per year.  The obviously covers those from the journeyman smallhall fighter through to the top level world champions.  Eddie Hearn has often been happy to send his fighters to the US to make "life changing money" - in other words, more than a fight in the UK will generate.

What to Expect Next

By signing with Haymon but staying with MatchRoom, Selby and DeGale have kept their options open.  What we will see though is these fighters turning up on PBC cards more often, and fighting in the UK less often.  MatchRoom are the providers of boxing to Sky TV - expect that those fighters on PBC that are still with MatchRoom will have their fight cards focussed around appealing to time slots that attract a UK audience.  Already PBC cards have been placed in time slots not traditional to modern American viewing (e.g. Saturday night) to accommodate other markets.  It is not to say that we won't see the likes of DeGale and Selby fight on these shores again - but there is a reason they have signed with Haymon.  That reason is money, and the US is where it can be generated.

Longer term, will we see more strategic alignments between MatchRoom and the PBC/Al Haymon?  It's a huge possibility.  At present, MatchRoom has a large chunk of the highest profile UK fighters.  UK fighters are marketable in the States and draw decent viewing figures.  As shown in the values above, Robert Guerrero got $1.225 for his efforts against Keith Thurman in a WBA Regular title show.  James DeGale got LESS for fighting Andre Dirrell for the IBF super middleweight title.  That tells you that their cost isn't as high as the American fighters yet.  It suits both parties - the UK fighters get more than they would on these shores, Al Haymon pays less than some of his own fighters get.  Eddie Hearn in the meantime sits in the middle and takes the promotional cut - everyone's a winner!

Well, everyone apart from the UK fans perhaps.  We will undoubtedly have less opportunities to see our fighters in live dates, unless we fancy hopping over the Atlantic.  The other alternative is that, perhaps, Haymon will work towards a 'PBC UK'.  This would go against the Sky Sports philosophy of subscription TV.  This is unlikely to be imminent - firstly they will look to recoup their money in the US and prove that the model works before moving it overseas.  However that doesn't mean it couldn't happen - with over 200 fighters in a stable, getting exposure for all will be difficult.  Looking at the fight schedule that PBC have over the coming months there are 3 cards scheduled for August and 4 for September.  Having any more than that would be difficult and over saturate the market.  Say that each card can get 8 fighters televised, that is 56 opportunities for fighters to gain exposure over two months.  Multiply that up, and logically there are 336 slots for TV exposure per year.  If each fighter in the stable looks to get out 3 times per annum, that is over 600 slots required.  600 into 336 simply doesn't go - which means that expansion of the market place may be required by PBC and Haymon.  It seems that the roots may have been placed to build that expansion overseas.

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