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Close Encounters With Al Haymon

alhay2By Scoop Malinowski

You won’t see Al Haymon around the boxing universe anymore, he prefers to stay behind the scenes now. But just a few years ago, Haymon would regularly attend press conferences and sit ringside at some of his events.

The first time I remember seeing Haymon was in 2008 at the Paul Williams vs Carlos Quintana rematch press conference in 2008 at a restaurant in Manhattan. We all knew Haymon as the advisor of Floyd Mayweather who had entered the sport guiding Vernon Forrest after a long stint in the music industry. That afternoon Haymon walked by me and he must have known me from word of mouth or somehow recognized or liked my fedora, so he extended his right hand and we shook hands and exchanged respectful eye contact. I thought to myself, this guy who protects Floyd Mayweather from Cotto and Margarito ain’t so bad, he’s a good guy, a boxing guy who deeply loves the sport and these heroic warriors who make it special, just like the rest of us.

My next Haymon encounter was in October 2009 at Giants Stadium, at a press conference to announce the Kelly Pavlik vs Paul Williams fight, which was later canceled because Pavlik had some kind of health issue. At this time I felt a mild disenchantment with Haymon for his role in blocking Mayweather vs Cotto in 2008, Mayweather vs Margarito in 2006 and the beginning of the early stages of Mayweather’s six year dodge of Manny Pacquiao. Haymon walked by me and I commented that the recent Mayweather vs. Marquez fight was a disappointing event to watch but the proud Haymon countered quickly with, “It did over a million pay-per-view buys.”

I did not see Haymon at the first New York City press conference for Paul Williams vs Sergio Martinez but the manager of Williams – George Peterson – revealed a major scoop to me about Haymon. At the time, pressure was increasing for the powers-that-be to make Mayweather vs Pacquiao and so I asked Peterson what his prediction for that superfight would be? Peterson replied with an answer I was not expecting. Peterson said Pacquiao vs Mayweather was “never gonna happen.” Stunned by this revelation, I asked for elaboration. Peterson repeated his bombshell a number of times and added, “some fights aren’t meant to be.” I could sense by the certainty and disgust in his tone of voice that Peterson knew the secret agenda of Haymon, which was to protect Floyd forever from Pacquiao. The Haymon agenda was to continue to handpick guaranteed wins for Floyd and or choreograph each fight to be a win for Mayweather.

Haymon made an appearance at the Paul Williams vs Sergio Martinez rematch in Atlantic City in November 2010. The interesting inside word about the Williams vs Martinez rematch was that HBO forced Haymon to make it. Martinez and his promoter Lou DiBella wanted it, but Haymon did not. Haymon had recently screwed up by handpicking Tomas Adamek for his prized heavyweight Cris Arreola (Adamek won the decision in April) and subsequently he was in his extra-careful mode.

Somehow, someway, HBO’s Ross Greenberg managed to pressure Haymon to cough up Williams versus Martinez, though the details on how exactly Greenberg was able to pull this off I don’t know. Of course, Greenberg resigned or was forced out of HBO not long after this fight for his decision to pass on HBO televising the Pacquiao vs Mosley fight which subsequently did huge business for Showtime. The theory was that Haymon manipulated Greenberg to ignore Pacquiao vs Mosley which was an underhanded attempt to try to diminish and discredit the exploding popularity of Pacquiao, which of course would reduce pressure and demand by fans and media to see Pacquiao vs Mayweather. Since Pacquiao vs Mosley did big business, the power play failed miserably and so Greenberg’s head had to roll.

Haymon attended live and sat ringside, watching in horror as Martinez would knock out Williams with one punch in the first round in Atlantic City. After the fight I spotted Haymon on the right side of the stage to observe the post fight press conference, to listen to what Williams had to say.

I’m fairly certain that the last time I actually saw Haymon was at the Mayweather vs Victor Ortiz press conference in summer 2011. This was to be Floyd’s first fight on Showtime under the six-fight guaranteed contract worth $150 million. Do you really think Haymon and Mayweather would allow Floyd to lose and blow a guaranteed $150 million six fight deal? Not in a billion years. Are you beginning to understand why it was so vitally important for Floyd and Haymon to avoid Paquiao for all those years?

I stood in the back for this press conference which was staged in a big theater in New York City. In the beginning of the press conference I noticed Sam Watson looking for the location of the men’s room and then a few minutes later Haymon himself walked by and entered the men’s room presumably to take care of business. For those who really like specific details, Haymon only stayed inside for less than a minute.

Oh wait, there’s another. Another final encounter with Haymon happened around this time but I’m not exactly sure at which fight it was. At the small ballroom at the Atlantic City Convention Center I was standing and observing the scene near the ring entrance walkway barricades. I saw a fan ask to take a photo with Lou DiBella, who was on his way somewhere with Haymon. DiBella obliged the guy and guess who took the picture? Haymon. I snapped a shot of Haymon taking the photo, his probably first and last work as a boxing photographer.

Haymon has laid low for the last five years. We can only speculate why. Perhaps because his notoriety has grown because of his controversial business dealings and protection of Mayweather and other fighters and so now Haymon doesn’t want to take any risks of being recognized. Perhaps it’s shame and embarrassment related to the outrageous story that broke a few years ago detailing his alleged preference for transexual relationships by the web site www.Hollywoodstreetking.com. The story also dropped the bombshell that Haymon fixed the Mayweather vs Canelo fight by paying Canelo a $5m additional bonus to play soft on Floyd.

All we really know for sure about Haymon is that he’s profited hundreds of millions of dollars via his masterful guidance of the career of Floyd Mayweather but he’s also lost hundreds of millions of dollars through his disastrous endeavor called “Premier Boxing Champions” which has failed to create a single, money-making franchise fighter.

Hopefully one day Haymon will change his habit of avoiding public exposure. And one day Haymon will warmly face the media and share his side of the story. Until then, the ghost known as Al Haymon will continue to confound and intrigue, in his own unique, mysterious style, emphatically unlike any other figure there ever was in boxing.

 

 

About Scoop Malinowski

Author of six books including "Muhammad Ali: Portrait of a Champion" and "Heavyweight Armageddon: The Lewis versus Tyson Championship Battle" available at amazon