American boxing is in such a funk right now most of the biggest stars in the sport are foreigners Gennady Golovkin, Manny Pacquiao, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Wladimir Klitschko, Sergei Kovalev and Carl Froch.
There has been many explanations and theories for this shift in the balance of power and I offer another. Perhaps the examples of seeing two of the greatest titans in sports history Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson has also had a negative influence. Seeing the health state of Muhammad Ali and the rags to riches and back to rags story of Mike Tyson blowing and being exploited out of an estimated $400,000,000 in ring earnings into deep debt have discouraged and frightened off many a talented athlete from deciding to dedicate himself to boxing.
Just a thought.
What is going on with Keith Thurman? Al Haymon apparently doesn't have big plans to build the Floridian powerhouse into a superstar, which he is certainly capable of becoming, with his exciting, aggressive, knockout style and intelligent, well-spoken persona. Thurman has been ready for Mayweather (or any top welterweight) for over a year now but it's obvious he's not in the mix for any dance date with Mayweather. Haymon keeps giving Thurman minor fights, well beneath his capabilities. It's a shame to see such a young, thrilling fighter over-ripening on the vine like Thurman is.
As we know, Mayweather is Haymon's chosen one. Mayweather will never be put at risk to injury or losing. Losing would wreck Haymon's most important leverage to continue controlling the sport. Without Mayweather, Haymon loses just about everything. Danny Garcia, Deontay Wilder, Andre Berto, Peter Quillin, Danny Jacobs, just don't have what it takes to transcend the sport.
I'm hearing that boxing insiders have had enough of Al Haymon and there is growing unrest among the ranks with his manipulative methods, arrogance, favoritism, and dirty deeds. Some of the boxers don't like how Haymon stays in the background and manipulates others to do his talking. At least Don King was front and center and never hid from the media or even fans. If you put King on the spot, he'd try to sweet talk his way out of it. With Haymon, it's a different story. He hides from criticism, he shields himself from having to explain his accountability.
A typical example of Haymon at work: Earlier this year Kathy Duva and Main Events sued Haymon for breaching a contract on a deal to match his fighter Adonis Stevenson against Duva's star Sergei Kovalev on HBO. It's generally believed that Haymon didn't want to risk one of his top stars, Stevenson, to lose by brutal KO to Kovalev, and thus reneged on the deal by taking Stevenson to the safer havens of his puppet Stephen Espinoza at Showtime. Duva was outraged, as were many boxing fans, and took legal action against Haymon and Golden Boy.
Now, Bernard Hopkins, who despite his well documented outspoken nature against dirty politics and injustice in boxing, has never once blasted or criticized Al Haymon, has suddenly come to the rescue and agreed to face Kovalev on HBO. Hopkins agreeing to face Kovalev - a man he showed little interest to fight before Haymon was sued by Duva - provoked Duva and Main Events to drop the lawsuit against Haymon and Golden Boy.
So though Al Haymon got off the hook this time, you have to wonder how much longer he can keep his charades going while keeping everybody happy and hiding himself behind the curtain. Mayweather vs. Maidana 2 is likely going to lose more millions than the first fight. There is only one fight that Mayweather can generate big money with - Manny Pacquiao, and we know Floyd will never find the courage to accept that challenge which he has confessed could permanently damage his health or leave him like Ali. It's only a matter of time before his boy Espinoza gets fired by Showtime.
Haymon needs a miracle. He needs a Mike Tyson or Sugar Ray Leonard to fall into his lap. There are no unsigned miracles waiting to happen at this point in time though. But Deontay Wilder has been carefully manufactured to be a facsimile of a star. With an unbeaten KO record, the former Olympic bronze medalist will fight for the WBC Heavyweight title against champion Bermane Stiverne early next year. For Haymon, Wilder winning this title is of paramount importance. With Mayweather fading fast, Haymon desperately needs Wilder to win the WBC title, so he has a new star to work with, market and promote, as the next Mayweather level star.
With the little known and charisma-lacking Stiverne as champ, you have to wonder if the American powers-that-be will make a play or have the politics manipulate Wilder to beat Stiverne. There is no money to be made with Stiverne, who is less marketable than Michael Moorer or Henry Akinwande. Remember, this is boxing, where bizarre things do happen... like the outrageous Evander Holyfield-Lennox Lewis draw in '99 or Don King giving Lennox Lewis a Range Rover to vacate the IBF belt, in effect, buying the belt which eventually ended up with his fighter Chris Byrd.
Al Haymon will do anything for more power in boxing, more leverage to run the sport, so keep your eyes closely on how the Wilder vs. Stiverne situation develops.
It's sad to see one of boxing's nicest newest venues close. The Revel Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City will shut down next month. The $2.4 billion Revel, which opened two years ago, hosted two great world title events in the last year, Geale vs. Barker and Kovalev's most recent KO win earlier this month. The Revel never turned a profit and twice sought bankruptcy protection but no buyer has emerged to save the spectacular edifice situated on the north end of the famous boardwalk. Two other historic Atlantic City venues - Trump Plaza and The Showboat are also closing this year. There once was a time in the 70's and 80's when there could be two or three boxing shows in one week in Atlantic City. How things have changed.