Overlords of the Rings

Overlords of the Rings

What to Contemplate When Signing with a Boxing Promoter

There was a time when Don King’s signing of a well-regarded prospect would not have raised many eye brows, as he was essentially the godfather of the sport and responsible for many of its largest events between the 1970s and 1990s. But fast forward to 2013 and it was surprising to read recently that well-regarded Uzbek lightweight prospect Bahodir (Baja) Mamadjonov, 13-1 (9 KOs) and a veteran of over 200 amateur bouts, has signed the next few years of his boxing career over to His Hairness. King, now 81-years-old, has been overall quiet for the past several years while his long-time rival Bob Arum/ Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions stake their claims for much of the continent’s top talents and prospects. Even during his peak years, King seemed to find a way to end up in litigation with many of his boxers, while more recently semi-regular gripes emerge from his remaining stable about his apparent failure to keep his boxers active. More importantly, aside from former light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud and heavyweight contender Bermane (B-Ware) Stiverne, King’s boxers do not receive much airplay from HBO or Showtime these days. Indeed, when was the last time the boxing public was treated by King to an event that was anything close to that of the extravaganzas that he put on when his stable boasted boxers such as Mike Tyson, Felix Trinidad, and Julio Cesar Chavez? Mamadjonov’s promotional deal thus begs the question of what is it professional boxers and their management really do, and really should, look for when entering into a promotional agreement. A quick look at a couple of key considerations follows.


Name Recognition Past and Present

This consideration falls into the “really do” category, and Mamadjonov appears to be the latest boxer to enter into a promotional agreement for this reason. While it is unclear what King can do for a boxer of Mamadjonov’s ilk today versus promoters such as Top Rank, Golden Boy, or Frank Warren, it would nonetheless appear from the outside that he has signed up with King based on his name and his tremendous body of past work. At the same time, it seems to be industry standard in U.S. professional boxing today that if you have a remotely talented young prospect, the only perceived show in town is Golden Boy. The risk in both scenarios, and others like them, is that many boxers may simply be awestruck to be considered by either outfit and fail to diligently consider the potential downside of signing with such a promoter based on little more than the brand.


The Building of a Fan Base

There are regional promoters all over the United States who have shown themselves to be quite capable of building up prospects from their parts of town as fan favorites and ticket sellers before the more capable of those prospects go on to bigger things in their career. The most recent example of this is Long Island-based light heavyweight “Irish” Seanie Monaghan,18-0 (11 KOs), who recently signed a promotional deal with Top Rank following an early career in marked by an ability to sell an exceptional amount of tickets for New York area fight promoters. Monaghan fought on the cards of a variety of regional promoters who were willing to keep him busy in exchange for ticket sales. In some instances, it may prove valuable to sign early career agreements with such promoters to give a boxer an opportunity to stay active in front of his hometown crowd and build a fan base. If a boxer feels confident that a certain promoter can give him such exposure and activity early, regardless of the company’s name, this is something that the boxer and his management really should consider.


The Ability to Stay Busy

It is fundamental to a development of a prospect that he stays busy in the ring during the first few years of his career as he builds towards bigger and more lucrative bouts. But what if the boxer gets caught in a promotional agreement with a promoter that cannot deliver on a promise to give him six to eight bouts per year and instead gives him closer to two or none? Legally, the boxer and his management team have some decisions to make at that point, but what should really happen before entering into such an agreement is that they do their due diligence on the promoter and look not just at the promoter’s entire body of work, but their recent history. Using Don King as an example again, some may recall how current IBF welterweight champion Devon Alexander flourished after coming out from under a couple of years in King’s stable. He simply was not kept active by King despite being regarded as a blue chip prospect out of the amateurs. Alexander may be thriving now, but there have been many boxers in similar positions who have simply faded away and/or never lived up to their potential due to problems with inactivity.


The Signing Bonus

It was reported back in March that undefeated phenom “Mr.” Gary Russell, Jr. turned down a promotional agreement and lucrative signing bonus from 50 Cent’s SMS Promotions. While some might have thought Russell had bats in the Belfry for rejecting the reported million dollar signing bonus, the signing bonus is not always the end of the inquiry in deciding who, if any, promoter to sign with, and shouldn’t be. Many boxers may not have Al Haymon as a manager and Golden Boy Promotions as an unofficial promoter, as Russell boasts at present, but that does not mean a boxer and his management should jump in bed with the first promoter who throws a facially substantial amount of money at him. Why? See the previous four paragraphs.


The Matchmaker

OK, so what if the promoter has some name recognition, can help you build a fan base, can keep you busy, and has the finances to provide you an appreciable signing bonus, but always seems to be putting you in the wrong type of bouts or matching you too tough too soon? Well, that could be a reflection of the promoter’s matchmaker, another x factor in deciding what promoter to sign with. Their track records may not always be the easiest to research, but a boxer and his team should certainly do what they can to research how well a promoter, and by extension his matchmaker(s), has done in moving their serious prospects. A one-time large signing bonus will not ultimately mean much of anything if you are trotted out against tough opposition too early and get aced. While there are no sure things in boxing, a boxer should at least feel comfortable that a prospective promotional team understands where he is and how fast he should be developed, and that starts with a matchmaker that can truly identify his strengths and weaknesses.

While the above list is certainly not exhaustive, it is my hope that this piece might have at least made some in the boxing world more aware of what they should be looking for in promotional agreements going forward. The Sweet Science is rough; the least you can do is choose a promoter wisely in order to make the best use of your limited time in it.

Originally published on 8 Count News.com in April 2013.



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