The boxing promotional space has been, like the rest of the sport, in a transition phase for the last few years.
The Premier Boxing Champions bigly play in the space, the attempt to turn upside down the prevailing model, getting toe-holds by doing time buys, shook the foundation of the sport since inception, and rumbles and shifting are still present.
Through it all, Lou DiBella out of New York has been doing his thing, of late more so in concert with Haymon and PBC, though he retains a jumbo sized roster of talent and also promotes his own shows, mainly in Connecticut and New York.
In the last two to three years, Brit deal-maker Eddie Hearn has emerged as THE BOSS in that realm overseas, in the UK. Whereas Frank Warren had a run as number one for a solid spell, Hearn has overtaken the vet, and is front and center of some massive promotions. Much of that has to do with his alliance with heavyweight top dog Anthony Joshua, whose services are so sought after, HBO and Showtime have bid for his bouts with a zeal not seen in some time. Because, there is heavyweight boxing…and then there is everything else…
Hearn announced a couple weeks ago that he is looking to widen his horizons. He signed 30-year-old Danny Jacobs, the Brooklyn middleweight who is seeking to be more active than he was fighting under the PBC banner, and Jacobs signed a loot-heavy exclusivity contract with HBO. Dibella, on the EVERLAST podcast TALKBOX told listeners he totally gets why the 32-2 Jacobs aligned with HBO; the main players at 160, Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez, are both fighting regularly on HBO, with GGG especially being a long-term project and partner with the cabler which boasts both the Kazakh wrecking ball and “Game Of Thrones” under their corporate umbrella.
“The biggest fights in the world for Danny are Canelo and Triple G, and they both have exclusive contracts with HBO, so the fact that Danny Jacobs is going to fight on HBO, that doesn’t surprise me much,” said DiBella, who also owns minor league baseball teams and has done Hollywood production, in addition to his sweet science holdings.
“Look,” he said, warming up to the Hearn incursion, “a lot of people have said they’re going to take over New York, that they’re going to take over America, whatever. Like, Golden Boy has had a lot of success, but they didn’t didn’t have a lot of success when they tried to be the exclusive promoter in Brooklyn. I’ve said my peace to some extent about Eddie’s situation, but good luck to Eddie here. I think Eddie doesn’t know anything about Brooklyn. I think he thinks ‘Brooklyn’ is David Beckham’s child! I’m not really overly concerned.
“There’s open competition, people can come in and try to do what they want to do, but I don’t think that a guy whose offices are in Great Britain is going to have a lot of success. Whether or not he opens up, or buys some space in New York, I’m not particularly concerned about Eddie’s supposed British Invasion. That doesn’t really concern me. And you know, he’s dangling Anthony Joshua around from network to network, using that to try and get network support to grab support. And I get that. I’m guessing Anthony Joshua is going to notice that at some point, I don’t know how he’s going to feel about that.”
He said Hearn’s deal with Sky gives him power there but that Hearn hasn’t showcased much in the way of American fighters on Sky, so it remains to be seen how that dynamic changes, if it does.
"He’s entitled to try what he wants to try, good luck to him. He may just wind up finding out he’s going to be booed on two continents!”
DiBella also noted that he’s gotten wind of “nasty” things Hearn has said behind his back to people in the US, and the Brit would be silly to think some of that doesn’t trickle down to him.
“I’ve been working in the boxing business in the New York area for most of my adult life, so it’s sort of foolish to think those things aren’t going to get back to me. And God bless him if he wants to stoop to those levels. That’s the end of it to me, he’s entitled to come over here and try what he’s going to try, but I’m not afraid of his British invasion.”
I emailed Hearn to see if he wanted to offer any counter punch or what have you, and will let you all know if and when he does.
My three cents: If you haven’t noticed, and I dare say any sentient being has, this is a period of tremendous change in the world, period, not just the boxing world. The climate, the world economy, the transition from manufacturing to information as the driver of economies and jobs. The boxing world in the last three years has been unstable, with shifts of business models and players dropping out, both promoters and fighters.
There is more to come. Will PBC be dropping out of their attempt to place product on platforms and more so go back to being what it was, Al Haymon advising fighters and being the behind the curtain machination man? It feels like that, as PBC output on the big networks has gone from regular to intermittent.
Within this space, we see shifts; on Wednesday, the top editor at a big boxing magazine was let go, apparently an acknowledgement that it isn’t easy to generate revenue when for the last 12-15 years, so much content has been offered for “free,” with the belief that advertising would make up the difference. Hasn’t happened.
So, we are in wait see mode, and we assume that the people who best understand the current climates will be prevailing, and others failing. It will not be an easy lift for Hearn; juggling might look easy when you see the circus, but that expert worked long and hard to be able to juggle those flaming chain saws.
Like DiBella said, can Hearn really do the job justice here in the US if he’s simply jetting here for three days every so often? Boots on the ground is still a needed component to many if not most endeavors, and unless Hearn wants to make a sizable investment into US-based Matchroom Promotions personnel, he might find himself being spread a bit thin, and see one those chainsaws come back to bite him.