Growing up I used to fantasize that I would be the heavyweight champion of the world. The likes of my favorites such as Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield and the destructive “Iron” Mike Tyson. I always envisioned the end product of me being a famous and great boxer but not one time did I actually think about all the hard work and obstacles that I would have to overcome to get there. I just thought I was fast for a big guy and pretty strong so I could throw uppercuts like Iron Mike and I had the heart to get hit and hit back like the Real Deal. I never thought about the training I would have to endure or the doors that would have to be opened to me so that I could walk through them. It seems as if Roc Nation Sports, the company owned by rapper Jay Z, hasn’t really thought of the work that it is going to take to get into the business of boxing or at the very least they have underestimated how hard it is going to be due to the political nature of the sport.
Recently Dan Rafael of ESPN reported that Roc Nation offered interim welterweight title holder Keith Thurman a three-fight contract worth $6 million. Rafael stated that “Thurman would have gotten a $2 million advance against the total package followed by fight-night payouts of $1 million, $1 million and $2 million. Thurman was interested in the deal and even had Roc Nation Sports tweak the offer to give him payouts of $1.5 million, $1.5 million and $1 million.” That seems like a decent sum of money for a fighter who has never had a payday close to that amount but Thurman ultimately turned it down before he even discussed it with his manager Al Haymon.
This is not the first time Roc Nation has tried to go after a fighter and lure a fighter with big monetary rewards. “It also offered heavyweight contender Deontay Wilder, another Haymon client not under contract to a promoter, $2 million for his upcoming mandatory title shot against Bermane Stiverne. That would have kicked off the five-year contract Roc Nation Sports offered Wilder.” Rafael said that “Wilder, who I was told was very interested, did not take the deal because he couldn’t unless Haymon approved, which he didn’t.”
In addition to offering Wilder and Thurman large sums of money to sign with the organization, per ESPN Roc Nation also placed a purse bid of a massive $1,904,840 to gain the promotional rights to a mandatory title fight between then middleweight titleholder Peter Quillin and Matt Korobov back in August 2014. But just like Wilder and Thurman, Quillin is managed by Al Haymon and was advised to drop his title belt just to get out of the mandatory title fight.
It is common knowledge that Al Haymon had issues in the music business with Jay Z and his wife Beyoncé. That has not translated well for Roc Nation as they have attempted to enter into the world of boxing in which Haymon is the king of all managers/promoters. Even with the troubled relationship, the fact that Roc Nation is trying to throw large sums of money at fighters and put in massive purse bids to be able to promote fights, just isn’t a viable working business model in the world of boxing it seems. I cannot remember any promoter that has come into the fight game and just start signing fighters to big contracts and become a true player overnight. Not Don King, Bob Arum, or any other promoter/manager to include Al Haymon. Furthermore how could one think that they are going to come in and just throw money around and act like that is the end all, be all to getting fighters? Al Haymon has made Floyd Mayweather Jr. the highest paid athlete in the world. Not just in boxing but in the whole world. And second place isn’t even close. Haymon has gotten Adrien Broner $1.25 million to fight Carlos Molina and he got Amir Khan $1.5 million to fight Luis Collazo so why would anyone join an unproven commodity in Roc Nation over Al Haymon when they could make the same amount of money, or more fighting lesser competition? In addition to that, with all the bad blood between Haymon and Jay Z how would a fighter get the big fights anyway if those 2 don’t do business together and Haymon manages most of the superstars? The promoters in the sport have worked their way up and earned there stripes signing prospects while networking in the sport. They have had to play the political game and learn how to navigate through the shark infested waters that is the business of boxing. Roc Nation may have to face the fact that they most likely will have to do so as well.
That brings me back to my initial thoughts. Just as I had dreamt of being the heavyweight champion of the world but had no realistic plan on how to get there, it seems as though Roc Nation wants to be a boxing promoter but has no credible business model to make it happen. Or maybe they do have a plan and it just isn’t working right now. Roc Nation does not have a single fighter signed to their company yet, so in essence how can they be a promoter without anyone to promote? Am I saying that they won’t eventually get it right and become at least a respectable promoter? Not at all. I just don’t see it happening any time soon. One would think that the organization would understand the political obstacles in being an outsider and having to properly break into a sport considering that they had to do the same thing when they became agents for the NFL, NBA and MLB players. They seem to have been overconfident and failed to understand that boxing has no singular oversight like the owners and players associations in other sports. Boxing has no unions and barely has any laws in place to protect fighters. With those mitigating factors alone, the leadership within the organization should know that getting into boxing promotion will require more effort and dedication than it took to get into the other major sports. So now the task ahead for Roc Nation will be to adapt and overcome. Will they keep throwing out the big money and hope to get lucky enough for someone to grab it? Or will they adapt their business model and start trying to sign fighters and do things through good old fashioned hard work to earn their place? Just because my delusions of grandeur of becoming the heavyweight champion of the world never panned out, (even though I never had a realistic plan to make it happen) that doesn’t mean that Roc Nation can’t become a major player in the sport without a realistic plan while taking short cuts to get there. Then again I was a broke little kid with barely a food stamp to my name and Roc Nation is a multi-million dollar company, so they probably got a better shot at making it happen than I did I guess. Only time will tell I suppose.
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