The 'Keyser Soze' of Boxing
For those familiar with the Kevin Spacey thriller, The Usual Suspects, the name 'Keyser Soze' should ring a bell. Soze is a seemingly mythical character working behind-the-scenes whose 'ruthlessness and influence have acquired a legendary, even mythical status.' He is never truly seen and those who work for him follow his directions like puppets hung from strings.
Over the past ten years, the boxing world has seen the rise of its own 'Keyser Soze', in the form of a boxing manager / promoter named Al Haymon. Haymon is a Harvard graduate, and was long known as a music promoter prior to his entry into the sport of boxing. The parallels between Haymon and Soze run large, in the sense that he is a 'behind-the-scenes' guy who wields a disproportionate amount of power in boxing - for example, he's able to get fighters that would generally not be considered Pay-Per-View (PPV) fighters onto PPV cards. He's built up fighters like Adrien Broner with mediocre / above-average boxing talent into superstars.
Known as boxing's 'power-broker', Haymon has been able to build a stable of fighters under-contract that represent the best-and-brightest that the sport has to offer. Unfortunately for all of us, he wields his power in a way that protects his fighters from the best fights that can be made by way of blocking potential blockbuster showdowns. Haymon fighters have little-to-no say in the fights they engage in and thus, we are often left with lopsided victories, 'paper champions', and general mediocrity.
Adrien "The Problem" Broner is perhaps the best manifestation of Haymon, the puppet-master. Broner is a cocky, flashy young fighter coined 'the next Mayweather' (he even refers to Floyd as 'big-brother'). And for a while, everybody had no reason to doubt this kid - he looked tremendous moving his way up the various divisions and becoming a three-time world champion. This was all working great until Broner had to fight a real fighter - Marcos Maidana - yes, the same Maidana that Mayweather just beat. Not only did Maidana put Broner on the canvas twice, he exposed what many had long-suspected, Broner is a fraud. Broner's post-fight interview after his one-sided victory against a 'nobody' on Saturday's Mayweather under-card fight demonstrated a kid who is not "the problem", but rather "a problem", and luckily for all of us, the WBC agreed and has suspended Broner for the comments.
Like Soze, Haymon is rarely seen in public and uses his right-hand man, Sam Watson, as his public representative - analogous to the role of 'Kobayashi' in The Usual Suspects. Haymon's role in the sport is continuing to grow - he has strong alliances with Floyd Mayweather Jr., Leonard Ellerbe and perhaps most-troubling, Golden Boy Promotion's (GBP) CEO, Richard Schaefer. Schaefer has been engaged in a very public dispute with GBP's majority shareholder and namesake, Oscar De La Hoya. Additionally, Schaefer has publicly declared that he will not deal with Bob Arum / Top Rank - boxing's other main promoter who handles Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley, and a host of other top talent.
Given these dynamics, it is unlikely that we will see any Arum fighters face any Haymon fighters, which includes any possibility of a Mayweather / Pacquiao showdown - we all lose. Additionally, there is a very real possibility that Schaefer pulls the carpet out from underneath De La Hoya and defects to build a new company with Haymon, Mayweather, and Ellerbe. If that were to happen, I see no other outcome than for De La Hoya to join forces with Arum (whom he recently reconciled with). Such a development would only further divide the current landscape of boxing and allow for the creation of more 'Adrien Broners' - mediocre fighters handed disproportionate and unearned opportunities.
But like what we've seen happen with Broner, there is only so much protection you can afford these fighters. Eventually, they are going to have to fight real talent and the cream will rise to the top.
"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that...he is gone."
- T.C. Schiller