By Jake Donovan
Al Haymon has helped several dozen fighters generate several million dollars – and hundreds of millions for one fighter in particular – but has yet to guide one to the heavyweight championship.
All parties involved insist that Deontay Wilder is the one that will help complete a puzzle that began assembly a dozen years ago.
One member of Haymon’s camp described Wilder as “our ticket to the heavyweight championship. We’re taking this kid all the way – you’ll see him on Showtime and soon with the title around his waist.” The American heavyweight isn’t as raw as when he first entered the pro ranks, but still has a way to go before his skill level truly catches up with his career potential.
You can best believe we will see plenty of Wilder, and the smart money is on his eventually receiving a title shot. For the moment, he remains Haymon’s long shot – yet at least a shot – at crowning a king in boxing’s most storied division.
Ever since signing the late Vernon Forrest way back in 2001, Haymon had an immediate impact in boxing. The dozen years he has spent in the sport have seen the high-powered, low-profile music mogul-turned-boxing adviser gain major leverage with TV networks and take more than a handful of fighters to the promise land.
His current stable boasts everything any manager could ask for, including the highest grossing fighter in the world in unbeaten pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. Dozens of current fighters have reaped the benefits of Haymon in their corner (and the Watson brothers behind them on fight night).
What’s been missing from his stable since his entrance into the sport, however, has been a fighter that he has guided to the heavyweight championship. He inherited former titlist Lamon Brewster one title fight into his reign. Other than that, the closest he’s come was watching Chris Arreola rise through the rankings before crashing and burning against Vitali Klitschko in 2009.
Seth Mitchell was sold as his next best shot, but is presently faced with the task of avenging his lone career loss, a shocking 2nd round knockout at the hands of Johnathon Banks last November. Their rematch comes later this month at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a venue that will potentially host Wilder’s next fight, rumored to take place a month later on the undercard of Bernard Hopkins’ mandatory title defense against Karo Murat.
Coming off of a knockout win over Audley Harrison, it stands to reason that Wilder (28-0, 28KO) had already caught the eye of major American networks. The hulking Alabama native made his Showtime debut last December, but hadn’t been back on their airwaves since.
That will no longer be a problem, between Haymon and Golden Boy Promotions.
“I think it’s a strong team that can make things happen,” points out Jay Deas, who has guided Wilder’s career since he first took up the sport a decade ago. “As a team, we can give Deontay maximum exposure and maximum opportunity in boxing.”
Everything to this point in Wilder’s career has been due to Deas, squeezing out every last drop in taking his fighter as far as possible in an industry even more brutal behind the scenes than what takes place in the ring. The Alabama-based trainer and manager knows what he has in his fighter, and also knew all along that a point would come when additional influence would be required.
“We had done a great job so far, but needed that final piece of the puzzle to make that push,” Deas says of bringing Haymon into the fold. “Al has that drive and determination to do that.”
Deas was also smart enough to keep Wilder abreast every step of the way. A lesser man – that is to say, a man with less trust or confidence – would have driven up the price until either cashing out or being forced out the door, the latter far too often the case while keeping their fighter in the dark.
Not at all the case with Wilder and Deas, whose friendship outside the ropes serves as motivation to make all the right moves to do right by the fighter. This included bringing aboard former welterweight titlist and amateur standout Mark Breland as a trainer, along with renowned cornerman Russ Anbar.
“I brought Breland in because I believed he could add value to what I was already teaching,” Deas admits while reflecting on the move made shortly after Wilder captured Olympic Bronze in the 2008 Beijing Games, also bringing in legendary Shelly Finkel as a co-manager upon entering the pro ranks.
As for bringing in yet another identifiable face in the corner in Anbar, that move was a no-brainer as far as Deas was concerned.
“After watching Russ Anbar work, when it comes to hand wrapping he’s Michael Jackson and I’m Tito Jackson, Even Wladimir Klitschko called Russ the best hand wrapper in the sport.”
Now, an additional voice – Haymon’s - is heard long before everyone steps foot in the ring or even knows who is next to face the unbeaten heavyweight. When conversations take place between Haymon and Deas, there are no secrets kept from Wilder. Everything Deas knows, goes unfiltered straight to his fighter.
“We have a close and unusual relationship in regards to boxing,” Deas explains. “He understands the business more than most boxers do. We talk about the money every step of the way. He has a grasp on where all of the money is coming from him. He’s ahead of the game and it will serve him well with this new partnership.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of it. I’ve never had such a big ego that I was insecure to believe I was the only one who can get things done. Usually that’s when people get pushed out.”
While not speaking to that specific situation, it’s along the lines of what occurred when Lamon Brewster wanted to bring Haymon aboard. The Ohio-born heavyweight was looking for additional man power after capturing a vacant title in an upset stoppage win over Wladimir Klitschko, who hasn’t lost since.
Brewster’s title reign lasted nearly two years; Haymon was brought into the fold five months into the reign, a move that was met with the immediate demotion of manager Sam Simon, who repeatedly insisted that he was unable to get a hold of the incognito adviser.
Such a tale is hardly unique in the business world, much less the boxing world. Deas is a student of the game and of the business. He knows his place, knows what he has in his fighter and isn’t afraid to build a dream team around him while worrying whether or not he’ll still be along for the ride when his fighter hits the big time.
“The loyalty is there, but Deontay knows what’s out there,” Deas states. “Every chance he’s had, I’m the first one to tell these coaches, ‘If I can’t work with him, then work with him and tell me what you see.’ It’s not some great unknown. He’s been around the best in the business. He knows he comes first. I promoted since 1995, but have never advised Floyd, Broner… Al has. If you can add something to the team, you do it.”
How soon Wilder can reap the benefits remains to be seen, although it depends on your viewpoint on whether or not it’s already happening. The rising contender was in negotiations to face Dereck Chisora in England, but his pending legal issues stemming from a May arrest in Las Vegas prevented him from committing to guarantee clearance in time to fly overseas.
No opponent has yet been named for his eventual ring return, but a potential television date is already lined up. It definitely won’t be Chisora, who next faces another unbeaten American heavyweight in Malik Scott.
Whomever Wilder faces, the blueprint remains the same in their quest for a shot at the title.
“I’d say four fights total,” Deas believes. “We’re a few key fights away. We tried very hard to get the Tony Thompson fight, but David Price exercised his rematch clause. We will look at the winner down the road, and I still like the Chisora fight for him. I know it won’t happen next, but we’re on a nice upward swing and I’d like to continue with that.
“We’re looking for bigger fights. Al has a solid history of getting exposure and networks interested. Everyone is looking for the next great American heavyweight. The one American heavyweight that brings the title back is huge, he’s the next big thing.”
He’ll also make for a historic moment in Al Haymon’s already rich history in the boxing business.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox