Boxing Only

The Promoters :: Heroes or Villains ??

Posted: 03-04-2019
Author: Andy Farr

There’s not a lot of love for the top boxing promoters, just ask Don King or Eddie Hearn.

Most of the dislike stems from jealousy. We would all like to make money being involved in the sport we love, and the big-time promoters do just that, sometimes in abundance.

What does not make good PR with the fans is that most promoters have never swapped punches either professionally or as amateurs. British promoter Mickey Duff was an exception to that rule. Duff had around 50 pro fights and went on to represent around 20 world champions and countless British, Commonwealth and European champions. Oscar De La Hoya is another exception.

Don King holds Mike Tyson aloft
Don King with former and disgruntled client "Iron" Mike Tyson.

Ask most boxing fans who the most famous promoter is and they will come back with Don King as their answer. The former Cleveland numbers runner was convicted of killing 2 men and sued by so many of his clients for fraudulent practices that its surprising he had enough time to be involved in some of boxing's greatest ever events.

Strangely enough, King's main promotional rival in America is a former lawyer. Bob Arum or "Uncle Bob" as the media have labelled him, is a Harvard Law School graduate who worked for the US Attorney's Office in New York. Arum went on to promote many of the great fights from the mid-1960s onwards. He has also been involved in many lawsuits that involved fraud and bribery charges throughout his career in boxing. Bit of a theme forming here.

Mickey Duff at the International Boxing Hall of Fame
Mickey Duff was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999.

Perhaps we form the opinion that most promoters are somewhat shady characters who don't mind stealing the hard-earned money of our beloved heroes, the boxers. Well in some cases, that appears at least, to be the truth.

In the UK, the two biggest promoters, Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn both have clean reputations. Warren has had several high profile court cases with the likes of Don King, Joe Calzaghe and others but no cases involving fraudulent activities. Warren was shot by an unknown gunman outside the Broadway Theatre in Barking in 1989. Warren's first world champion, Terry Marsh was charged with the shooting but was acquitted at trial.

Frank Warren
Self made man Frank Warren needed a TV deal for his events so he made his own.

In Hearn's case, it would be odd if he was perceived as dodgy because he was born into a wealthy family, with a thriving business that was started by his entrepreneurial father Barry in the 1970s.

Warren, on the other hand, had to make his own way in the world and did so by starting in the then murky world of unlicensed boxing where his second-cousin, Lenny Mclean became a leading name in the sport.

Warren had to battle his way to the top of the tree, even having to sue the British boxing board of control for restraint of trade to gain a promoter's license from them.

In 2012 warren promoted a fight between David Haye and Derek Chisora at Upton Park (Then the home of West Ham FC) that was not sanctioned by the BBBoC. Chisora was on a ban due to his behaviour before, during and after his failed WBC heavyweight title challenge to Vitali Klitschko. Instead, Warren and the fighters gained licenses from The Luxembourg Boxing Federation and the show went ahead in front of 30,000 fans.

One promoter with a fairly clean image is Oscar De La Hoya. The former six-weight world champion has had his battles with drink and drugs, as well as a few scrapes with the law but, has still managed to maintain the clean-cut, all American image he first created when he won Gold for Team USA at the 1992 Olympic Games.

De La Hoya started his promotional company Golden Boy in 2002, 7 years before he retired from boxing as a fighter. He started his company with the help of other fighters including Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez with the mantra "Bringing honour to the sport of boxing".

There have been a few public spats, most notably with former promoter Bob Arum, but generally, De La Hoya is seen as one of the good guys in the world of boxing promotion.

Another promoter with the "Good guy" tag is New York's Lou DiBella. Another Harvard Law School graduate, DiBella started in the business working for HBO Sports where he wound up as Senior Vice President. DiBella is credited for creating the highly successful "Boxing After Dark" series.

In 2000, DiBella started DiBella Entertainment and has worked with many, many top boxers ever since. He currently works with WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder.

DiBella has also been involved in television and film production since 2007. 

Lou Dibella
Lou Dibella.

As with any walk of life, boxing promoters come in all shapes and sizes. They cannot all be tarred with the same brush.

The real daddy of them all Tex Rickard, the 1920s promoter of Jack Dempsey started out as a cowboy, a marshall, a gold prospector, saloon and hotel owner, a rancher and co-owner of Madison Square Garden.

He was responsible for the first $1m gate when Dempsey defended his title against Frenchman Georges Carpentier in Jersey City in 1921. It drew an audience of 90,000 to the specially erected stadium.

Of course, Rickard had his brushes with the law and so it seems, do most of the promoters that followed him.