- Saul “Canelo” Alvarez could become boxing’s greatest free agent since Floyd Mayweather, who paid then-promoter Top Rank $US750,000 to buy himself out of his contract in 2006.
- Alvarez, the number one boxer in the world today, has been unhappy with his promoter Golden Boy Promotions for years,according to The Athletic.
- The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger said in October that if Alvarez is to gain control of his career, then he must be prepared to walk away from Golden Boy and its founder Oscar de la Hoya.
- Business Insider spoke to a law firm which specialises in sport and boxing, and was told a suitable fit for Alvarez, should he choose to leave, would be Matchroom Sport as both Alvarez and Matchroom have commitments to DAZN, a start-up broadcaster in the US.
- Eddie Hearn, the group managing director of Matchroom Sport, told Business Insider that he would love to work with Alvarez, but would never have a conversation with an athlete under contract with a rival.
- Golden Boy did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez could become boxing’s greatest free agent since Floyd Mayweather, and Eddie Hearn has said he would work with him “in an absolute heartbeat” if he were available.
Mayweather exercised a provision in his contract that allowed him to become a free agent in 2006 when he paid his then-promoter Top Rank $US750,000.
Investing in himself at a time when he was ranked as the best boxer on the planet proved to be one of the smartest decisions Mayweather ever made because he went on to earn hundreds of millions of dollars.
Now, more than a decade later, Alvarez finds himself in a similar position as he, like Mayweather once was, is the world’s top fighter, embroiled in a very public falling-out with his promoter Golden Boy Promotions, and could become a free agent. If he did leave, he would not be short of admirers – Hearn is one of many.
The Athletic documented Alvarez’s troubles with Golden Boy and its founder Oscar de la Hoya in a feature published in October, just one week before the Mexican’s light heavyweight debut against Sergey Kovalev at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas – a bout which Alvarez won by knockout to become a simultaneous champion in three weight classes.
Boxing reporter Mike Coppinger wrote that Alvarez is “at the peak of his powers” and “the face of his sport.” He added that to gain more control over his career, one which he has criticised because of apparent Golden Boy missteps, Alvarez must be prepared to “walk away” from the company and de la Hoya.
Reasons for Alvarez’s unhappiness at Golden Boy are vast.
Here they are, as reported by The Athletic:
- Alvarez said his opinion about de la Hoya changed when he fought Gennady Golovkin for the first time in 2017. “After that, the two men drifted apart,” Coppinger wrote.
- Ahead of the rematch with Golovkin in 2018, Alvarez got frustrated that de la Hoya was talking about running for president instead of promoting his fight.
- Alvarez got annoyed when de la Hoya appeared to belittle his trainer, Eddy Reynoso, during a since-deleted social media feud involving de la Hoya and another Golden Boy athlete Ryan Garcia.
- Then one botched fight negotiation resulted in Alvarez losing the IBF world title outside the ring because Golden Boy failed to agree on a deal to fight the mandatory challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko.
- Alvarez barred Golden Boy and de la Hoya from entering his gym in San Diego in 2019.
- Then, at a September press conference to confirm a fight between Alvarez and Kovalev, de la Hoya was on the stage with Alvarez, but “the two men never spoke” and “didn’t shake hands for the camera,” according to Coppinger.
- Ahead of the Kovalev fight last month, Alvarez told Coppinger that de la Hoya is not loyal. “He changed trainers during his career. He changed managers in his career. So there’s no loyalty. That’s the way he is. We see it now.”
- There is even bad blood over two separate deals with the OTT platform DAZN. Golden Boy struck a deal with DAZN to broadcast 10 Alvarez fights for a minimum of $US350 million. However, they also agreed on a second deal, which would see DAZN airing “another 50 shows over five years for an estimated $US90 million,” The Athletic said, adding that there were industry rumours that Alvarez was unhappy not to get a cut of that $US90 million.
Later, the former two-weight world champion and 2020 Hall of Fame inductee Bernard Hopkins, a Golden Boy partner, said: “If I feel that way that Canelo felt [about Golden Boy], I’d be gone,”according to CBS Sports.
It all makes for a “f—— horrendous” situation if you work at Golden Boy, as Eddie Hearn told Business Insider last month.
It is the dispute over the two DAZN deals that is interesting as the separate agreements seemingly contradict one another.
The Athletic says that DAZN wanted Alvarez so it could book a lucrative trilogy bout with Golovkin on its platform. There is nothing in Alvarez’s deal that would force this, but Golden Boy reportedly “promised” DAZN a third fight would materialise by September 2019.
If Alvarez had good legal representation, his DAZN deal would trump Golden Boy’s
Business Insider spoke to the law firm Walker Morris, a legal advice service with a specialty in boxing, to find out more.
Geoff Cunningham, a senior Walker Morris associate who represents Amir Khan amongst other athletes, told us that, typically, a boxer signs a deal with a promoter who, in turn, gets that fighter several dates by selling TV rights to a broadcaster.
“That’s the normal structure,” he said. “But here, there seems to be tri-party agreements with Golden Boy, DAZN, and Canelo all within those agreements with obligations to one another spread throughout.”
Cunningham called it an “unusual situation” and highlighted other examples of boxers falling out with their promoters like Carl Frampton with Cyclone Promotions and Jamie McDonnell with Dennis Hobson.
“With Canelo, a lot is fact-sensitive, and we don’t have that information and nor do you necessarily,” he said. “What is clear, is if Golden Boy as an organisation, or Oscar as a representative for Golden Boy, has done something improper, it all seems to stem from money earned from Golden Boy or Oscar from the DAZN deal.”
Cunningham said if Golden Boy reneged on whatever agreement they had, “that is going to be an issue,” and Alvarez could raise it with a boxing regulator, requiring, potentially, a private arbitration to resolve the dispute.
An obvious [fit for Alvarez] would be Matchroom, given their association with DAZN as well.
Alvarez’s deal with DAZN – which has no stipulation to contest a third Golovkin bout – should trump Golden Boy’s separate DAZN agreement, which promises the broadcaster a trilogy.
“If Canelo’s legal team didn’t get this right, it would be a surprise because any contract I’ve drafted for any sportsperson … everything they do with their career is their final decision.
“You need a promoter, TV broadcaster, and the boxer to all agree to take a particular fight. It would be highly unusual if there were some power from Golden Boy and DAZN to make Canelo take fights he didn’t want to take [and] it’s very difficult to make a boxer get in the ring and fight someone [who they didn’t want to].”
If this Alvarez vs. Golden Boy fallout continues, Cunningham says it will head toward a bigger “unsavoury mess” than it currently is, which could see, as Coppinger wrote in The Athletic, the fighter walk away from the promoter.
“There’s no reason why Canelo would want to get away from DAZN necessarily because the issue is with Golden Boy, but how transferable would a new promoter be into that mix? An obvious one would be Matchroom, given their association with DAZN as well.”
Matchroom would love to work with Saul Alvarez
Matchroom Sport and its head of boxing Hearn have an exclusive deal with DAZN to broadcast its events in the US.
Hearn has twice worked with Alvarez as the Mexican defeated two Matchroom fighters in Rocky Fielding and Danny Jacobs. He would work with him again “in an absolute heartbeat,” potentially on a longer-term basis if he were available in the market, Hearn told Business Insider in Monaco in November.
When asked if Alvarez could become boxing’s greatest free agent since Mayweather, Hearn did not hesitate to say, “Yes, for sure.”
He added: “He’s a huge draw, does unbelievable numbers, and he’s the pound-for-pound number one at the moment. He’s a very good fighter. In that respect, he’d be the one to get.”
As for Matchroom’s pre-existing relationship with DAZN making Hearn an obvious fit for Alvarez should he ever leave de la Hoya and Golden Boy, Hearn said: “It would be [the obvious fit] because he’d have to deal with DAZN and we’ve got a deal with DAZN as well.
“I would never have conversation with a fighter who was under contract. But if he was to become available, would we want to work with Canelo? F—— hell, in an absolute heartbeat.”
When there’s a fighter who is showing the public dislike for the job you’ve done … it’s brutal for the company.
Business Insider also asked Top Rank promoter Bob Arum about Alvarez, and whether he’d be the greatest free agent since Mayweather.
“Is Canelo a terrific fighter? Yes,” Arum told us.
“Is he the biggest box office draw right now? The answer is yes. That’s all I’ll say.”
As for potentially signing Alvarez, Arum told us he refuses to go there, saying: “We had litigation with Golden Boy and we got into with the mediator something called a non-poaching agreement.
“That means we would not go after, or try to go after, any fighter that either of us had under contract. As far as I know, Golden Boy has Canelo under contract, so I am not going to even answer your question because I respect – and I better respect it as I don’t want to get my arse in court – the non-poaching agreement.
“As far as the rights and wrongs of the dispute, I don’t want to get into it. As far as I know, Canelo has a contract with Golden Boy, period, end of story.”
Hearn called the rights and wrongs of the dispute “a horrible situation.”
He said: “Whenever there’s a fighter who is showing you, in public, or showing the public dislike for you or the job you’ve done, especially when they have got a profile like Canelo … it’s brutal for the company.
“It’s like AJ [Anthony Joshua, Hearn’s star client] going out on his social media and saying, ‘I didn’t do this, Matchroom have done this.’ It’s f—— horrendous.
“So I was watching [the dispute], and I was feeling sorry, if you like, for Oscar, Golden Boy, and for Canelo because it’s just a horrific situation.”
Money could maybe make this all go away
De la Hoya has seen fighters walk away from his Golden Boy stable before.
Earlier this year, the boxing magazine The Ring reported that de la Hoya settled a lawsuit with his former CEO at Golden Boy, Richard Schaefer, which relinquished him of several fighters advised by Al Haymon, one of the most powerful figures in the entire sport.
High-profile names like Danny Garcia and Adrien Broner were no longer affiliated with Golden Boy, and the company’s status in the boxing industry diminished as a result.
Boxing law expert Cunningham told Business Insider that de la Hoya would be loathed to see further fighters walk from his firm.
“I’m sure there’s enough money for Golden Boy to resolve this … hundreds of millions of pounds yet to be earned, and they’re not going to want to lose that. Golden Boy has publicly lost lots of fighters to Al Haymon and Top Rank.
“I don’t think they can afford to lose one of the biggest names, if not the biggest name in boxing.”
Cunningham agreed Alvarez would be the biggest free agent since Mayweather 13 years ago. However, he thinks it would be “unlikely” the fighter would leave because it would bring “a long legal process that would probably delay his career.”
It is, therefore, a question of whether Alvarez could afford the time spent going through that legal process.
“Unfortunately, for Canelo, it’s an issue of what he has given away in terms of rights, but also how much time he has to spend.
“It’s not about money because every party in this deal can afford costly legal representation. The problem for Canelo is going to be time. Can he afford to give six months of his life away to litigation that he might not want to get involved with, and spend time doing that?”
Cunningham said promoters tend to “have the tactical upper hand.” So it is crucial that boxers, regardless of level and ability, have their legal representation rather than entrusting a promoter or manager to sort a lawyer on their behalf.
Alvarez previously said in The Athletic that he does have a lawyer “taking care of all that stuff for me” because “you’ve got to look out for yourself.” He added that he has “the last word of what I want to do in my career.”
Industry rumours have persisted for months that his last word to de la Hoya could essentially be “Thanks, but no thanks,” as he may well walk from the company and go it alone.
He could do so with his fledgling firm Canelo Promotions, he could sign with Hearn and Matchroom Sport because of the British company’s dealings with DAZN in the US, or he could form a co-promotional agreement that would see Hearn work with Canelo Promotions.
Golden Boy never replied to Business Insider’s request for comment. It is unclear when Alvarez will fight next.
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