One of the more anticipated fights in boxing is the mandatory bout between heavyweight titleholder Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder. The sides continue to discuss a deal, but there has been very little movement for the past few weeks, from what I am told.
Usually when that is the case, the organization mandating the fight calls for a purse bid. And yes, the WBC has ordered a purse bid for the fight. But it has also postponed it multiple times and has most recently left the date of a bid open-ended. There has been talk that it would announce a new date this week, but even if that happens, will it actually hold the bid or just postpone it again?
It’s almost as if the WBC doesn’t want to force a bid so as not to upset the men calling the shots, namely Al Haymon (Wilder’s adviser) and Don King (Stiverne’s promoter). Haymon is the adviser for numerous fighters tied to WBC titles, including Floyd Mayweather Jr., who represents a lot of income. King has been close to the WBC for decades and has generated millions for the organization.
Everyone else involved in Stiverne-Wilder, from what I am told, would love there to be a purse bid because of the 800-pound gorilla in the room: Roc Nation Sports.
Roc Nation Sports, music mogul Jay Z’s company that in August made public its intention to promote boxing, is just waiting for the chance to overwhelm the competition with a massive bid. That’s what it did when it blew away two other bidders for Peter Quillin’s middleweight mandatory defense against Matt Korobov. But once Haymon, who runs Quillin’s career, lost control of the fight, he persuaded Quillin to give up the title and a career-high payday of more than $1.4 million with no other fight scheduled.
Haymon’s bad blood with Jay Z (and Beyonce, Jay Z’s wife) goes back to their paths crossing in the music business, and it seems that Haymon, who does not speak to the media, has no intention of assisting in Roc Nation’s entrance into boxing. King’s reticence in allowing a giant purse bid is unclear, but what is clear is that he and Haymon are doing everything in their power to prevent a purse bid. King did not return a call seeking comment.
Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya said he has talked with King about a deal and that they have reached agreement on the financials but still have no date, site or TV deal, a prerequisite to any competent promoter agreeing to sign an agreement. Besides, De La Hoya isn’t even Wilder’s official promoter. He can’t do anything on Wilder’s behalf without Haymon’s OK. Golden Boy has no promotional agreement with Wilder, or with most of the Haymon fighters it works with.
In Wilder’s case, he did have a contract with Golden Boy. However, according to a source with direct knowledge of the deal, when he signed a contract extension the deal had a “key man” clause in it pertaining to Richard Schaefer. It said that if Schaefer ever left Golden Boy, Wilder could exercise the clause, freeing him from the agreement.
When Schaefer resigned in June, I am told, Haymon invoked the clause. The same thing happened with another Golden Boy fighter who is with Haymon and had the same language in his agreement, Robert Guerrero.
Jay Deas, Wilder’s trainer and manager, told ESPN.com on Monday that Wilder is not under contract to Golden Boy but did not get into the details of the “key man” clause, saying those were things that Haymon handles.
But with Wilder’s lack of a promotional agreement somewhat common knowledge in the industry, Roc Nation president Michael Yormark visited Wilder and Deas at Wilder’s home base in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in mid-September, spent two days there and offered Wilder $2 million for the Stiverne fight as the first bout of a five-year contract with Roc Nation Sports, according to a source with knowledge of the offer.
That is an astronomical number for the fight and would be about 10 times more than Wilder has ever made for a bout. Under a purse bid, Wilder is entitled to 30 percent of the money, meaning somebody would have to bid nearly $7 million for him to make the same amount. A $7 million bid for the fight would be as stunning as any purse bid amount ever. Even Roc Nation would be unlikely to bid close to that much.
I’m told Wilder and Deas were very interested in the Roc Nation offer, which was on the table until Sept. 26. When Haymon didn’t reply to the offer, it was taken off the table.
Deas acknowledged that Roc Nation did approach them about a deal and said, “I think they’ll do great things, but Al is handling that whole thing. We’re letting Al do what he does. We’ll have to see how it plays out.”
Yormark declined to comment but did say that he believed Wilder had star potential and was the kind of athlete Roc Nation Sports wants to work with.
Deas didn’t want to discuss the particulars of the contract offer but said he and Wilder have a good relationship with Yormark and Roc Nation Sports boxing COO David Itskowitch, who worked closely with them when he was at Golden Boy.
“I like Dave and Michael, so you never say never,” Deas said. “But Roc Nation knows that Al is the guy they would have to talk to. But we talked to them and we appreciate their interest.”
Stiverne, like Wilder, wants the fight -- preferably for the big money likely to accompany a purse bid.
“I’m very happy to see Bermane is in great shape and ready to go,” Camille Estephan, Stiverne’s manager, told ESPN.com on Monday. “We want this fight to happen ASAP and we want a resolution. We’re tired of waiting and we want a date and site and the opportunity for Bermane to make a statement with his performance.”
For that to happen, the WBC needs to put its foot down immediately, which means following its rules, ordering a purse bid and allowing it to happen. And then let the chips -- and a boatload of Roc Nation Sports money -- fall where they may, regardless of what Haymon and King want.