Just as employers outside of boxing fall into general categories, the same can be said for the promoters in our sport.  The simplest classification, both inside and outside of the pugilistic profession, is companies with many employees on one side of the spectrum and the smaller firms with comparably fewer on the other.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both ends of this scale.

When evaluating which end of the promotional continuum is the correct fit, it’s best to be as objective as possible.  Boxing’s full of popularity contests but when looking for a promoter to take you to the next level, facts are where it’s at.

Objectively picking a boxing promoter is complicated by their all being private companies.  Financial, operational and material legal information isn’t publically available.  How forthcoming they are with that information is important, but if you’re an unknown boxer it’s probably going to be hard to get them to share those details.  Of course the manager has a role to play here, but the buck stops with the promoter (well really with the boxers and fans, but we can leave that for another day).  It would be a lot easier if we could conveniently take a look at a promoter’s financial statements and see how much they spent on fighter development, or how often they sued their own boxers, or were sued by them etc.  Solely relying on a manager who might have a long relationship with a particular promoter to give you all the facts, good and bad could also be a bit of a gamble.

The absence of a boxer’s union complicates things further, but as they say, “it is what it is.”  So just like in the ring, you’ve got to protect yourself at all times.  Before you pick the promoter and sign the contract that’s been double (triple…) checked here are some of the things that I’d consider:

  • What is the promoter’s vision for your career and what specific steps will be taken to make it happen?
  • How much of your deal is guaranteed?
  • Does the promoter have the financial resources to adequately promote all of the boxers in their stable?  How does the promoter approach fighter development?
  • If the promoter’s one of the larger companies with a lot of boxers, will you fall through the cracks?  Will you play second fiddle to a stable mate?  A possible example of this is the recently concluded Tony Bellew vs. Frank Warren drama.  Did they part ways because it appeared to Bellew that Warren was more focused on Nathan Cleverly, or other boxers’ careers?  I don’t know, but the thought’s crossed my mind.
  • Does it matter who else is signed to the promoter, from a matchmaking perspective i.e. will signing with that promoter guarantee you a big money bout with one of their superstars?
  • If it’s a smaller shop do they have the resources to properly develop your career?  What are their connections with media outlets? If they don’t have direct connections, can they at least co-promote with the bigger guys to get you the big fights and screen time?  Public relations capabilities etc?
  • Does your promoter have only a regional or national focus, or also international capabilities?  Sometimes it’s practically as good to have substantial success in your smaller home/regional market, than fail miserably on the international/national stage.  Having a solid local base might not be a bad idea before testing international markets either.
  • Does your promoter tend to offer front end loaded contracts, or back end loaded deals?  Even though that hefty signing bonus/initial payment sounds nice, is it really worth it if you end up becoming a star and only getting a small percentage of the overall revenue stream?
  • What other benefits are they offering?  Healthcare, retiree planning (probably wishful thinking, but it never hurts to ask) etc.
  • What is the promoter’s history regarding ethical treatment of their boxers? Is there a lot of litigation between boxers and the promoter and if so for what reason?
  • If your manager is recommending one promoter over another, you’d better know exactly why.

If I had access to reliable, detailed financial, operational and legal information I would’ve compiled a list of my top five or ten promoters. Unfortunately we don’t and it would be irresponsible to base a list on anything other than that.

What I can say is that boxers should be asking pertinent questions and ideally discussing with more than one promoter before signing.  To quote Ice Cube, “you better check yourself before you wreck yourself.”

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