Ranking the 25 Most Powerful People in Boxing

Jonathan Snowden@JESnowdenCombat Sports Senior WriterAugust 30, 2013

Ranking the 25 Most Powerful People in Boxing

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    Boxing is one of the world's true global sports. From Mexico to China and everywhere between, wherever you find people in large numbers, you'll find prize fighting.

    A top pay-per-view fight can generate revenue in the hundreds of millions. With that much money at stake, is it any wonder that the competition for top fighters and matches is fierce and often unforgiving?

    There are many pieces to the puzzle when it comes to building a successful boxing event. Promoters, matchmakers, managers and television executives all have roles to play. And, of course, without the boxers themselves, there would be no event at all.

    A baseball game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will sell no matter who is wearing the pinstripes. A successful boxing match, however, needs star power to make a dent in the sports world's collective consciousness.

    Not all boxers are created equal. Unknown and developing fighters aren't able to draw an audience, either to the arena or on television. That makes stars, and those who command the puppet strings of the stars, especially important and powerful in boxing.

    Who are the men (and lone woman) who make the sport tick? What follows is my take on the 25 most powerful people in boxing. Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

25. Gordon Hall

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    ShoBox executive producer


    It's relatively easy to be HBO's Ken Hershman or Showtime's Stephen Espinoza. Those guys get the big money and get to play with the best toys. Hall doesn't have those luxuries.

    He doesn't get stars—he has to make them. ShoBox is where the stars of tomorrow are born. That makes him a key contact for the sport's managers and for Showtime. He's the network's conduit to new and developing fighters, making him an integral player in determining boxing's next big thing.

24. Bruce Trampler

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    Top Rank matchmaker


    Trampler is a former journalist and protege of legendary Madison Square Garden boss Teddy Brenner. His job is to guide Top Rank's fighters from their debuts to stardom. Though famous for resurrecting George Foreman's career, Trampler will always be remembered for his role in masterminding Oscar De La Hoya's rise to the top of the industry. To this day, Top Rank doesn't make a major decision without consulting him.

23. Akihiko Honda

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    Director of Teiken Promotions in Japan


    The head of Japan's leading boxing gym and the promoter of record in the country, Honda has been in the fight game since 1964. A member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, he is best known in America as the promoter of the Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas fight.

22. Freddie Roach

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    Legendary boxing trainer


    Once a fighter of note, Roach honed his craft under his own former trainer Eddie Futch. Today, he owns the Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles, where he works with a number of top fighters including Manny Pacquiao and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

21. Bernd Boente and Tom Loeffler

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    Promoter and manager


    A partner in Klitschko Management Group with the Klitschko brothers, Boente has worked in every facet of boxing you could imagine, from television to management.

    Loeffler is the managing director of K2 Promotions. The group has taken on new prominence with the recent emergence of middleweight Gennady Golovkin as a legitimate star to go alongside the Klitschkos.

20. Miguel Cotto

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    Boxing star


    Cotto is one of the few prominent fighters who isn't beholden to a single promoter. He can work with Golden Boy or Top Rank to make the best fights available. Although he's on the downward slide, he can still draw a crowd in New York.

19. Cameron Dunkin

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    Manager to the stars


    Dunkin is one of the best managers in the business, guiding Nonito Donaire to the 2012 Fighter of the Year award. His list of fighters reads like a who's who of boxing, but it's the up-and-comers who make him special. He has a great eye for talent, which will make him a force in boxing for years to come.

18. Eric Gomez

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    Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker


    A matchmaker does more than pit two fighters against each other. He is responsible for the purse strings, the development of fighters and the construction of entertaining fight cards.

    "You don't know what it's like to be a matchmaker until you've done it," Gomez told boxing historian Thomas Hauser. "The pressure is incredible."

    Gomez, a boyhood friend of boss Oscar De La Hoya, seems well equipped to handle the responsibility, no matter how crushing.

17. Frank Warren

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    Manager and promoter and owner of the BoxNation television channel


    Warren guided the careers of almost every British fighter of note in the last 20 years, including Ricky Hatton and Naseem Hamed. While Frank Warren Promotions is losing ground to rival Matchroom, Warren is still arguably the most important man in British boxing and a true Hall of Famer.

16. Mark Taffet

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    Senior vice president of Sports Operations at HBO


    Taffet is Ken Hershman's boss at HBO. More than a titular supervisor, he has a large role in deciding which fighters HBO uses and in what capacity. A big supporter of boxing, he has been instrumental in continuing the kind of sidebar programming like 24/7 that makes a big fight feel special.

15. Kalle Sauerland

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    Head of Team Sauerland


    Boxing is huge in Germany, where Sauerland is the leading promoter. He has a sharp mind and was one of the innovators behind the Super Six Boxing Classic, a tournament that aired on Showtime in the United States. He has a bevy of stars like Nikolai Valuev and Arthur Abraham, whom he can use to attract huge crowds throughout Germany.

14. Oscar De La Hoya

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    Boxing Hall of Famer and owner of Golden Boy Promotions


    De La Hoya doesn't run the day-to-day operations, but he's still a powerful voice in his titular company. Once the star who carried the entire promotion on his back, he has seen his creation become the most important promoter in all of boxing. His partner Richard Schaefer is Golden Boy's true leader, but De La Hoya still has plenty of sway and makes a good figurehead for the promotion when the media come calling.

13. Eddie Hearn

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    Sports promoter and managing director of Matchroom Sport


    Hearn, the son of Matchroom's founder Barry Hearn, is a leading force in British boxing. He scored a big hit with Fight Night on Sky Sports and also revitalized the network's abandoned pay-per-view platform. Carl Froch is Matchroom's biggest star, with Ricky Burns and Darren Barker trailing just behind.

12. Leonard Ellerbee

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    CEO of Mayweather Promotions


    It's not clear what to think of Ellerbee the CEO. Mayweather Promotions isn't much of a business, at least not yet. Its only product of note is Floyd Mayweather, and he's a fighter admittedly on his last run to glory. But Ellerbee is a key cog in Team Mayweather, managing his business affairs and keeping the ship moving.

    In addition to all that, he is also Mayweather's strength and conditioning coach and often one of his seconds. It's a diverse role that he handles with verve. If he can eventually replicate the success he's found with Floyd with another fighter or two, Ellerbee could skyrocket up this list in time.

11. Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko

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    Heavyweight boxers


    The brothers are the top fighters in the division and legitimate box office attractions in Europe. That means they can call their own shots—and do. They fight who they want, when they want. It's an attitude that has made them rich and successful but has all but killed heavyweight boxing in America.

10. Kathy Duva

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    Promoter at Main Events


    The only woman on this list, Duva has done a great job getting Main Events time on NBC Sports with a series of Fight Night cards. She also promoted two events on NBC proper, including a bout pitting Tomasz Adamek against Steve Cunningham that drew an audience of 3.2 million fans. Although no real stars have emerged on the platform, it's only a matter of time before Main Events has a prime-time talent on its hands. When that happens, Duva has a big fish hooked to groom them for potential pay-per-view or pay cable.

9. Fernando Beltran

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    Mexican promoter and Top Rank talent scout


    Beltran, based out of Tijuana, works with Top Rank, among others, to promote some of Mexico's best fighters, including Juan Manuel Marquez. He has a proven track record of developing and nurturing top talent and delivering fighters ready for prime time in the United States. He's an important resource for Bob Arum and his team.

8. Manny Pacquiao

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    Welterweight boxer


    In his native Philippines, Pacquiao is as much deity as man. He's the nation's top celebrity, athlete and a politician of note. In the rest of the world, Pacquiao mania isn't quite so strong, but his name is still big enough to launch big league boxing in China for Bob Arum, his longtime promoter.

    It's unclear how badly consecutive losses have hurt his drawing power, but right now he is box office gold, giving him enormous power to decide when he fights and with whom.

7. Todd DuBoef

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    Heir apparent at Top Rank


    As his stepfather Bob Arum slows down, DuBoef has stepped up into an increasingly important role with the promotion.

    “I’m still the face of Top Rank,” Arum acknowledged to Thomas Hauser. “But Todd does more of the essential work.”

    He has his hands in many pies, from broad matchmaking strategy to spearheading a diverse new media presence. It's a role that's been many years in the making. 

6. Stephen Espinoza

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    Showtime executive vice president of Sports


    You can't argue with success. Under Espinoza's leadership, Showtime has taken the fight to HBO, the longtime kingpin of boxing broadcasters. His relationship with Golden Boy, where he worked as an attorney, gives him a pipeline to some of the biggest stars in the sport. That relationship, and the Floyd Mayweather coup, made Showtime an immediate player.

5. Bob Arum

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    Top Rank Promoter


    A Harvard educated attorney, Arum's career took an abrupt u-turn as he entered the shady world of professional boxing. That was 1966, and since then, by his own estimate, he's promoted more than 11,500 fights. Though he's yielded much of the daily control of the business to others, at 81 years old, he is still a vital and important force in boxing.

4. Ken Hershman

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    President of HBO Sports


    You can try to read too much into Hershman's jump from Showtime to HBO and the subsequent reversal of fortune for both broadcasters. But, when it comes down to it, he still has HBO's huge budget, which places him firmly in the catbird seat.

    Yes, Showtime is succeeding in his absence. But, if you haven't been paying attention, HBO is putting on some of its best cards in years. A lot of that has to do with Hershman's vision.

3. Floyd Mayweather

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    World's biggest boxing star


    Mayweather is the best boxer in the world and also the biggest star in the sport. It's not often that those planets align so nicely. Mayweather, following the Oscar De La Hoya template, doesn't work for a boxing promoter. He partners with them. That's a difference that makes him the master of his own destiny and one of the most powerful figures in the sport.

    He has also earned a lot of respect from even his harshest critics, stepping up in a major way to meet the challenge of Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. The resulting interest may make their showdown the biggest pay-per-view spectacular in boxing history.

2. Richard Schaefer

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    CEO of Golden Boy Promotions


    Once a successful international banker, Schaefer helped De La Hoya realize a dream. Together they run the biggest promotion in boxing. It's a well-oiled machine, running shows on HBO, Fox Sports and Univision. With an impressive crop of young talent, there is no end in sight to Golden Boy's reign as boxing's top promotion.

    Once Schaefer identifies the talent, he knows exactly what to do with them, telling Bleacher Report:

    When you find these diamonds in the rough, it's up to us to polish them outside the ring and up to the fighters to deliver inside of the ring. It's a partnership. I cannot fight the fight, but I can make sure they get the right fight and the right promotion. But once the first bell rings, it's going to be up to them to deliver. And not just by winning. But winning in exciting fashion.

1. Al Haymon

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    Adviser to Floyd Mayweather and others


    The most powerful man in boxing is also the hardest to put a finger on. Who is Al Haymon? What exactly does he do? Even The New York Times tried to answer those questions—and failed. Here's what the paper could figure out for sure, per Greg Bishop:

    These are the Haymon basics: Harvard-educated; successful in live concert promotion, then television production, now boxing; extensive list of celebrity clients; a brother, Bobby, who once fought Sugar Ray Leonard; no office, no answering machine, no photographs, no interviews.

    What we do know for certain is that where Haymon goes, money soon follows, both the Mayweather variety and literal greenbacks. He may not do interviews, but in the sport of boxing, money talks plenty loud.


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