After beating Conor McGregor on Aug. 26, Floyd Mayweather was filmed walking back to his locker room. As everyone in his camp cheered and gave him a standing ovation, Mayweather walked to the back and hugged a taller man in a business suit.
Boxing fans were excited. This was the first time Al Haymon has been spotted, let alone caught on camera, in a long time.
Haymon, Mayweather’s manager and a man who never gives interviews, has been running boxing from behind the scenes for years and has become the most powerful man in the sport. By turning a fight between a UFC star and a five-weight boxing champion into possibly the biggest fight ever, with revenues set to exceed $600 million, it seems Haymon has taken over mixed martial arts, too.
He actually went to the same high school in Cleveland as Don King, who previously revolutionized the promotion of boxing. Haymon graduated from Harvard and worked in the music industry before he started managing boxers in 2000. That was a year after Floyd Mayweather, then the 22-year-old super featherweight champion, was offered a four-fight $5 million extension to his HBO deal while signed to Bob Arum’s Top Rank promotions. Mayweather called the offer “slave wages” and told the room, “I’m not like the rest of those guys. I’m going to be the greatest. I’m never going to lose.”
In 2006, Mayweather would break with Arum and go at it alone with Haymon. For all of his fights since, Mayweather has owned the whole pie—he books the venue, signs deals with broadcasters in 168 territories, and pays all the expenses, such as advertising. He even hires his opponents. The fight with McGregor was put on by Mayweather Promotions.
“Me and Al Haymon joined forces because he saw not just a fighter, but a person—very articulate and smart inside and out of the ring,” Mayweather said. “I had done good numbers before Al Haymon, but when we came together, we had a game plan. And then everything came to be.”
That included the fight with Manny Pacquiao in 2015, which was the biggest until the McGregor fight possibly dethrones it, when all the money is counted. When Mayweather and Pacquiao first started talking about a fight in 2009, Arum called Mayweather “delusional” for asking for an equal split of revenues. When the fight did happen in 2015, it was split 60/40 for Mayweather.
When the McGregor fight was being negotiated, UFC president Dana White was insisting on an equal split of the money. White was eventually sidelined and Haymon, in a show of his power, reportedly hammered out the deal directly with the private-equity-backed sports agency that controls the UFC.
Andre Berto is also signed to Haymon, though he was reluctant at first. Haymon kept calling him. “He was telling what was going to happen before it happened,” Berto told FightHype. “He was telling me what the money was going to look like before it got announced. And he was letting me know…that he could take my career to another level.” (Not coincidentally, Berto was the victim of Mayweather’s 49th fight in 2015. He was considered a most undeserving opponent.)
Haymon also put boxing on US broadcast TV for the first time in 30 years with his Premier Boxing Champions series. He was sued by Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy promotions, claiming that he was abusing his power. Golden Boy lost that case earlier this year—but not before the court documents revealed that Haymon had offered to buy Golden Boy for $100 million in 2013.
To get out of his contract with Arum, Mayweather paid him $750,000. Now retired for the third time, Mayweather has earned more than $1 billion in his career. The mysterious and elusive Haymon is a big reason why.