10. Stephen Espinoza
While HBO ran for the hills when the investment of DAZN and ESPN caused mega-inflation in boxing, Showtime showed no signs of backing away from a fight. Espinoza made headlines when he shocked the world with a six-fight deal ($450m) for Floyd Mayweather in 2013. The pressure is now on for Showtime, though; Deontay Wilder’s defection to FOX Sports is a blow, but Espinoza has vowed to do better in 2020.
9. Frank Warren
Even after he walked away from Sky to establish BoxNation, the Hall of Famer was signing up young talent and taking a long-term view. It meant that when he agreed a big-money deal with BT Sport, he had a domestic stable the envy of many. It was the signing of Tyson Fury that turned into the dream move of last year, effectively ensuring Warren kept his seat on the top table, while in Daniel Dubois, he may have the sport’s next heavyweight star.
8. Todd Duboef
Often written off a merely Bob Arum’s son-in-law, Duboef is Top Rank’s president who makes the world’s biggest promotional company tick. Happy to leave the limelight to Arum, Duboef did the deal that brought Top Rank back to ESPN and has helped increase the value of Top Rank’s stable, making it a company that boxers seem only too happy to sign with, from young talent to proven names like Tyson Fury and Naoya Inoue.
7. Egis Klimas
Originally from Lithuania, Klimas spent two years in the Soviet Army before moving to the United States in the 1980s. It was importing boxers from the old Eastern Bloc where he found his calling. His big break came when he signed Sergey Kovalev. He later flew Vasyl Lomachenko to the US and did the deal with Bob Arum. Lomachenko came with Oleksandr Usyk in tow and now Klimas, who bases most of his team at the Oxnard gym he bought from Robert Garcia, is the first stop for any top Eastern Bloc fighter going pro.
6. Kalle Sauerland
IF one single innovation has given us more great fights than any amount of big talk by promoters, it was the World Boxing Super Series, brainchild of Kalle Sauerland. Born into the sport as the son of Wilfried Sauerland, the sheer ambition of the WBSS is testament to his vision and dealmaking skills. The tournament seems so unlikely in modern-day boxing, where safety-first matchmaking and rival interests rule. There were problems along the way, but the WBSS continues to stage magnificent fights and create real stars.
5. John Skipper
In the same way as Sky in the UK saw boxing as a way of getting people to slap satellite dishes on their homes in the 1990s, DAZN hope the sport will get people to see that streaming is the future. It could be a decade before they find out their answer. Having initially handed Eddie Hearn a $1 billion deal, the balance sheet at the moment must make for painful reading but there is a long-term goal at DAZN. And if the world turns its back on satellite and cable and turns to streaming, DAZN will be the business leader.
4. Canelo Alvarez
Few boxers could have been in the right place at the right time and free of broadcast obligations quite as much as Alvarez, who after a narrow, and disputed, points win over Gennady Golovkin in their rematch, was handed the biggest contract in sporting history by DAZN. Being on the streaming service does not seem to have harmed his profile (nor, tellingly, a failed doping test in 2018) but the Mexican is young enough and now has the platform to be a champion for years to come.
3. Eddie Hearn
The biggest test of Eddie Hearn as a boxing powerbroker will come when he no longer has Anthony Joshua to anchor his business. His win over Andy Ruiz Jnr in Saudi Arabia was crucial for Hearn and Matchroom, who are riding a wave created by the huge investment from DAZN, while they remain Sky Sports’ exclusive promoters in the UK. Hearn ended the year by promoting in the UK, the United States, Monaco, Spain and Saudi Arabia in 22 days. He has also launched Matchroom into Italy and Mexico, with Germany on the way.
2. Al Haymon
When an MC, desperately trying to fill time at a public weigh-in in Washington in 2011, pointed out Al Haymon among the celebrities in attendance, the famously secretive manager/adviser shot him a filthy look. The former music promoter, who rose into the consciousness of boxing folk guiding the career of Floyd Mayweather, likes to be able to walk through a crowd unnoticed. For the past decade or more, his influence over the sport has been enormous, signing up multiple big names, he seemed set to dominate the sport when he launched Premier Boxing Champions, getting bigtime boxing back onto network television, with the help of a reported $900m of investment from a hedge fund. But anyone who thought that when the money ran out, Haymon’s influence would fade away, just didn’t know Al. PBC has been built up into a huge brand now, with shows on FOX Sports and Showtime, it can go head to head with the other promoters as hyper-inflation hits the sport. There is life beyond Mayweather too, with Errol Spence, Manny Pacquiao, Leo Santa Cruz and Deontay Wilder, among several others, in his stable.