Cameron Dunkin isn’t about to worry about the things in his life that are beyond his control. This includes issues like the weather, the price of gas and some questions about the future of Jaron Ennis.
The last element may seem contradictory. Dunkin is Ennis’ promoter, after all, and a promoter, at least capable, is usually obsessed with his fighter’s prospects.
Ennis, of course, is the flashy 24-year-old welterweight contender from Philadelphia who emerged from base obscurity last year with a pair of terrific victories over veterans Sergey Lipinets and Thomas Dulorme. These accomplishments led some corners of the boxing world to predict that he would beat champions Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. if he fought either of them today. A bit hyperbolic, perhaps, but the fact is there are plenty of people – from fans to industry rigs – who believe Ennis (28-0, 26 KOs) could be the next biggest thing. in the American fight. As a promoter, Dunkin, who operated for decades as manager of elite talent such as Kelly Pavlik, Diego Corrales, Nonito Donaire, Timothy Bradley and, for a time, Crawford, is responsible for more than a title from Ennis’ cartography. future, the main thing of which is to maneuver him into coveted title shots, on the biggest stages, while ensuring that his client wins big prizes along the way.
But there are a few questions regarding what awaits Ennis that Dunkin doesn’t currently have answers to. And it has to do with the very fact that Ennis is Dunkin’s fighter.
“I don’t know what will happen from one day to the next. I talk to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and ask him for guidance and health and things have turned out great,” Dunkin told BoxingScene.com. “He’s had 28 fights and hopefully I can fix that.”
In the configuration of the contemporary boxing landscape, a handful of promotional entities hold all the power as they alone have unique access to the appropriate media platforms and their respective outsized budgets. Top Rank Inc. has an exclusive contract to feature its fighters on ESPN, Premier Boxing Champions has similar deals with Showtime and FOX, and Matchroom and Golden Boy with DAZN.
For promoters working without network funds, like Dunkin, who otherwise have compelling fighters on their roster, they find themselves in the unpleasant position of having to shell out a portion of the rights. [read: money] to their customers with the powers that be in order to offer them the opportunities where they are to maximize their value. It’s the price to pay for doing business, but that doesn’t take away from the grievance of the less well-off — let’s call them boxing’s pinched middle class — who see the arrangement as a form of extortion. Many of them rightly believe that since they were with their fighters from the start, investing in them when no one else did, they deserve to share the rewards.
What Dunkin hopes to “find out” is whether he should follow the same path as others at his station, from Joe DeGuardia to Fernando Beltran to Ken Thompson, Kathy Duva and Lou DiBella, in order for Ennis to get money and cover. that a talent of his caliber is supposed to require.
At the moment things are looking rosy for Dunkin and Co. Ennis’ last two fights were on Showtime, one as a headliner, the other as a co-feature, and he appeared repeatedly on ShoBox, the network’s long-running series devoted to shining a light on perspectives. Clearly, the network’s president of sports programming, Stephen Espinoza, is high on Ennis, whose rise seems unstoppable. But Showtime is also in the midst of an exclusive release deal with PBC, which is run by founder Al Haymon, and it’s understood the top cards go to Haymon-aligned fighters. Therein lies the crux of Dunkin’s potential predicament: Ennis, despite his presence on Showtime, is not under contract with Haymon or any of the other sport’s top power brokers.
It is a problem? Dunkin says if so, it’s not the one he necessarily needs to figure out right now. He knows, however, that this is something that will have to be settled at some point.
“I don’t know if I’m going to do it like I’ve done so far, [getting Ennis] the fights on the Haymon shows,” Dunkin conceded. “I’ll probably talk to Espinoza and we’ll discuss it and see what can be done.”
DiBella, the longtime New York-based promoter, offered perhaps the most articulate diagnosis of boxing’s current business paradigm, calling out the daunting conditions under which promoters without comfortable television subsidies are forced to work. He condemns the current model as myopic and myopic, a model that contributes to boxing’s perpetually marginalized status.
“Once a fighter is built by someone else, there’s an effort to separate him from the people he’s been with or there’s a necessity on the part of the person who developed him from giving up some of it because it’s an anti-competitive environment,” DiBella told Boxing News in December. “It’s not good for most people, including fighters.”
Dunkin is sympathetic to DiBella’s point of view, but he doesn’t see much point in opposing the current power dynamics in the sport.
“Lou DiBella complains when the sun comes up in the morning,” Dunkin said. “He complains about everything. I tried for 30 years to be his friend. It’s impossible. Can’t be done. He is angry all the time.
“But I agree with a lot of the things he says. These guys are getting these network deals, when these networks should be working with everybody and buying big fights, like HBO used to do. But they don’t do that. I can’t fix this. I agree with [DiBella] on that. They have a network and the fighters there have to be with the “big two”. ESPN, you have to be with Bob Arum to make it happen, believe me, I know that. And you have Fox and Showtime and everyone is a Haymon fighter. I understand that. I’m not stupid, I think. Maybe I am. But there is no reason to complain about it. You just have to figure out what you’re doing. The networks chose to buy the promoter, not the fighters, that’s the truth. So you sign with Haymon, you fight on Fox and Showtime; you sign with Arum and fight on ESPN.
Dunkin added: “I know that’s wrong. Networks should buy everyone’s fighters, as Lou DiBella says. Marshall Kauffman, Sampson [Lewkowicz] all work with Haymon. Why [the networks are] doing this is really dumb because they omit a lot of small [promoters] that it has very good fighters, but we don’t see them.
Dunkin, who also promotes newcomers Brandun Lee (24-0, 22 KOs) and Brian Norman Jr. (22-0, 19 KOs), both former ShoBoxers, prefers to look at the brighter, more tangible side of things. . He believes Ennis is high enough in the IBF ranking system that a world title is imminent. He notes that Haymon “has the other guy,” Canada’s top IBF welterweight contender Custio Clayton. Dunkin believes an Ennis-Clayton game would be a feasible and consistent eliminator.
“We’re going to fight for the IBF world title in a few fights,” Dunkin said. “We’re already the number one guy in the IBF. [Ennis is] going to get his title shot. It will happen. I don’t worry about that.
“Everyone says, ‘Oh, Boots needs a big promoter.’ For what reason? For what reason? You think he would be better off with someone else the last few years than being on TV [on Showtime] Seven times? And he’s going to fight in the world title eliminator.
It’s a question that Dunkin considered. But there are still many more looming on the horizon, casting indelible shadows on the present. The question of whether or not Dunkin should play ball with the sport’s guardians will only swell with every kayo Ennis delivers inside the ring. Dunkin maintains that he is realistic and is open to all interesting opportunities, including those of new entrants to the company, such as Probellum. Ultimately, Dunkin is adamant that he will do whatever is in the best interest of his fighters.
“I’m big-headed,” Dunkin said. “I feel like doing it myself. My guys are busy. They have a lot of fights. They’re active, they’re out there. They can really fight. I think they’ll be fine. If I have to make a deal with Al, I will. I will sit with [PBC house promoter] Tom Brown or Probellum, because I like [Probellum chief] Richard Schaefer to death because he was always so great with me when I had all these guys, eight guys with Showtime.
“Maybe I’ll work with him, maybe I’ll work with Haymon – Well, I’ll work with Tom Brown. Maybe I’ll have to. Maybe you’re right. Maybe that I have to work with them. At the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s best for my guys.