36 year old former amateur boxer Adrian Clark of Dallas is making, and has been making, moves designed to greatly assist fighters. Clark, CEO of Fighters First Management,” created the ‘Protect Yourself At All Times’ company in 2016. Clark – who has also made the first of a series of films, the first instalment, ‘Protect Yourself At All Times: The Beginning’ premiering before a sold-out audience in Dallas yesterday (additional screenings to come) – has been appalled at some of the ways fighters have been treated from a financial standpoint, this by promoters and managers.
Clark’s goal is an admirable yet lofty one: to help fighters get paid what they should get paid, and to help them get the education needed to see to it that they keep all of their so seriously hard-earned money when they exit the ring. Clark’s book, of the same name as the new film, received very positive reviews upon its release and since then. Clark has worked with fighters such as Errol Spence Jr, James De La Rosa, Jerry Belmontes and Jarell Miller amongst others.
Here, Clark was kind enough to give some of his time to ESB for an interview.
Q: It’s great to be able to speak with you. Yours is a very interesting project, and a very admirable attempt by you to help fighters in such a way.
Adrian Clark: “Thanks, I appreciate your time in sharing my projects.”
Q: First of all, you were an amateur boxer first? That was your first connection to the sport, before you got into management?
A.C: “Yes, the first thing I ever did was amateur boxing. And then I became an NBA sports agent after I graduated college. My first gig was to represent NBA players. I was a young guy, fresh out of college. I didn’t really know what I was up against. Where I’m from, we didn’t really meet many sports agents or boxing managers. I really didn’t know how difficult the journey was going to be. I was really ignorant to how both industries could be.”
Q: Was it always boxing that you loved though? Was it always number one?
A.C: “Well, it hasn’t always been number one. My first love was football, and then basketball came along. Boxing found me shortly after my brother died. But it’s always been around; my bother and I, we used to box all the time. He was always the bigger brother beating up the younger brother. So since I was a kid, boxing has always been around, I just never looked at boxing as something that I would want to do, or something that would be a career of mine. When my brother died, in 2006, that’s when things really changed and boxing started to pull at me.”
Q: When did you create ‘Protect Yourself At All Times?’ It was a book first, right?
A.C: “Yes, it started in 2016. From about 2010 to 2016, I was managing fighters, and that time I had only one client, which was Jerry Belmontes. I was really learning the industry through Jerry. Then, when I earned another client, James De La Rosa, that was bigger fights, bigger money. I learned a lot. I saw how messed up the system was for fighters. So in 2016 I thought to write a book that would help fighters and allow them to protect themselves from the business.”
Q: The film premiered this week. What can fans expect to see in the film, from the film?
A.C: “Well, I’m a big known, unknown in boxing. As much as people may know of me, there’s a lot of people who have no clue who I am or what I’ve done in the sport. This picture’s really kind of just showing the beginning of my career and how boxing started [for me]. It’s also showing something really unique, that’s never been done. I created PYAAT in the hope to do a symposium one day, to bring amateur and professional fighters together under one roof. I thought I’d do it in this theatrical, cool way, to give them lessons on the business side of boxing but break it down into different rounds. It shows two sides of my journey – starting out in the sport and the symposium which will probably go into filming later in this year. But it’s a cool film that’s been on my mind for a long time and I’m glad to finally get it out.”
Q: From what I’ve seen, you are doing something so admirable, but there don’t seem to be many other people doing what you have been doing and are doing. You are looking out for the fighters. No other sport seems to come close in terms of boxers getting robbed, do you agree?
A.C: “For one thing, boxing is the easiest sport to get into. You don’t need a license, you don’t need certification. They don’t do deep background checks. You don’t need a college degree to get into boxing, either inside the ring or outside the ring. Anyone can become a manager. Anyone can become a trainer. Anyone can become anything in boxing. So you get so many people that are unqualified and you get so many bad people that get into the sport. And there’s no association, there’s no regulation. So what stops the manager from taking 33 percent? Because it still happens to this day.
“Nothing stops anyone in boxing, and most importantly, no-one cares. If we start to educate fighters, then they ask questions or they want to negotiate and get what’s better for them. So that’s why there’s only one of me. Honestly, I’ve been in the ring before, so I know what it’s like to get your ass kicked and then try to pick up the pieces. And that was at a lower scale. These guys, it’s their livelihood. I didn’t get in this journey to save the sport of boxing. However, the longer you are in this sport, you really see the bad shit that happens. You see fighters get their money taken, or put in bad contracts, and they walk right past it. I really feel a lot of people are heartless. I said no, this is wrong, someone has to do something. And that someone was me.”
Q: You’re obviously very passionate about what you do. Who do you think are some of the good guys in the sport today, and also some of the bad guys? I know it might be tough for you to name names.
A.C: “I don’t sugar-coat anything, man. I will say this, I always like to define what’s a good person or what’s a bad person; I think it’s relevant. I do feel like, I group them all together, the promoters from old – from Bob Arum to Oscar [De La Hoya], Al Haymon, Don King. All of those individuals did great things for the sport, amazing things. For me being a young black man myself, Al Haymon and Don King paved the way for people like me to get into this. However, the bad things I’ve seen these people do; I feel the sport should have been associated. So shame on all those people that I mentioned, as great as they are. Shame on those people for not pushing the sport forward, for not coming together to make the sport an association like the NBA, or like the NFL. The sport of boxing would make so much money if it was all under one roof. So to answer your question, I can say great things about the names I mentioned, and I also feel like boxing has been done a disservice by the big names, by the power-brokers, because no-one has thought to come together and associate this sport, to push it forward to where things are done under one roof and there’s protection for promoters and for fighters, and education for the fighters. If this happened, we could be a power sport like the other major sports. And boxing has not done that, partly because the big names have not thought to bring it together.”
Q: Do you ever see a day when they all DO come together, under one roof as you say?
A.C: “It could definitely happen, man. I feel like I’m just starting the conversation. I would hope that I’m around to see it all come together, to see it all under one roof. But maybe I’m just a guy who starts the conversation. Maybe I’m just the guy who starts the movement ‘Protect Yourself At All Times’ to where, 50 years from now, the sport is now associated, and they started a union or council for the fighters – it could be called ‘Protect Yourself At All Times,’ based off what I’ve created. But I just hope I’m around to see it all come together. It’s maybe a case of some of the dinosaurs that are in the sport kind of stepping aside or stepping away, and then letting the younger guys of the sport take over and make it right.
“For me right now, I’m not a mainstream name but things are snowballing. Things are rolling so I’m happy about that. These guys [fighters] are coming to me. I really believe that the work I’ve put in and the reputation…..Don’t get me wrong, I’m a shrewd business man and I do what I can to get my clients the best news. But I’m not the most likeable guy, a lot of people are not very fond of me. But no-one in this sport will be able to say Adrian Clark took advantage of fighters, or that Adrian Clark put guys under bad contracts, or that Adrian Clark took more than 15 percent from a fighter when negotiating a deal. No-one can say a bad thing about me in the sport.”