SBJ/June 20-26, 2011/In Depth

Continuity builds a loyal following in SoCal

When Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer attracts a large crowd for a big fight at Staples Center, he considers it a payoff on an investment.

“The regularity of bringing boxing content to the fight fan in a region is very important,” said Schaefer, who has operated a monthly boxing series at the 1,500-seat Club Nokia at L.A. Live since 2008. “We do that in Southern California. When you have a monthly or semi-monthly card, drawing up to 2,000 people, you are building a following. So when you bring the big fight to the Staples Center, there are now fans of boxing who are buying the tickets.

“The key there is the continuity. It’s a great market for boxing. But you need the continuity to really make it work.”
Promoters frequently point to Southern California as boxing’s core. It starts with the demographics. Los Angeles County is home to 4.7 million Hispanics, according to 2010 census figures. In the most recent ESPN Deportes Sports Poll, 54 percent of U.S. Hispanics said they were boxing fans and 19 percent described themselves as avid fans of the sport.

“Southern California has always been a very good base for the sport of boxing largely because of its huge Hispanic influence,” said Todd DuBoef, president of Top Rank. “When I look at demographics and people coming to fights in Vegas, where the fight fans are, it’s a hotbed. It always will be a hotbed. It’s where the boxing brand fits with the culture.”

The UFC also considers Southern California to be its strongest market, though, as many sports properties have found, the economy has been a drag on ticket sales. The last three UFC events in California, held at Honda Center in Anaheim, Oracle Arena in Oakland and Staples Center, all hovered around 10,000 tickets sold (see chart, page 21).

“Las Vegas is where we host a lot of events, but very few of the fans at our events are local,” said UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta, who put the percentage at about 5 percent. “The majority come from California in general and particularly Southern California. That area is big for us.”

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