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Volume 21 No. 2
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The next 3 rounds: Stories to watch in the fight business

Las Vegas and Atlantic City have cemented themselves as the bookends for big event boxing in the U.S. New York remains New York, rich with history at Madison Square Garden and its adjacent theater, and busier than it has been in decades thanks to the emergence of the Barclays Center as a fight host.

Other cities come and go as fight towns. The latest to make a run is the nation’s capital, where a range of venue options has allowed for a busy enough calendar to keep fans engaged. The DC Armory hosted its second premium cable show of the year Saturday night when it brought in a Showtime card featuring Bernard Hopkins against Beibut Shumenov.

Lamont Peterson (right) fights Dierry Jean in January at the DC Armory.
Photo by: Getty Images

“There has always been a pretty good fan base that appreciates boxing in Washington, D.C., and that’s what you really need to get anything started,” said Greg O’Dell, CEO of Events DC, the convention and sports authority for the district. “Now that we’ve created content, they’ve come out in full force to support it.”

D.C. reignited as a fight town in 2011 when it hosted hometown champion Lamont Peterson’s decision win against Amir Khan. It was the first time HBO had broadcast from Washington in 18 years. The fight, held at the Washington Convention Center, brought a near sellout crowd of 8,647.

Peterson was back in D.C. for his next fight more than a year later, and this time drew about 3,500 headlining “Friday Night Fights” on ESPN2. Peterson was knocked out in his next fight in Atlantic City, but drew 5,668 at the Armory in January.

Those three shows in D.C. led Peterson’s promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, to think of the market as a viable venue for fighters on the East Coast. When the NBA playoffs locked up dates at Barclays Center, Golden Boy called O’Dell about taking the Hopkins fight to D.C.

“Boxing is not an overly profitable experience, but it is one that has covered our cost and given us a little return,” said O’Dell, who also has booked a steady stream of local fight cards into the convention center in the last three years. “And there are other goals we achieve. We’re raising the profile of boxing here, but also the profile of sports for Washington, D.C. So we’re willing to make an investment.”

The man who pulled “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” off the game show scrap heap and turned them into the two most popular shows in the history of syndicated television sees a parallel between that bit of magic and what he is trying to pull off as a boxing promoter.

Michael King, who along with brothers Roger and Robert acquired rights to “Wheel” and “Jeopardy” for a combined $50,000 in 1983, put on his first card as a fight promoter last week with a nontelevised show in Santa Monica, Calif. In the last year, he has acquired promotional rights to a dozen fighters.

“In my career, I’ve always gone after distressed properties,” said King, who is calling his promotional company

Barker Hanger soon will be home to quarterly boxing matches.
Photo by: Getty Images
King Sports Worldwide. “There were only three networks, and ‘Wheel’ was on NBC, a distant third. But I asked myself, why is it? It’s not a bad show. We analyzed it in depth, found some problems, and came up with some ideas to address them.

“Boxing is a great sport, but there are some problems with it. It’s another distressed show. I think that may be an opportunity, and that it may turn out to be the greatest one of my career.”

King’s first foray into promotion is a series that he plans quarterly at Barker Hangar, an unorthodox venue that he chose largely because of its location. He hopes to use his entertainment connections to stock the ringside seats with celebrities. They scaled the venue for about 1,000 seats, with VIP lounge seating on three sides of the ring. Actor
Kevin Pollack will serve as emcee.

“This is entertainment, and we’re going to make it a great night that people will talk about,” King said. “I want to bring in networks and sponsors and sites and get them excited about this; to show them that this can be done in a way that makes it an exciting event.”

This isn’t King’s first swing at boxing. Two years ago, he launched a program called All-American Heavyweights, with the goal of identifying athletes from other sports, training them as boxers, sending them to the Olympics and then launching them as pros.

It actually worked out for one fighter. Former Northern Colorado quarterback Dominic Breazeale made the U.S. Olympic team as a heavyweight. But it didn’t work out so well for King. Breazeale was one of six members of the team to sign with influential boxing adviser Al Haymon, who has placed them on cards with promoter Golden Boy.
Now, King has moved on from the amateurs and will work to identify and develop what he believes have been undervalued pros.

While Manny Pacquiao was preparing to avenge his controversial loss to Timothy Bradley with a convincing win this month, the Nevada Athletic Commission that was embroiled in that controversy was interviewing four candidates to replace its executive director.

The commission was hoping to announce its choice that day, at least in part as a way to close the loop on the controversy while the fight media was in town for the rematch of the 2012 bout that intensified calls for improved judging in boxing. But the five-member panel decided it was not ready to make a decision. It was expecting to announce its choice late last week.

Former Executive Director Keith Kizer resigned his post at the start of the year. The four finalists to replace him:

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Andy Foster, executive officer of the California State Athletic Commission; Bob Bennett, a Nevada boxing judge and former FBI agent; Michael Martino, a Nevada Athletic Commission inspector; and Jeffrey Mullen, executive director of the Tennessee Athletic Commission.

The chairman of the commission, Las Vegas attorney Francisco Aguilar, has said that the group recognizes a need for continued improvement, particularly on matters such as judging and fighter health and safety, both in boxing and mixed martial arts.

Said Aguilar, prior to bringing the finalists in, “We’re going to take the time we need to get it right.”