by Gary Purfield
For the first part of this interview, click HERE
In late 2011 Main Events Promotions, a promotional company that was in existence back when boxing was on network TV, announced they would be running a series of fights broadcast on the NBC Sports Network (formerly Vs.). The series would look to shift the current landscape of boxing, where specific fighters are featured, to a model where the quality of the fight took precedence over the fighters involved.
The series was scheduled to have four dates in 2012, but with the early success of the first show a fifth date has been added. I spoke with Main Events CEO Kathy Duva on how the series was developed, the current status, and her plans for the future of the “Fight Night” series and NBC. In part one Duva explained how the idea developed and the success of the first show despite last minute adversity, in part two Duva looks at where the series is headed in the future.
With the scare of the first card done, Main Events moves on to the second Fight Night of the year on March 24. Former champ Zab Judah fights in his hometown of Brooklyn against Vernon Paris in an IBF 140 lb title eliminator. Tomasz Adamek makes his return to the ring against Nagy Aguilera. But the co-feature provides another interesting heavyweight bout.
Sergei Liakhovich, who was denied the opportunity to headline the first card, gets his chance to get back into action against the winner of the first Fight Night headliner, Bryant Jennings, who looks to capitalize on his efforts in the previous card. The fight represents a true crossroads bout with Liakhovich looking for a last title run in his career and Jennings looking to really cement himself as a contender by taking out the veteran and former champ. Duva talked about making this bout and how it was just was a logical matchup considering the events of the first card.
“It just makes sense. We wanted to bring Sergei back. He got a rough break in not being able to fight and Jennings was willing to fight him. Sergei really wanted to get on a card and I told him I was going to put him on in June and he said no, I need to get on sooner than that. We were talking and they come back to me and say Jennings will fight him, so I said make the match. No more discussion. It’s just natural. You got Jennings who clearly proved that he can rise to the occasion. I think he is one of those guys who rises to the level of his competition anyway, and he wants to fight Liakhovich very much.”
With the success of the first card and the anticipation for the second event this coming week, Main Events was given the opportunity to expand the series. NBC was happy with what they had so far and went to Main Events looking to see what else they had planned. They were still interested in Chambers-Liakhovich and were eager to see Gabe Rosado again after his impressive performance. The problem was, with only four dates they could only do so much. NBC responded by awarding a fifth date where Rosado will take on Joel Julio.
“Actually that came out of conversation with NBC. They started out originally saying, ‘Are we going to be able to see Chambers-Liakhovich?’ Perhaps, but I don’t know, that’s certainly something we’re thinking about. Then they said we want to know when Gabriel Rosado can fight again because we think he was great and we want you to bring him back. So I said that would be great, but March is already planned, I’ve a got a date in June and another one in December, how am I going to do all these fights. They said, you know, you’re right so we better give you some more dates. So they came back right away and said we’ve got June 1. So I jumped at it and said that would be Rosado’s date. So I talked to Jolene and Russell and Jolene said Julio will fight him so I said close that, we’re done.”
Supporting the Rosado-Julio fight be will up-and-coming prospect Ronald Cruz. The June 1 card takes place at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA where Cruz has lived since coming to the States from Puerto Rico. Cruz fit the card for several reasons. Being from Bethlehem where he has a large following of fans that turn out for his fights, his presence should provide a lively crowd. In addition, he fits the mold of the Fight Night series. He prides himself on making exciting fights and is not only willing, but eager to be in against good competition.
“When they mentioned June 1 as a possible date I knew that Russell was planning to do a show from the Sands [Bethlehem] on June 1, so I thought this is a perfect opportunity. Of course he’s local there, and from Bethlehem, and he was going to be on that show, so I realized that Cruz was on. He fits the profile of guys we want to have on the series.”
While the series is off to a good start, it is still only in the very early stages. Plenty of other boxing series have tried in recent years to put boxing back on network TV, but eventually came up short. The success of the series will rely on Main Events’ ability to keep turning out exciting cards that bring in the viewers. Duva has a vision of increasing the series over time, including an ambitious goal of eventually returning to the main NBC network.
“There’s the perfect world if I can have it. That would be that we move up to a monthly series next year, and then build towards a platform on the NBC Network, and maybe even in prime time.”
With that, Duva, ever the promoter, gave her final thought on the upcoming events.
“Just want people to give us a chance. Watch. We’re up against HBO head-to-head on March 24. I’m telling everyone make sure you watch one and TIVO the other. Watch us.”
- I’ve covered Main Events’ cards since I got into boxing writing. I keep a healthy distance from anyone in the boxing business to stay neutral and objective but I would be lying if I did not disclose I have a strong respect for Duva and her company. In a day and age when so many promoters fail to do their jobs and really “promote” a fight, they remain old fashioned marketing masters. Instead of being like the rest, looking for handouts from casinos and HBO/Showtime, they get off their asses and work selling their fights.
- A great example of their promoting was the WORD job they did in the press conference the week of the first Fight Night card. With everyone believing this would be a disaster after Chambers bowed out, they had to creatively sell the Jennings-Byarm fight. I have been to plenty of press conferences and know overhyped junk when I see it. That being said, I told Duva in our conversation I also thought she was out of her mind making that fight, but at the press conference became sold that this could be good. My actual reaction was I turned to fellow boxing scribe, John Disanto, and said, “I am probably just drinking the Kool-Aid from a bunch of good promoters but I am actually excited for this fight now.” Fortunately, I was not alone. John agreed and said he must be drinking the same Kool-Aid.
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