By Jake Donovan
After months of insisting a boxing takeover, Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson finally received his first whiff of the big time.
The rapper-turned-promoter was on hand for Thursday’s press conference for the undercard fighters for tonight's big show at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The headliner of course is the fourth showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, which airs live on pay-per-view.
Jackson’s involvement in the show comes in one of the supporting bouts, representing Yuriorkis Gamboa. The unbeaten Cuban star returns to the ring for the first time in 15 months as he faces Michael Farenas on the televised undercard.
Gamboa was represented by Top Rank in a co-promoter capacity for more than three years, but had a falling out with the company earlier this year. A high-profile showdown against Brandon Rios was lined up for this April, only for Gamboa to go AWOL, resurfacing weeks later with Floyd Mayweather’s “The Money Team” which at the time also included Jackson.
An agreement was reached for Gamboa to receive a release from Top Rank to sign with TMT Promotions. Top Rank received a cash settlement, but TMT Promotions never saw the light of day. Jackson and Mayweather had a public falling out and went their separate ways, leading Jackson to form his own SMS Promotions, named after his SMS Audio brand.
The rookie promoter could have saved money on the purchase of Gamboa’s contract, with hindsight being 20/20. The fact that Gamboa’s first fight under contract with SMS is on the undercard of the very promoter who cashed out on his release was one of the many learning lessons Jackson cryptically touched upon during Thursday’s press conference.
“For me, this experience has been a learning experience and exciting for me,” Jackson admitted, though not before publicly brainstorming ideas for the future. “I think I can add to the sport, bring youth culture. The boxing demographic is 30 years old and up. For the UFC, its 15-34 years old.
“I think there is the possibility of bringing youth culture and theatrics that you see and UFC and WWF so that the actual arena isn’t half empty until most of the show is over.”
A glimpse of what Jackson has in mind will be on display this weekend, when Gamboa makes his way to the ring. The former featherweight titlist hasn’t fought since his technical decision win over Daniel Ponce de Leon more than a year ago, which already brings intrigue to his ring return. The moments before he actually steps into the ring promises to be even more memorable.
“You are going to see when Yuriorkis Gamboa enters the ring on Saturday night an entrance like you’ve never seen before,” promises Bob Arum, the lead promoter for this Saturday’s show. “It’s going to blow the socks off everyone and that’s something you’re going to see a lot more of in the future.
“Young people like Todd, like 50 Cent, have great ideas for the future of the sport and you’re going to see the first glimpse of that on Saturday night.”
In order for that to happen, Jackson has to remember his role in the sport – to promote his fighters above his own brand. That aspect of the game was nearly lost on him during the press conference, as he took his seat after speaking, though forgetting a key part of his assignment for the day.
“I’m f***ing up,” Jackson joked upon returning to the podium. “I’m supposed to introduce Yuriorkis Gamboa.”
Welcome to the big time, Mr. Jackson.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox