By Frank Warren
So Mike Tyson wants to become a boxing promoter? Welcome to the club and good luck!
The Hall of Fame heavyweight has formed Iron Mike Productions in tandem with business partners Garry Jonas and Henry Rivalta. The Deerfield, Florida based company are primed to stage their debut promotion on 23rd August at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York state.
The former undisputed champion of the world, now 47, enters the market with much in his favour.
His name alone will be instrumental in generating publicity but will it attract elite young talents to his fold or even established stars?
Already he has secured the support of US cable TV network ESPN2 to broadcast his inaugural show which shall feature IBF super-featherweight champion Argenis Mendis’ opening defence against Canada’s Arash Usmanee.
In addition to Mendis - a top quality Brooklyn, New York based Dominican - Tyson has also signed a fighter I promoted multiple weight world champion Joan Guzman and 2008 Olympic light-welter gold medallist Felix Diaz to his roster.
‘Iron Mike’ will certainly bring plenty of charisma and star dust to the equation and will have a plethora of top grade advice of how not to waste their talent to any fighters who commit to him.
He brings an encyclopaedic knowledge of the sport’s history and traditions plus the experience of having featured in several of the largest grossing fights in ring history; including 16 for the world heavyweight champion.
During that innings, he’ll have established a huge network of media, commercial and industry big wigs who may just help give him a ‘leg up’.
On the dip side, Tyson carries a lot of baggage that might return to haunt him. During his prime as ‘the baddest man on the planet’, he was incarcerated for rape, tore off opponent Evander Holyfield’s ear with his teeth, then bit the thigh of Lennox Lewis, to list just a few of his indiscretions.
Of late, he has kept his slate squeaky clean and now portrays himself as a serene and humble family man but those prior transgressions could still alienate potential corporate clients.
Tyson, of course, is not the first former fighter to embrace the promotional world. Mickey Duff, one of Britain’s leading post-war promoters had 44 pro fights before swapping to the business side of the game.
More recently, Lennox Lewis, Naseem Hamed, Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan, Ricky Hatton and David Haye have all dabbled, with varying degrees of success. The market is free for all to enter.
Golden Boy Promotions, the company fronted by US glamour boy Oscar De La Hoya, have emerged as global market leaders in recent years.
The California based outfit quickly secured a lucrative TV deal with HBO on the back of ten time world champion De La Hoya’s ring exploits, and constructed a tight infrastructure around their savvy CEO Richard Schaefer, a former Swiss banker.
However, most realise fairly sharply that the way to make a small fortune as a boxing promoter is to start out with a large one, unless you know exactly what you are doing. You need to commit 24-7 and there are a lot of sacrifices to be made.
For a start, fledgling promoters are initially required to invest heavily before they accrue. It’s always a long term project. Recruiting the right fighters – those with character and commitment, as well as talent – and securing a long term TV deal so that you can build careers, are paramount.
While Tyson’s knowledge of the sport is incontestable, what will be his grasp of the business? Let’s not forget, this is a man who amassed a nine-figure fortune between the ropes....then somehow managed to squander the lot and exit the industry stony broke!
It’s a cut throat world and as former fighter Duff famously quipped of boxers: ‘If you want loyalty, buy a dog!’
And Tyson will be acutely aware of the headaches that fighters can bring.....he was responsible for more than his share of late pull-outs and uncooperative behaviour during his own years as a fighter!
It should be an interesting ride!
Congratulations to John Handelaar on his recent elevation to President of the British Boxing Board of Control. John was the youngest serving Steward at the Board, when I first obtained a promoter’s licence back in 1980 and our respective careers in the sport have run parallel. He will make a good President.
Fighters tread a precarious line between optimising their preparation and steering clear of those intent on ridding the sport of performance enhancing drugs. Belfast super-middle Brian Magee copped a six month ban after traces of oxilofrine were found in his post-fight sample following his fourth round stoppage loss to Mikkel Kessler in Denmark last December.
Magee, 38, a former British, European and WBA interim champion, complied fully with the investigation and it transpired that the offending substance was an unlabelled ingredient in a sports supplement he’d consumed. His back dated ban expired on 29th July but highlights that, in today’s climate, fighters can never be too careful.
For music and boxing fans Madison Square Garden is hallowed ground. MSG has been told that its lease will expire in 10 years, as the New York City Council want to remodel Penn Station which is underneath it. I promoted Naseem Hamed v Kevin Kelley at MSG back in December 1997, the first British promoter to stage a boxing event there.
Spike Lee is one of many lobbying to keep MSG open.
Without a doubt, in my view, the best show of the year so far was Golden Boy Promotions "Knockout Kings 2" in San Antonio last Saturday.
Omar Figueroa and Nihito Arakawa fought a brutal twelve round war which is now a contender for fight of the year, followed by Jesus Soto Karass's sensational knock-out of Andre Berto, and Keith Thurman winning Golden Boy's $10,000 KO bonus when he sparked out Diego Chaves.
If you haven't seen it make sure you watch a replay on BoxNation believe me it’s worth it.
The Channel Of Champions has now televised all the leading contenders for fight of the year: Timothy Bradley v Ruslan Provodnikov, Guillermo Jones v Denis Lebedev and the Mike Alvarado v Brandon Rios rematch.
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