By Keith Idec
The Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson light heavyweight title fight is headed to Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Golden Boy Promotions chief executive officer Richard Schaefer, whose company represents Hopkins, and Gary Shaw, whose company promotes Dawson, told BoxingScene.com that they’ve come to an oral agreement with executives for AEG, the company that operates Staples Center. Schaefer said an official announcement about the site of the HBO Pay-Per-View main event is imminent.
Schaefer and Shaw thought earlier this month that they’d bring the Oct. 15 fight to Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The deal began to fall apart after an executive for Devils Arena Entertainment, which operates Prudential Center, informed Golden Boy chief operating officer David Itskowitch and Shaw that Main Events would have to be a promotional partner in the event.
“Main Events has nothing to do with this fight,” Schaefer said, “and so we basically told them that they can [forget it]. This is ridiculous. This is absolutely insane.”
Main Events, based in nearby Totowa, N.J., has been at least a promotional partner in each of the 12 boxing events held at Prudential Center, home of the NHL’s Devils and the NBA’s Nets, since the inaugural card in December 2008. Golden Boy and Main Events co-promoted a card there Nov. 6, but both companies promoted a fighter in the main event between junior welterweights Zab Judah (Main Events) and Lucas Matthysse (Golden Boy).
Schaefer and Shaw wanted to bring the fight to Newark largely because New Jersey’s biggest city is between Hopkins’ hometown of Philadelphia and Dawson’s native New Haven, Conn. Now they’re bringing an East Coast fight to the West Coast, to the same building where Hopkins successfully made the 20th defense of his middleweight title against Howard Eastman in February 2005.
“Initially [Prudential Center] had a hold for a concert on that date,” Schaefer said. “A good friend of mine, who has connections at Clear Channel, cleared that hold, so the date became ours. And then they said, ‘OK, you can have the date. We’re interested in the fight, but you need to pay us rent for the venue.’ And it was a six-figure amount, which is very high. It usually doesn’t work like that. But we said, ‘OK, we’ll pay it.’
“So we were OK with that because we were interested in having the fight there. But then they came and they said that Main Events needs to have the logo exposure, a banner above the ring and have the Main Events logo on all of the marketing materials and have a slot on the undercard. And we said, ‘You know, they have nothing to do with Chad Dawson and they have nothing to do with Bernard Hopkins.’ They said, ‘Well, if you guys are not going to agree to that, we’re not going to do the fight.’ ”
Schaefer and Shaw considered alternate Northeast sites, but Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City already is scheduled to host two fight cards in October [headlined by Sergio Martinez-Darren Barker on Oct. 1 and Carl Froch-Andre Ward on Oct. 29] and Madison Square Garden wasn’t available on Oct. 15.
Shaw also expressed disappointment that the Prudential Center deal didn’t materialize.
“It’s terrible,” Shaw said. “As a New Jersey-based promoter I’m very disappointed. I thought for sure that we would be at the Prudential Center, put on a big fight and draw a ton of fans from Jersey. [Fans] would’ve come up from Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, and from Connecticut and New York. We thought it was a perfect fight for New Jersey.”
Shaw’s office is in Totowa, N.J., too, about four miles from the office of Main Events, his former employer. Acrimonious circumstances caused Shaw, once Main Events’ chief operating officer, to part ways with the company in June 2002.
“To put only one promoter in a building, it’s unheard of,” Shaw added. “Anybody can go do a fight in Staples Center. So I don’t know why the people at the Prudential Center would do that. I hope Main Events has a lot of fights to give them. It makes no sense to me. I wouldn’t go back there and I think now Golden Boy wouldn’t go back there.”
Golden Boy Promotions will, however, start staging regular shows at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., after September 2012, when the Nets’ new home arena is scheduled to open. Kathy Duva, Main Events’ chief executive officer, likened her company’s partnership with the Prudential Center to the exclusive collaboration between Golden Boy Promotions and Barclays Center.
“Put it this way,” Duva said. “When Golden Boy comes into Brooklyn next year, do you figure they’re just going to let anybody march in there and put on a fight? Or are they going to have to be involved? It’s the same situation. We are partners on the [boxing] events [at Prudential Center] and built the boxing franchise in that building together as partners, Main Events and Prudential Center. And we continue to be partners.”
Main Events and Golden Boy co-promoted the Amir Khan-Zab Judah junior welterweight title unification fight Saturday night, but Duva and Schaefer didn’t discuss the Prudential Center issue while they were in Las Vegas.
“I didn’t know what they were going to do,” Duva said. “But I talked with the people at the Prudential Center when they were approached about doing the fight, about what we felt needed to be done to protect our brand, to protect the franchise that we’ve built there.
“We’d be more than happy to bring any fight in there that wants to come. Of course we want to build the franchise more and more, but we want to be part of what we built. To put three years into a place and have somebody come in, who knows what they’re going to do? Neither Prudential Center nor Main Events would want that to happen. We talked about what we thought would be necessary to protect our investment and we came up with what we required. They were free to accept it or not. Obviously, they did not.”
Regardless, now that the site is settled, Schaefer expects the fight to draw well at Staples Center, where an announced crowd of 12,828 watched Hopkins out-point Eastman six years ago. Hopkins-Dawson is a higher-profile fight, especially since the 46-year-old Hopkins became boxing’s oldest recognized world champion when he out-pointed Jean Pascal in their May 20 rematch in Montreal.
“We feel that Bernard has a huge following and especially now, I think Bernard is bigger than he ever was,” Schaefer said. “To do his historic first [light heavyweight] title defense almost at age 47, it’s another historic moment in his career and for the sport of boxing. And to do it from Staples Center again just was fitting.
“I’m actually quite happy. Sometimes things happen for a reason. And I think this is one of them. At first I was really upset about those people at the Prudential Center, but now I’m actually pretty happy because it ended up putting us in what I believe is a better situation.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, NJ., and BoxingScene.com.