Yeah, it looks like there is a bit of a boxing boom taking place here in Southern California.
April 26th is a card that features the Golden Boy Promotions trio of Keith Thurman, Lucas Matthysse and Omar Figueroa at one of the most fan-friendly and accessible venues the sport has, the StubHub Center. This scribe has never been shy about expressing his feelings about the facility (maxboxing/news/beautiful-sitesight ) located in Carson, now a regular destination for world-class prizefighting the past several years.
A couple of weeks later, the basketball home of the USC Trojans, the Galen Center (usctrojans.com/facilities/usc-galen-center.html) hosts its first ever boxing event. For years, promoters had wanted to stage a show at this gym. Last year, Dan Goossen had scheduled a bout between Andre Ward and Kelly Pavlik here but had to scrap the event as Ward underwent surgery on his shoulder. Goossen - who is co-promoting the WBC heavyweight bout between Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola alongside Don King - had kept in constant contact with university representatives and as he was told May 10th was available, he jumped at this opportunity.
“It’s a great arena, a great location and plenty of parking and they were very receptive on holding a fight here,” said the veteran promoter on Thursday at Heritage Hall at USC, where the official announcement for this promotion was held. Carl Reed, the Assistant Athletic Director at USC and GM of the Galen Center told Maxboxing, “I think it just works right in the cards in terms of where we are as the building to present a successful event and it just made sense that working with Dan Goossen the past few months, actually over the past year or so, to try to get some events in here. They’ve expressed interest; we just haven’t had the right dates and this date actually opened up and it worked perfectly.”
Was USC, a prestigious institution, concerned about associating with the supposedly seedy world of pro boxing?
“We were conscious of the image of boxing,” admitted Reed, who added, “We find that things have obviously turned the corner for boxing and it’s more of a positive image. We’re just not going to accept any match; we wanted to make sure that this is an event that the University would get behind but also the rest of the boxing world and know that we can put on a very successful event.”
This fight made sense given Arreola comes from this region and it’s for a heavyweight title. Also, this bout will be broadcast by the “Worldwide Leader of Sports,” ESPN, giving it greater exposure than if it were broadcast on a premium cable network, something that might have appealed to USC. The bottom line is the Galen Center, unlike other local venues, doesn’t necessarily have a pressing need to fill dates. “No we don’t,” confirmed Reed. “It’s a way for us to continue to reach out into the community, make contact, make friends and we don’t need to have outside events but it’s good to show what we can do as a university in this facility, to showcase the facility itself.”
As for the possibility of the Galen Center hosting more boxing moving forward, Reed states, “It’s definitely feasible, obviously, our first priority is our student-athletes and the teams that are based in Galen Center and if were able to make an event work that’s not a university event and it doesn’t affect our student-athletes, we’ll definitely try to make that happen.”
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The next week sees the return of the Forum - which, for years, hosted and promoted its own fighters before shuttering its program in 1999 - with a bout featuring one of its former boxers, Juan Manuel Marquez versus Mike Alvarado. Once the home of the Lakers and Kings, it had gone largely unused for sporting events for the past decade-plus while the focus shifted to the Staples Center. But as the Madison Square Garden Company bought the building and put in hundreds of millions of dollars to refurbish it, it suddenly becomes a player again. And boxing will certainly play a role at this venerable old building on Manchester Boulevard.
“It fits in tremendously; it has a ton of history at the Forum,” said Sid Greenfeig of MSG on Wednesday afternoon at the fabled Forum Club. “We had our first fight in 1968; we’ve held over 400 fights in the venue and over two million people that have been through our doors to watch boxing. So now that we’ve reopened, to bring back boxing is exciting.” As for how often they would feature the “Sweet Science,” he says, “We want to host as many events as possible. We’re very happy with the fight we got coming up May 17th and we want to be able to do as much as we can - and we hope to do whatever we can.”
Unlike most modern buildings, the Forum does not have luxury suites, meaning there are great sightlines for spectators. Top Rank Promotions founder Bob Arum is in love with the place and there are plans to feature the proposed bout between Gennady Golovkin and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at the Forum on July 19th. Long ago, the rematch between Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton in 1973 - which was promoted by Arum - and a host of great nights featuring Mexican warriors like Ruben Olivares, Bobby Chacon, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. and Marco Antonio Barrera (among many others) took place here.
“It’s a historic building; anyone that’s ever associated events to this city, it’s always been Los Angeles and the Forum. I mean, from the Lakers to the Kings to concerts, boxing. Those boxing nights were very memorable,” said Todd duBoef, President of Top Rank, whose company has had a long-standing relationship with MSG (having hosted many cards at the Garden in New York throughout the years). “The people at MSG aggressively said, ‘Hey, we’re redoing this; we want you do monitor this,’ and one of the things was they were operating on the East Coast. Fortunately, we know the West Coast market,” explained duBoef.
“We had our apprehensions. ‘What are you going to do with it? How’s it going to be? Are people going to want to come?’ And they gave us a lot of confidence and [music manager] Irving Azoff is the one primarily handling this. He contacted me a couple of times and we talked about it and he said, ‘I really want to do a couple of fights here,’ and this is the first important one for us,” continued duBoef, who believes the Forum and other venues opening their doors for boxing contribute to a win-win for everyone involved. In the past, if the Staples Center wasn’t available, you were basically out of luck. “You have a consolidation venue, so everything got put under one roof at Staples and then you throw three major franchises in there and you threw all the restaurants and everything and the availability of that building is, like, none. So there was this supply-and-demand because everyone wanted to supply content to the L.A. market.”
And it’s a market Top Rank will continue to exploit.
“Our avid fan-base comes from this neighborhood, from all the Southern California district. Therefore, how do you not find a tent to stake claim to it? If it’s at the StubHub Center, where we’ve done shows, the Forum or the Galen Center or the Staples Center or whatever it is, this market has a huge, huge appetite for our content. We’ve got to recognize that,” said duBoef.
Dan Goossen believes that not only is there more opportunity to have fights in cities such as Los Angeles, New York or San Antonio (which has really become a key market), it’s also a bit of a necessity. “There’s very limited opportunity in Las Vegas with all the mergers and all that. The casinos have a bigger fan-base that they’ve got to bring the big fights to. So in the past, you might be able to go to Mandalay Bay when the MGM Grand was putting on a fight; you might be able to go there two weeks, three weeks later. It’s tougher to do that in today’s climate, so you’re almost prone to build up your own stars at free-standing buildings.”
All this harkens back to an era when L.A. had a regular rotation of big fights before the proliferation of casinos sent these events to the desert of Las Vegas.
Veteran publicist Bill Caplan, who has literally gone to every major fight held in this city, says, “Even before my time, when I was a little kid, they had every week at the Olympic [Auditorium], every week at the Hollywood Legion and then every two weeks, shows in Santa Monica and they had South Gate. Also Wrigley Field, it was actually an exact scale model of Wrigley Field in Chicago, owned by the same guy, P.K. Wrigley, and the Angels played there and then when the Angels went from the Pacific Coast League to the Major Leagues, they played their first season there. That place also had big fights and then later on, the fights went onto the L.A. Sports Arena.”
“I mean it was busy. Now, it’s very busy again. I guess boxing’s not dead; is it?”
Word is an HBO doubleheader featuring a heavyweight bout between Bryant Jennings and Mike Perez and a middleweight clash between James Kirkland and Willie Nelson is being worked on for May 24th. That’s a good looking card (certainly better than what they aired this past weekend, a card that lived down to very low expectations) and I’m being told it could land at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California.
Cedric Agnew isn’t a bad young fighter but he was just in way over his head at this stage of his career versus Sergey Kovalev...Juan Carlos Martinez upset Alejandro Perez in a good scrap, taking away a title shot awaiting Perez...Chris Algieri has emerged as the frontrunner to face Ruslan Provodnikov on June 14th...Really looking forward to the “Boxcino” lightweight finals between Fernando Carcamo and Petr Petrov...Adrian Perez is the new opponent for Oscar Valdez on April 12th in Las Vegas...Did anyone feel the earthquake out here on Friday night?...The Kentucky Wildcats sure seem to be in a lot of good games. Their freshman have grown up in a hurry...RIP to Lonnie White, just truly a decent human being who will be missed by everyone he came into contact with.
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