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The Selling of Provodnikov

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By Steve Kim


WBO junior welterweight beltholder Ruslan Provodnikov was originally scheduled to face Chris Algieri at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (the former home of the NHL’s Islanders). Eventually, this weekend’s event landed at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, long thought to be the exclusive territory of Golden Boy Promotions, which, prior to this event, has staged every boxing card in this new building.


A couple of months ago, a press release was sent out announcing that this HBO card was taking place in Long Island before docking at the home gym of the Brooklyn Nets. And there was a special request from someone with deep pockets who shares a cultural bond with the Russian-born Provodnikov to bring him to the Barclays Center.
 
“I said it when it first came out; I was surprised when Mikhail Prokhorov (the billionaire who owns the NBA franchise that plays in this venue) reached out to me from Russia,” said Artie Pelullo, the head of Banner Promotions, which represents the “Siberian Rocky.” “But once they reached out for me, we were able to make everything happen. The building’s been very cooperative and they want to do more business with Ruslan Provodnikov.”
 
This building on Atlantic Avenue is a big one but it is being set up to only use the lower bowl of the arena. The tickets have been affordably priced - at least by boxing standards - with ringside seats topping out at $206. But when you go to free-standing venues, the promoter takes a financial risk; the bottom line is they have to move units. “There is a risk,” confirmed Pelullo. “I think [Provodnikov] can become a big ticket seller and we’re in the right location near Brighton Beach near his people and we’re hoping that the tickets go well. Right now, they’re doing pretty well.”
 
Because of the sizable contingent of Russians in this area, Pelullo believes this can become a bit of a home away from home for Provodnikov in the same manner K2 Promotions has planted its flag at Madison Square Garden with Gennady Golovkin (who will debut in the big room of MSG on July 26th against Daniel Geale). Provodnikov, like “GGG,” is a lethal prizefighter who is deemed high-risk and low-reward for the marquee names of their respective weight classes. The reason both are now rolling the dice is to build or raise their market values to change that paradigm.
 
Much of this is about brand-building. It’s much easier to avoid someone when he’s drawing a couple of thousands in a stale, Indian casino ballroom than playing to much larger crowds in major media markets.
 
Pelullo states, “I believe you have to build your own brand and that’s why we brought him to New York, Brooklyn amongst an area where there’s a couple hundred thousand Russian people. We’re fighting a New York kid in Algieri who’s a good kid but you have to build and you have to work at selling tickets and making people see what you have and the quality of fighters you have.”
 
In the past, Provodnikov has fought at the likes of the StubHub Center in Carson, California and the 1STBANK Center near Denver, Colorado but this is his first time as the headliner in a facility like the Barclays Center. In the past, Pelullo has done more shows at the smaller casinos than venues of this nature and the dynamic is a striking contrast in what needs to be done as a promoter.
 
“The shows at Verona [the Turning Stone Resort Casino] are the ‘Friday Night Fights’ [variety] and it’s a built-in crowd. But when you go to buildings, you’re doing everything,” he explains. “All the advertising you’re doing, all the hotel rooms, you’re doing all the vans, everything pertaining to selling tickets to the show, posters and fliers. When you go to a venue like the MGM Grand, when they do the fights, they supply all that for you. But when you go to the Madison Square Garden or you go to the Barclays Center, you need to be able to promote, so you have to be a whole machine.”
 
Pelullo is saying all this from Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse on the same afternoon Miguel Cotto faced Sergio Martinez just a few blocks away later that evening. Yeah, in an effort to drum up interest, they baited the media with the prospect of a steak (which, by the way, was delicious) before they went over to the big fight at the Garden. On Sunday, Provodnikov signed autographs at the Nets Shop by Adidas in Coney Island. As the new week began, they went through the usual paces of media days and press conferences, all in the effort of putting asses in seats.
 
“You’re selling tickets; it’s constant, 24 hours, seven days a week,” said Pelullo, who admits too many promoters had taken the easy way out in terms of selling and packaging their events in casinos. “I think you’re right; we all got lazy because they were giving us the money and they were paying for everything on top of the money, all the things you needed, the infrastructure, the rooms and the meals and, yeah, people are going to promoting fights like in Texas, like at the Barclays Center, like in Los Angeles, like at Madison Square Garden and we’re building a fan-base again.
 
“I think we’re really doing a good job. [Top Rank Promotions CEO Bob] Arum does it; Golden Boy [Promotions] does it. There are people there building a fan-base."
 
Rome was not built in a day and neither are attractions. It takes time and a consistent investment over a period of time. Someone tweeted me a link earlier this week in regard to the Barclays Center running a “Buy three and get one free” promotion and there’s always a possibility that local favorite Seanie Monaghan might be the biggest ticket seller on this card (oftentimes, his constituency won’t even stick around for the main event). But give Pelullo credit; he’s at least taken the first step here. He’s realistic about how many people will come through those turnstiles tonight.
 
“I think anywhere between 6-and-8,000 is going to be very good for us and Ruslan on his first title defense, his first show ever in an area where were looking to sell tickets to a lot of the Russian community. Between 6-to-8,000 people, we’ll be very happy.”
 
WEEKEND FLURRIES
 
 
Speaking of the Barclays Center, look for a Showtime tripleheader to take place there on August 9th featuring Danny Garcia and Danny Jacobs...Demetrius Andrade faces Brian Rose in defense of his WBO 154-pound title as part of this HBO broadcast...Glen Tapia makes his return to the ring at Bally’s Atlantic City tonight after his loss to James Kirkland last December...Jordan Shimmell has signed with Al Haymon...Anyone else holding their breath over the season finale of “Game of Thrones”?...Can you believe what the Spurs are doing to the Heat? They are making them look like the Washington Generals...If I’m the Lakers, I’d much rather have Kevin Love than Carmelo Anthony...Ican be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.


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