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A Sell-Out? No, Seriously…

H1_Sergio_Martinez_VD.jpg
H1_Sergio_Martinez_VD.jpg


There’s no denying that Sergio Martinez is the undisputed middleweight champion of the world. No matter who else has title belts around their waist, only “Maravilla” can make the claim of being the ruler of this division. The only problem- and it’s kinda big- is that he has been vastly under-promoted. You think a guy with his current résumé, charisma and looks would be the very definition of “promotable” (certainly the Mad Tweeter, Alex Ariza, seems to think so).
 
Instead, Martinez has been a guy that’s been TV packaged into the abyss of casino ballroom bouts. A performer who’s a hit with bloggers but ignored by the general public. One that chases fights with the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. but was never built up in a business where those marquee names would have a financial incentive to ever face him.
 
But perhaps in that regard, as he faces Matthew Macklin this Saturday night at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, he is beginning to turn the corner.

 

“We got 4,000-plus seats already sold,” said Lou DiBella on Tuesday afternoon. The small room at the MSG has a capacity of around 5,000. Hey, it’s a start. “It’s going to be sold-out and I’d say that’s a pretty big step. There’s a billboard in Times Square and there’s international interest all over the place. No one knew who [Martinez] was three-and-a-half years ago. I understand your criticisms but I don’t think it’s so fair. Also, everyone comments on the crowd for the [Nonito] Donaire fight (versus Omar Narvaez last October); the gates double what that was. He did a half-million in Atlantic City; he did a half-million dollars in his last fight in Connecticut. Yes, he’s in a 4-5,000 seat room but right now, he’s fought 4-5,000 seat fights.”
 
But while those numbers are fairly impressive on the surface, the reality is that when there is a host casino involved in a fight, oftentimes, there is a ticket buy involved from the host venue included in the gate receipts. 
 
No, Martinez isn’t ready to headline the big room at the Garden but this event will have something his other fights have lacked- atmosphere and passion. This being St. Patrick’s Day weekend and facing an Irishman in a city chock full of them, it figures to be a fun and lively event. This promotion was designed around this premise.
 
DiBella explained, “When I put together this event, I looked at the top of the middleweight division. I knew when [Martinez] was roughly coming back, around St. Paddy’s Day. I knew two of the top half-dozen middleweights out there were ours. So that was pretty much the vision and I knew I could get the Theater at the Garden, which I did and I knew I could sell it and I can promote here. I’ve promoted over a hundred shows and over 25 sell-outs in ten years.” The native New Yorker has run his Broadway Boxing series for over a decade in Gotham City. “I thought this even would do very, very well and it has. It’s going to wind up with the second biggest gate, it looks like, after [Shane] Mosley and [Vernon] Forrest [in their first fight].”
 
Martinez is the latest example that you can be Latin but in North America, if you’re not Mexican or Puerto Rican, it’s difficult (or downright impossible) to gain a foothold in this market. In many respects, Martinez, in facing an Irishman on this date, is on the road. DiBella disagrees, saying, “No, I mean, there’s going to be a lot of Irish there but there’s going to be a mixed crowd. [Martinez] sold his fair share of tickets. I noticed it even today when he walks around, now, he’s recognized much more so than any of my other fighters.”
 
You have to give DiBella Entertainment credit; this week, they have actually promoted and pushed this event with a series of meet-and-greets with the fighters, open workouts and a photo-op at the Empire State Building. They aren’t just collecting a license fee, a credential and a ringside seat for the fight while saying they did their jobs.
 
It’s a beginning to bigger things- hopefully- because the reality is, it still takes two to Tango.
 
“I don’t expect right now if we moved him to ’54, you think a James Kirkland is going to fight him? You think a ‘Canelo’ [Saul Alvarez] is going to fight him? I mean criticism is one thing but you guys don’t want to write about the fact that, yes, there are some good match-ups that are made within certain promotional companies- like the fight the other night, the ‘JuanMa’ fight- I enjoyed it as a fan. That being said, the majority of fights you’re seeing are insular fights.”
 
DiBella is correct. While Top Rank and Golden Boy continue their “Cold War” and make more and more fights within their own stables of boxers, other promotional firms like DBE are oftentimes on the outside looking in (in a case of “If you can’t beat them, join them,” DiBella has both ends of the equation in Martinez-Macklin).
 
And here’s the rub: even if Martinez was a legitimate draw, he might still be kept away from Chavez Jr., who’s become a cash cow for Top Rank. DiBella says, “I had a meeting with [Bob] Arum- and we’re going to talk again, next week- where Arum claims that they want to make the fight. But I don’t see it; I have my grave, serious doubts. But y’ know what too? I’ve got to run with the fact that if he can beat Macklin, he’s proven again he’s the best middleweight in the world and you don’t chase Chavez Jr. My job is not to change Chavez Jr. The other thing is, I’ve got a 37-year-old fighter and if he comes out of the Macklin fight really well, I want him to fight again soon.”
 
Yes, they will finally get proactive instead of reactive with this career. DiBella claims they will not be beholden to the desires of a network. What in the name of Foxwoods is going on here?!
 
“He’s going to fight again, even if HBO doesn’t have a slot for him,” stated DiBella. “If he comes out of the fight successfully, I don’t want to jinx anything but if he comes out well and healthy, I want him to fight three times this year, not twice.”
 
This could mean fighting outside the U.S, where Martinez has fought exclusively since the end of 2007.

“Someplace different,” said DiBella, who rattled off several European locales which could be possibilities, before adding, “or some place in the U.S. at a different pay scale to maintain activity. He’s not going to become more popular at this stage in his career by not fighting.”
 
REMEMBERING JULIO
 
I’ve been remiss in not mentioning Julio Gonzalez, who passed away in Mexico last weekend, a victim of a hit-and-run accident while riding his motorcycle. As I landed back in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon and turned my phone back on, I received a text message notifying me of this tragic news.
 
I think, as a boxer, he’ll always be remembered for his classic battle against Julian Letterlough in 2001 on “Friday Night Fights,” the first man to defeat Dariusz Michalcweski and facing Roy Jones at the height of his powers at the Staples Center. Gonzalez wasn’t the most naturally gifted fighter but he got everything out of his God-given ability. He was tough, rugged and hardnosed. He was as honest a fighter as you could ask for. He never- ever- cheated the fans.
 
Beyond that, what will stay with me is what a down-to-earth, humble individual Julio Gonzalez was. He was nicer out of the ring than he was tough inside of it. Throughout the years, you’d see him at local fight cards and if you didn’t know who he was, you would think he was just another guy who came to watch some prizefighting. He was the type of guy you’d want watching your back in a dark alley and the guy you’d want as your next door neighbor.
 
While Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather might be the faces of boxing, guys like Julio are its heartbeat and soul.
 
My condolences to his friends and loved ones.
 
TICKET INFO
 
Speaking of ticket sales, here’s some info on some upcoming cards...
 
Tickets have already gone on sale for the May 19th rematch at the Mandalay Bay between Lamont Peterson and Amir Khan. Here’s the 411 from the Golden Boy Promotions release:
 
Tickets priced at $300, $200, $150, $100 and $50, not including applicable service charges, are available for purchase at the Mandalay Bay box office and all Las Vegas Ticketmaster locations (select Smith’s Food and Drug Centers and Ritmo Latino).  To charge by phone with a major credit card, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 Tickets also are available for purchase at www.mandaylaybay.com or www.ticketmaster.com.Tickets for fans traveling from the United Kingdom are available for purchase online at www.sportscorporation.com or by calling +44 (0)845 163 0845.

Tickets for the April 21st show at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas, featuring a main event between Abner Mares and Eric Morel for the vacant WBC 122-pound title and Gary Russell Jr. in support (who was just added to this card, according to Richard Schaefer), go on sale this Saturday. Here’s the info (from another GBP release):
 
Tickets, priced at $25, $50, $75 and $150, go on sale on Saturday, March 17, at 10 a.m. MT and  may be purchased at the UTEP Ticket Office, all Ticketmaster locations or by phone at (800) 745-3000.  Tickets may also be purchased online at www.ticketmaster.com For more information, please call (915) 747-5234.
 
FRIDAY FLURRIES
 
The March 31st show at the Illusions Theater at the Alamodome in San Antonio (featuring the return of Kelly Pavlik and a main event of Frankie Leal-Evgeny Gradovich) will be broadcast on Azteca America...I’ll have much more with Schaefer on Monday but he says that Adrien Broner could still be added onto the Peterson-Khan II bill in Las Vegas but plans are being made for his return to Cincy on August 18th…According to Schaefer, Fernando Guerrero has been added to the April 20th edition of “ShoBox”...Here’s the latest edition of “Maxboxing Radio” with Corey Erdman and me: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/aleckohut/2012/03/14/maxboxing-radio-with-steve-kim-and-corey-erdman-1...Lotsa boxing on this weekend in addition to the HBO card. We have ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” featuring Kendall Holt vs. Tim Coleman; “ShoBox” has a doubleheader featuring Randy Caballero and Omar Figueroa; Telemundo has Glenn Donaire facing Omar Salado, all on Friday night. On Saturday night, Telefutura’s “Solo Boxeo” has Raul Casarez-J.C. Candelo and Carlos Molina from Texas. As always, check your local listings...Well, the Lakers got younger, a point guard and got rid of more dead weight than Jenny Craig. All in all, not bad...So with all this talk of loyalty, will Dwight Howard sign a long-term deal with Orlando at the start of next season?...I would’ve given you guys my Final Four but honestly, I’ve seen about 30 minutes of college basketball this season. Dick Vitale, I ain’t...I guess all the horses slated to be extras on HBO’s “Luck” are all nickering sighs of relief...I can 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.

 





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