Filipinos in Fresno
Tonight from the Save Mart Arena in Fresno, California, the first all-Filipino world title bout takes place between IBF junior bantamweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas and Jonas Sultan (ESPN+, 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT). Despite having a somewhat sizable Filipino community in Central Valley region, it seems like a rather odd venue for this fight.
So how and why did Top Rank put this card in Fresno?
“Because it’s not the greatest date in the world because it’s Memorial Day Weekend. So the guys in Fresno were interested in putting it on and they took responsibility for the gate and so there we are,” explained Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, who, last year, found out the hard way that this particular weekend is a difficult one. In 2017, they featured Michael Conlan in Chicago and struggled mightily at the gate.
Arum admitted, “Yeah, it happened that way. It’s good for the television, the holiday weekends but it’s bad for the gate. People leave home.”
Doing much of the work locally on this card is Rick Mirigian, best known for the incredible job he’s done in marketing and promoting WBC 140-pound titlist Jose Ramirez, as one of the biggest regional draws in the sport. Ramirez, who makes the first defense of his belt, on July 7, in this venue, will most likely sell out the building on that night.
When asked if this card – which also features IBF 115-pound titlist Khalid Yafai – was a tough sell, Mirigian told UCNLive.com, “Yes and no; this show wasn’t designed or set up to host 10,000 people or anything like that. This show was set up to give it a nice atmosphere, a tremendous venue, it’s a Top 10 arena in the world, the Save Mart Arena. It was a last-second thing, Top Rank reached out, asked if we could pull something off and help out and that’s what we did.
So what would be considered a success on this card? 3,000, 4,000?
“I already consider it a success. I mean, we’ve taken a show that, I think, in most places, wouldn’t wind up in this kind of arena or maybe have the local press and P.R. and attention wherever else it may have went. So I think it’s already been a success to get it situated to the fight fans here. So from that standpoint, it’s already been a success,” stated Mirigian, who added, “We have tied in all of the Filipino organizations, the Filipino leaders. So there will be a good amount of Filipinos at the show, as well.”
Despite the commercial success of the iconic Manny Pacquiao, no other Filipino has really become a box-office attraction in the States, for whatever reason. For Ancajas, this is an opportunity to further his profile in America before bigger fights come his way.
According to Mirigian, Ramirez will be doing a meet-and-greet at this event, along with prospect Gabe Flores.
“The local fight fans, they’ll have a bunch of things at the fight to have fun with,” he says. “These guys hanging out, signing autographs, etc, etc. So it’s just something fun for the evening, basically.”
So how are things going for Ramirez’s upcoming bout versus Danny O’Connor?
“I have more advertising, more promotion than any of the last seven fights that I’ve done here, which says a lot because we’ve been heavily marketing out here, Jose’s fights,” said Mirigian, a tireless worker. “This one, we’ve got 21 major billboards going up – some at the expense of 10,000 a month for one board.
“We’ve got 1,700 Comcast spots, 1,300 Univision spots, a thousand spots spread out on the news stations, not to mention having 16 actual radio stations promoting the show. So all of that stuff goes into high gear on June 1st.”
While it may not be a great fight on paper, it’s clear that this will certainly be a big event for those in this area. There was talk of staging this promotion at the local minor league ballpark but the seasonal weather played a part in the decision to take it indoors.
Mirigian explained, “Look, it’s 109 degrees, sometimes 112. The heat is intense, so contemplating 15,000 people to a situation like this, or any fighter, when it’s that hot is a very tough thing. So that was the motivating factor to go from the baseball stadium into the arena: the heat. We just didn’t want to leave everybody with a fan experience where they melted.”
However the ambitious Mirigian adds, “The good news is we have held four Saturdays in November at the ballpark where the weather is actually good there. You know I don’t quit at anything.”
Here’s this week’s edition of “The 3 Knockdown Rule,” in which Mario Lopez and I talk to Matchroom Boxing Group Managing Director Eddie Hearn and Mario gives his Top 5 Tom Cruise movies.
The ESPN+ undercard stream begins at 6:30 p.m., ET/3:30 p.m. PT from Fresno…RIP to Brendan Ingle and Dean Francis…So are former welterweight titlists Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter finally going to meet up in the ring?…Kevin Durant has killed Golden State’s ball movement…Chris Paul simply can’t catch a break, geez…OK, seriously, when we do get our 80-plus degree weather here in Southern California? C’mon, it’s almost June, for Pete’s sake…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.