Golden Boy brings back ‘new’ series
On Wednesday afternoon from the Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles, Golden Boy Promotions held a press conference to formally announce its rebooted developmental series, “L.A. Fight Club.” This program was formerly known as “Fight Night Club,” which ran from 2009 to 2012 when it was staged at the Club Nokia at L.A. Live.
For GBP and its founder, Oscar De La Hoya, what’s new is actually old, a chance to get back to its roots as they go into a new chapter without their former CEO, Richard Schaefer and most of Al Haymon’s boxers (who are no longer with the company).
De La Hoya said the idea to revive L.A. Fight Club – which premieres on March 6 – “started about six months ago. I said, ‘Y’ know what? Let’s bring back that series. Let’s bring back that excitement, showcase that local talent and give these kids an opportunity.’ But most importantly, let’s find the right venue where the fans can be up close and personal and just watch some great fights.”
The Belasco Theater (http://belascous.com/) is a restored venue that went through a multi-million-dollar renovation and is a regular destination for concerts and a night club. Located on 1050 Hill Street, it provides a cozy and intimate atmosphere for boxing. Tickets are priced as low as $20 and just looking around, it does seem like the type of joint in which there really isn’t a bad seat in the place.
This isn’t a series designed to make a ton of money; it’s really about investing into the future. This is why young prospects such as Joseph Diaz and Jason Quigley are being featured on this platform. This will be the theme of the show: developing and nurturing fighters for the next level and beyond. These cards will be televised on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes.
Yes, there are still television dates that aren’t Al Haymon time-buys.
When asked about this, De La Hoya stated, “Look, obviously we are not concerned or worried about what Al Haymon is doing, of going to the networks and buying the time on every single platform. We have relationships with other networks, with various networks and so we’re going to continue doing what were doing and lock up dates and continue working closely with HBO and growing and identifying the next young champions of tomorrow. So there’s no concern whatsoever.
“I mean, how many TV channels do we have that we can watch?”
The lifeblood of any promotional company is having television dates. They not only give you the ability to showcase your biggest stars and procure big license fees (although, for the time being, Haymon seems to be changing that paradigm) and also take young fighters up the ladder. Not every televised card will create revenue, many of them are actually loss leaders. But without them, it’s impossible to keep careers moving forward.
This is where the L.A. Fight Club comes in. It’s goal is to find the next Canelo Alvarez or Lucas Matthysse who can be earners for Golden Boy down the line. It’s an interesting time for Golden Boy which, like everyone, is fighting for its spot in the marketplace. But bringing back this series is symbolic of the commitment De La Hoya and his company have to the business.
So why was this series ever shelved?
“Well, because we were doing our other events,” explained De La Hoya. “Whether it was on Showtime or HBO, all our pay-per-view events. We had some issues with what sponsors we can bring in, which ones we can’t because of the venue that we had back then. But now, regardless of all those issues that we had, I just had to bring Fight Night Club back to L.A.
”So here we are.”
TARK THE SHARK
As a kid growing up in Southern California in the ’80s, I saw plenty of UNLV Runnin’ Rebels games on KHJ channel 9, which had either Chick Hearn or Ross Porter on the call. As UCLA declined in this era, this program built more than just a cult following out here with its entertaining free-wheeling style and the driving force was their coach, Jerry Tarkanian, who built a West Coast college basketball powerhouse.
Like many others who enjoyed the likes of Freddie Banks, Armon Gilliam, Mark Wade, Gerald Paddio and, later, those dynamic teams led by Larry Johnson, Anderson Hunt, Greg Anthony and Stacy Augmon (who won the national title in 1990), I was greatly saddened by his passing earlier this week.
“The Shark,” as he was called, was a devoted follower of the “Sweet Science.”
“He was a big fan,” said veteran promoter Bob Arum, who moved Top Rank Promotions out to “Sin City” in the mid-80’s and became a big UNLV fan. “As a matter of fact, after the ’88 Olympics, we signed a lot of the Olympians and three of them were headquartered in Vegas and I formed a group called ‘Las Vegas Gloves’ and they provided the support for these guys.”
Kennedy McKinney, Vince Phillips and Al Cole were some of the boxers involved.
Arum recalls,”They were bring trained by Kenny Adams and Alton Merkerson and we formed this group, about 12 Las Vegans and they put in money; they invested in the gym that we bought and one of them was Tarkanian.”
During this era, Tarkanian gave Las Vegas a sense of pride and, in many ways, legitimized the city.
“He was the icon, you can not believe the support and the enthusiasm of all of us that lived in Las Vegas had for the ‘Runnin’ Rebels’ and he was the maestro,” said Arum. “The big social event for everybody, high and low in Las Vegas was the Rebels basketball games and the tournaments. Las Vegas became a city because of the success of Tarkanian and the Rebels. There’s no question about it.
“Everybody knew everybody else; you’d know thousands of people at the game, thousands of people on the trips. It was a totally different place than what it had been before.”
Arum became such an avid fan that he and Steve Wynn would charter a private jet to follow the team during “March Madness.”
“Virtually everybody in Vegas, all the people I knew, were totally obsessed with the team, totally obsessed,” recalled Arum. By the 1990-91 season, the ‘Runnin’ Rebels’ had become a cultural phenomenon. “I mean there were so many private jets that flew to those tournaments, it was like the Las Vegas Air Force.”
And you could call the Thomas and Mack Center the “House that Tark Built” and soon it was the host to big fights such as the first encounter between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield in 1992.
But in the 702, there was nothing quite like a ‘Runnin’ Rebel’ game in this era. It was the hottest ticket in town.
“Absolutely, absolutely, the greatest thing was having the seats on the floor, which they called ‘Gucci Row.’ It was like you’d plan your schedule around the UNLV basketball games. You’d never want to miss a game,” said Arum.
If the long-awaited Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao fight is consummated for May 2 (and I’m hearing it could finally happen) and with Saul Alvarez-James Kirkland moving to the following weekend, Houston’s Minute Maid Park could end up hosting this fight…Abner Mares has been added to the March 7 premiere of “Premier Boxing Champions” versus Arturo Santos Reyes. It’s not clear if his bout will be aired on NBC or NBC Sports Network…CBS Sports Network has boxing this Saturday evening (10:30 p.m., ET) featuring Derric Rossy-Akhror Muralimov…The Danny Garcia-Lamont Peterson/Andy Lee-Peter Quillin doubleheader has been confirmed to take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 11…I think I have a crush on “Cookie” from FOX’s “Empire.” And yes, she has an…ahem…My favorite Tark quote (and there are different variations of this he’d use): “The NCAA is so upset at UCLA, they just put Long Beach State on two years probation.”… Another personal favorite of mine, Tark called the recruitment of John Williams (who, at the last minute, chose LSU over UNLV) ‘the “Louisiana Purchase”…Most amazing stat for Tark is that, in the ’70’s, long before the shot clock and three-point line, his teams would routinely average 100 points a game…That loss to Duke in the ’91 Final Four still haunts me. Bobby Hurley, damn him….Here’s hoping the “Amoeba Defense” is being played up there by the Tark…I can be reached at email@example.com 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.