Roc Nation Sports debuts on FOX Sports 1
The beginning of the 2015 boxing season officially starts this Friday night and a new player in the business of boxing will also make its inception on FOX Sports 1. Presenting the first of three cards with the network, Roc Nation Sports will hold its first boxing promotion dubbed “Throne Boxing” at the Theater in Madison Square Garden.
Roc Nation Sports (RNS) is synonymous with its founder/CEO, hip-hop mogul Jay Z and is the sport’s management division of multi-billion-dollar entertainment company Roc Nation, which Jay Z also owns and operates. It’s not the first time rap stars have dipped their toes in boxing but most, if not all, have instead stubbed them. In the ’90s, MC Hammer managed Evander Holyfield; both inevitably filed for bankruptcy. Currently 50 Cent, owner of SMS Promotions, promotes Yuriorkis Gamboa and James Kirkland but he can barely get them inside the ring and his reputation has been punished as a result.
In Jay Z’s case, things look to be much different. In former Golden Boy Promotions COO David Itskowitch, RNS’s boxing subdivision has someone at the helm who already knows the ropes. He fully understands that a promoter’s job is not only to build a stable but also put on exciting shows for the fans. This Friday night is Itskowitch’s first attempt at handling both for his new company.
Dusty Hernandez Harrison vs. Tommy Rainone
Slated to headline the first card promoted by Roc Nation Sports is a welterweight match between an undefeated prospect and an aged journeyman fighting in his home state of New York.
At the ripe age of 20, Dusty Hernandez Harrison, 24-0 (13), is entering the stage of his career in which he starts to mature along with the opponents handed to him. Such is the case with his match-up with Rainone. With an above-average six foot frame for a welterweight, Dusty has the tag of fighting wildly, off-balanced and always looking for the crowd pleasing knockout – something of which young professionals are susceptible.The Washington D.C. native has yet to fight and beat anyone impressive and, in turn, he has left the ring in each of his fights looking profound. Regardless, Harrison is still a highly-regarded prospect that made ESPN’s list of fighters to watch in 2013. He made his way onto that list with a great amateur career behind him and flashing a strong right hand that became synonymous with his knockouts. With a nationally-televised headliner to start the New Year, Dusty has a big opportunity to make a name for himself in front of a star-studded crowd at the Theater in Madison Square Garden. It’s truly the biggest night of his life in regards to his boxing career, Dusty is one of the first fighters Roc Nation officially signed since diving into the boxing business and all eyes are on him to impress in both their debuts.
Celebrating his 35th birthday tonight, Tommy “The Razor” Rainone, 22-5-1 (4), steps into the ring in the role of underdog but at least has the small advantage of fighting in front of a home crowd. A troubled youth growing up in Long Island, Rainone was one of many captivated by the movie “Rocky,” which inspired him to lace up the gloves. After a brief amateur career, he turned pro in 2006, looking for any opportunity to fight within his home state. Self-managed, Tommy kept his career local because he had a few other obligations as a manager of a major hotel chain and a small-time actor on Broadway. The southpaw has never been a serious contender for a world title and his lack of big wins reflects this. However, Rainone is a tough out as he has never tasted the canvas in his career, let alone been knocked out. Squaring up against a tough prospect – and arguably his toughest opponent on paper to date Friday night – Rainone finds himself with nothing to lose and in the role of a major underdog…just like his childhood role model, Rocky Balboa.
Tureano Johnson vs. Alex Theran
The co-feature of the telecast involves a fight with a little more on the line for two middleweights looking to become serious contenders for a world title.
Coming off a year in which he garnered much fanfare for his action-friendly style, Tureano Johnson, 17-1 (12), needs a big win in order to get the bigger opponents he is looking to challenge. He kicked off last year with a fun fight against middleweight contender Curtis Stevens. Back then, it was his biggest fight to date and Johnson relished the opportunity but ultimately fell short. He overwhelmed Stevens with his high volume of punches and was clearly winning the fight heading into the final round. In that last stanza, Johnson tired out just enough to let Stevens back in the fight. After getting rocked with one big punch, Johnson was in trouble against the ropes and while he was shelled up, referee Gary Rosato called a halt to the bout with less than a minute remaining. It was a controversial call considering Johnson was seemingly in the lead but, ultimately, the marquee fighter may have gotten the benefit of the doubt. Johnson came back by passing the baton of a first loss to Mike Gavronski in an ESPN2 headliner. Since then, the Bahamian hasn’t gotten an opponent worthy enough to get his fights televised but he made easy work of Valerio Marte and Humberto Toledo in the Caribbean to cap off the year.
Alex Theran, 17-1 (10), is a pure boxer out of Columbia who looks to outbox his opponents rather than obliterate them. The 24-year old southpaw comes into this one facing his best opponent to date while still trying to shake off the only loss of his career. It came in April of last year on the other side of the hemisphere in Russia against one of the country’s prospects, Arif Magomedov. Theran was beaten badly, getting knocked down in the first and third rounds, later quitting on his stool before the fourth began. He followed the loss with a knockout over a meager opponent in a homecoming bout in Colombia but his fight on Friday night is anything but a pushover. Leading up to this fight, Theran claims he has beaten Johnson before in the amateurs and will easily do it once again. The stakes are high as the winner of this fight will take home the WBC Continental Americas and WBA International middleweight titles. Of course, they’re not world titles but with them come number one contender rankings and mandatory matches with the current world titleholders. Given Johnson’s high-paced style, Theran’s technical style could be in for a rude awakening.
* * *
Although Friday night’s card doesn’t have the marquee names, the inauguration of Roc Nation Sports into boxing is certainly a big deal. With Jay Z alone, his unprecedented following can help popularize the sport from the niche phase it’s currently enduring. Not only will Jay Z be in attendance ringside for Friday’s event but he will be accompanied with other RNS clients and prominent New York sporting figures like Carmelo Anthony, CC Sabathia and Victor Cruz. In the current “Who’s where?” pop-culture craze we live in, having arguably one of the biggest names in pop culture present and hosting a boxing event helps the sport’s cause.
It doesn’t stop there either with re-popularizing the sport; RNS also has a lot of capital behind it. Its roster isn’t big by any means as of today but they have tried signing fighters like Keith Thurman, Deontay Wilder and Peter Quillin to lucrative contracts that would have made them more money than they have ever made. Ultimately they were turned down because all three are advised by Al Haymon and he apparently has bigger paydays awaiting them this year. Nonetheless, the money being thrown out there is a good sign: Roc Nation Sports is taking the boxing promotion game seriously.