‘Sudden’ Sam Katkovski burns the midnight oil
The past couple of months for Sam Katkovski have comprised a constant, non-stop whirlwind. If he isn’t on the phone with sponsors and agents, he’s attending meetings and still overseeing his duties at the Wild Card West Boxing Gym in Santa Monica.
“I try to sleep somewhere in-between,” he said back in early June at the gym, after hosting a couple of boxing writers to see Regis Prograis, who headlines on ESPN, tonight from New Orelans.
As part of the Churchill Management Group (which is led by Peter Berg with Mark Wahlberg and Michael Davies involved, along with five more investors), it’s Katkovski’s job to run the day-to-day operations for this outfit, which was formed a couple of years ago and began managing boxers.
At this point they were still a few weeks away from June 30, when one of their other noted clients, junior welterweight contender Alex Saucedo was making his return to his home region by facing Lenny Zappavigna in Oklahoma City. Katkovski was tasked by making sure both boxers garnered the requisite media attention leading into these events in their hometowns, and to begin building local fan-bases.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “Once we got involved with both guys, one of the biggest goals for me and for our team was to always bring him home because I truly believe in fighters fighting in their hometowns and building their home-base. The fact that we’ve got both guys, two week radiuses, fighting in their hometowns, opening up their markets – Oklahoma was a huge market back in the day – New Orleans another big market back in the day with fights like the ‘No Mas’ fight (Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran II), (Muhammad) Ali fought over there; the longest fight ever was there (Jack Burke vs. Andy Bowen), 144 rounds or something like that was in New Orleans. (Editor’s note: The bout went 110 rounds and lasted seven hours and 19 minutes.)
“It’s awesome to have those markets back in play – and to have them back on ESPN. So I couldn’t have asked for a better stretch.”
For Katkovski, having more events in non-casino settings that feature regional attractions is key for the future of the sport.
“One hundred percent. Look, I love going out to Vegas. I love the casino fight; that’s all great,” he stated, “but look at the World Cup, for example. The World Cup is a sport where countries come to support their own. There’s such great patriotism, and look at the Olympics, all these things. So my point is I truly believe that hometowns should get particularly behind their fighters and, when they do that, that’s when the roots start building and you start with the hometown and, eventually around the country, everyone will support someone like Alex, someone like Regis.
“So it starts building and that’s where you get your fan-base from. You’re going to get fans from other countries but, at the end of the day, the roots of the ground are the number one fans and that’s why I’m truly a believer in that. The casinos are all great and Vegas is always great but I would love to see Regis sell out at the Superdome one day and I would love to see Alex sell out the OKC Thunder arena.”
Both OKC and “The Big Easy” are not traditional boxing markets but media events with Saucedo and Prograis were well-received by the local press. According to Katkovski, for Saucedo, “Every single media outlet showed up; the local affiliates showed up: NBC, CBS, ABC.” It helps both events that these bouts took place before football season started. Saucedo had a breakout performance versus Lenny Zappavigna before 5,000-plus patrons, at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. It remains to be seen just how well Prograis does at the gate this weekend.
“I think it’s the start to both guys fighting there for world title fights,” said Katkovski, who’s part of a group that isn’t your traditional management team associated with boxing. For them it’s more than about negotiating fights or contracts with promoters.
Katkovski stated, “A lot of guys now in boxing, generally I think it’s tough to build brands. But we truly believe with all the connections that we have, the abilities that we have, we can help these guys beyond boxing and that’s one of the biggest things we try to push. They’ve got to do their job in the ring and knockouts help. Every time they knock somebody out, it only helps us, as managers, do our jobs. It makes it a lot easier.”
On that front, both Saucedo and Prograis are fan-friendly and entertaining boxers.
“But I truly believe in stuff like selling apparel, stuff like getting these guys sponsors and building their names to the general public, not just to boxing. Me and you will always watch these guys fight; we’ll always turn into ESPN. We might tune into RingTV to watch but that’s me as a boxing fanatic. Now I want to make sure that they are attractive to that general audience, that sports audience, mom-and-pop, the female audience,” Katkovski continued.
”All that stuff, which is a missing element in boxing, and it’s hard to do but we’re going to do our best to makes sure these guys are there.”
The show must go on and despite his busted Achilles, Mario Lopez toughed it out and the show indeed went on. Here’s this week’s edition of “The 3 Knockdown Rule.”
Steve Kim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he tweets (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. He also shares photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.