by Steve Kim
As light heavyweight Joe Smith Jr. faced contender Andrzej Fonfara on June 18 in the latter’s hometown of Chicago, Illinois, not may gave the Long Island, New York resident much of a shot. But while he was a prohibitive underdog, those who were instrumental in developing his career believed he had a legitimate puncher’s chance going in.
And, in shocking fashion, “Not your average” Joe floored Fonfara twice en route to scoring a first round stoppage.
But the result didn’t completely surprise Smith’s promoter, Joe DeGuardia, president and CEO of Star Boxing, who told UCNLive.com, “Look, we always felt it was a great opportunity for us. We thought that was the kind of fight we were always looking for for Joe and the reason we felt that way is we know Joe and we know what we’re doing here and what our fighters are capable of and we strategically look for fights that will put them in a position to go to the next level and that’s why this club series has been so successful.”
DeGuardia is talking about his club program that resumes tonight at the Paramount Theatre in Huntington, New York, headlined by a junior welterweight tilt between Anthony Karperis and Ariel Duran, along with four other bouts. Star Boxing, which has been around since 1992, “averages between 10-to-12 shows a year,” according to DeGuardia, who is a former amateur pugilist.
“We’re actually the longest running promotional company in New York,” notes DeGuardia. And it’s been a successful company in that it has graduated Chris Algieri, Lou Del Valle, David Telesco, Andrey Tsurkan, Vinny Maddalone, Delvin Rodriguez and Mike Arnaoutis, among others, to larger platforms and solid paydays on premium cable outlets. There are a few more, DeGuardia notes, but he admits, “Unfortunately, we moved our offices for the first time in 25 years, so my posters aren’t hung up, so I can’t just look on the walls.”
When asked to explain their philosophy in formulating fights, DeGuardia states, “Basically, for the ones at the Paramount, we got a simple one: Create a card where we have exciting fights, for the most part, evenly matched. We obviously try to give the guys we’re developing a little bit of an edge but an edge in a fight that’s close enough of a fight that they’re going to develop enough character and boxing skills that are needed. Not fights where they are going to blow a guy out in one round and not develop. It’s a developmental process.
We look at each fight we’ve done, like with Chris (Algieri). We put him in with southpaws; we put him in with righties. It’s just a process to develop him up the ladder and create something.”
A few years ago, Algieri was fighting in relative obscurity on DeGuardia’s cards but in recent years has faced Ruslan Provodnikov and then parlayed that victory into a pay-per-view payday against Manny Pacquiao and other lucrative bouts against Amir Khan and Errol Spence Jr.
DeGuardia continued, “We also look at who we’re going to be featuring, who we are trying to develop out of the location, out of the place, and we also, part and parcel, to the boxing aspect for that particular place – it’s got such a cache; it’s such an exciting venue – that we really focus on things outside of just the ring. What kind of presentation we’re going to give, what kind of music we’re going to play and how loud that music is going to be, what the entrances are going to be like and how the ring girls are going to be, the hostessing in the front of the venue to meet-and-greet people, what kind of kind of photo session. We have a red carpet over there.
“So all those types of things take place to create an ambience, a certain type of feeling to make the fans want to keep coming back, frankly.”
This is old-school promoting, in many ways, because, while DeGuardia does have a few deals with regional networks (such as MSG) that will broadcast his bouts, Star Boxing doesn’t have the luxury of a huge license fee that will give him a financial cushion to his bottom line.
How they make their bones is in nurturing boxers and their careers onto bigger stages, something that is more art than science.
“Absolutely,” says DeGuardia, “it’s a process. It’s knowing what you have, knowing how you can match (a fighter), how you can develop him, what you’re going to do do develop him. Again, sometimes, it’s giving him enough of a test to provide the fans with the right experience that we want to provide the fans with and you need to do that in order to keep selling tickets for future shows because you just can’t have the red corner win every night. It doesn’t work that way.”
It’s a fine line between matching one’s fighter carefully and not insulting the intelligence of the consumer – and vice-versa, not overmatching your boxer.
“These are important aspects in developing that fighter because if the fighters not tested, if he doesn’t have to build his character on the way up, when he gets to those fights where his character is tested, he’s not going to succeed,” notes DeGuardia.
Recent legislation that will require promoters to provide $1 million dollars in insurance per fighter on every card will certainly have an impact on Star Boxing and other promotional firms in New York.
“It’s very troublesome. Certainly we might be in a position of having to cut down our shows, the number of shows we do, because it’s going to be very, very difficult. It’s very difficult now to put these shows on. New York is a very costly place. Fighters cost an awful lot of money and it’s not a situation where you can say, ‘Hey, these are slam dunks.’ Even though we sell out every show, it doesn’t mean we make money every show. We’re developing fighters.
“And we provide a real service, not just to the fighters but the entire community. The whole area between the rooms, the hotel, the meals, the restaurants are packed after our shows. Entire businesses might suffer, I think, because we might have to cut back our shows, as will other people. Because not only have they added cost with the insurance – and that’s assuming we can get the insurance – because it might be cost prohibitive, altogether. They’re saying they have a couple of companies that would underwrite it for X-dollars but that money is still double what we pay now. And then, when you combine that with the added cost now because the one value New York was they used to pay medicals, now that’s ended, so you get those added costs as well. So it’s going to make it very difficult for club shows to take place and those are the breeding grounds and the developmental grounds.”
There is a belief (hope perhaps?) that this legislation will be amended in the future.
“Fortunately, we do a lot of different kinds of shows. We do big shows as well. We have a great series out there. We’ll figure it out and we’ll make our ways to go,” promises DeGuardia. “It might be that we have less opportunities for the fighters but I certainly think a lot of promoters won’t be able to come out of it.”
This week, Mario Lopez and I return with two editions of “The 3 Knockdown Rule,” one in which we are joined in-studio by Main Events CEO Kathy Duva, Egis Klimas and unified light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev…
The Thomas Lamanna-Dusty Hernandez Harrison fight is now taking place on Sept. 15 from Philly and will be broadcast by CBS Sports Network…Still no official announcement for the Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward fight, in terms of venue and tickets…What in the world is WBO middleweight titlist Billy Joe Saunders thinking?…It will be surreal to see the Rams back in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum…Seriously, great to have pre-season football back. (Yeah, I’m a sicko.)…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) attwitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.