Sunday, April 21, 2013

A look at the Barclays Center's somewhat fraught boxing venture is presented as "Fans Hope Barclays Center Will Revive Brooklyn Boxing"

The big Barclays Center news today is the Brooklyn Nets' dominating playoff opener win against the Chicago Bulls, dubbed "Beatdown in Brooklyn" by the New York Post in reference to the "Blackout in Brooklyn" theme that pervaded the arena.

But the longest single article appears on the front of the New York Times's Metropolitan section, a seemingly balanced but inherently skewed piece headlined Brooklyn Gets a Rematch: Fans Hope Barclays Center Will Revive Brooklyn Boxing.

After all, the biggest hope belongs to arena CEO Brett Yormark, who promised monthly boxing matches beginning in October, then--after having to paper the house last October with 1000 free tickets--announced the next bout in February but actually didn't have a match until March.

The gist:
Until very recently, a scene like this one — a Brooklyn boxer training at a Brooklyn gym for a big-time bout in Brooklyn — would have been impossible, but now that the Barclays Center, on Flatbush Avenue, is midway through its maiden season of organizing fights, local gyms in the borough are again alive with the thump and sweat of hometown fighters readying themselves for hometown crowds.

“When there’s someplace in your own backyard where you can fight for friends and family and people you grew up with, it means a lot,” said Cleavon Evans, the dreadlocked co-owner of the Starrett City club. “Every fighter wants to fight for their own, and for us in Brooklyn, Barclays changed that game.”

Brooklyn’s boxing history reaches back to 1882, before the Brooklyn Bridge opened, when John L. Sullivan knocked out Jimmy Elliott with a blow to the throat at the Washington Park stadium, which is long defunct. The borough has birthed its share of champions — Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe among them.

But the fight game in New York, and especially in Brooklyn, has been moribund for decades...
Here's the way the article papers over Yormark's excess expectations:
Though Mr. Yormark has not yet met his initial promise of a night of boxing every month, the Garcia fight (accompanied by three more title matches that night) was followed in March by a second night of fights... On April 27, Mr. [Danny] Jacobs will fight at yet a third “show,” as boxing promoters call their competitions, whose main event will pit Zab Judah, another son of Brooklyn, in a title fight against the returning Mr. Garcia. A fourth show has been scheduled for June at which Paul Malignaggi, a welterweight from Bensonhurst, will meet the rising star Adrien Broner.
Golden Gloves move--why?

The article mentions that, "[t]his year, for the first time since 1927, [Madison Square Garden] did not host the finals of the citywide Golden Gloves amateur competition, which took place Thursday and Friday nights at the Barclays Center."

The main reason suggested below in the article is that the Brooklyn arena charges promoters far less. But couldn't it also be because the unnamed sponsor, the New York Daily News, moved the competition to the Barclays Center, where it sponsors the associated plaza?

Mismatched fights?

The article does note:
After the arena’s first show in October, Sports Illustrated published an article condemning Golden Boy for arranging mismatched bouts on its opening night.
...Inherent in this criticism were the conflicts that all promoters face in staging fights. It is intrinsic to boxing that matchmakers need, on one hand, to put on bouts competitive enough to engage the fickle interest of an audience, but still need, on the other, to improve the records, and thus the market values, of the fighters they are contractually responsible for promoting. 
Who's to blame?
Mr. Yormark said he had struck the deal with Golden Boy because neither he nor his staff was expert in organizing fights. He has concerned himself instead with the business end of Barclays’ boxing program...

His critics, however, have said his decision to cede control of his boxing shows to Golden Boy has consistently resulted in uninspiring fights. 
If so, and some of those critics are pretty legit, maybe the headline should be along the lines of "Fans Look at Barclays Center Boxing with Wariness and Hope."

A different way

After all, the Barclays Center could be doing more:
Robert Goodman, who managed in-house boxing at the Garden from 1985 to 1994, said that one chief aspect of his program was a continuing effort to groom young boxers from neighborhoods around New York with an eye toward having them fight one day on the professional stage...
“I think that Barclays’ fans may suffer in the end, because as it stands, no one is developing local fighters,” Mr. Goodman said. “And the only way to do that is to have control of your own department and your own local talent.”
Still, the last word goes to local boxer Paulie Malignaggi, seen by some experts as a sacrificial lamb, who:
responded to this slight while sitting in Portobello’s, his manager’s pizzeria, a Brooklyn Nets cap cocked in homeboy fashion on his head.

“My name is synonymous with Brooklyn,” he said. “I grew up in Brooklyn. I learned to box in Brooklyn. I was never anybody’s favorite. I never got the ‘let’s-set-Paulie-up-to-be-the-next-star’ fight. I’ve been an opponent for other people’s stars before and now it’s happening again.”

Still, in true Brooklyn fashion, he said it was enough to be fighting at the Barclays Center for a hometown crowd.

“Everybody wants to rep their hood and at this point I can’t knock it. Hey, man,” he added, “it’s boxing.”
Yormark is surely pleased with the cross-marketing. It's probably in Malignaggi's contract.

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