Rainmakers Among Haymakers
A Few Tips on Effectively Managing Your Fan Favorite
Perhaps the boxing world as a whole is not yet familiar with the names Will (Power) Rosinsky or Chris Algieri. But on June 5, 2009, these two undefeated New York prospects did their part to fill up Long Island’s Westbury Music Fair with their cheering fans during the undercard of Pawel Wolak’s dismantling of Vinroy Barrett. At this stage of their respective careers, Rosinsky and Algieri’s ability to draw even a small and consistent trickle of fans is pure gold for New York area promoters. This is because promoters who stage small shows, like the one at Westbury Music Fair, or are looking to sell out a larger arena, rely on ticket sellers like Rosinsky, Algieri, and to a larger extent Wolak, to maximize their profits. With that in mind, the question arises of what such a boxer’s management should do and how they should act when they know they’ve got a marketable commodity that is welcome on most any card. Allow me to offer some helpful tips to make sure you get the best and most out of your ticket seller:
1. Remember That You Have the High Card: Especially with more local or regional fight cards, a ticket seller should go into negotiations knowing that the promoter needs them on the card more than they themselves need to be on the card. There is no need to just be happy to be there when you are able to make several thousand dollars in ticket sales. Be cautioned, however, that going in negotiations with the high card does not mean that you have carte blanche to make outlandish requests of the promoter. One day, if the ticket seller becomes a true contender, he may need the very same promoter his management tried to work over earlier in his career to make the right fights happen for that first world title shot. A fine balance is key. But do you think any Washington, D.C. area promoter, for example, could honestly tell you that they would mind having Jimmy Lange or Fernando Guerrero on their card, given their respective fan bases?
2. Know Your Boxer’s Ticket Selling Potential: To put this in a distinctly non-lawyerly way, do not write checks your arse can’t cash when negotiating with promoters and using your boxer’s ticket selling abilities as leverage. Many times, a manager will get tickets advanced to him and will have to pay the promoter back for those that go unsold. Alternately, even if you do not have to pay back the promoter for unsold tickets, you will be labeled a dog if you can’t deliver on what you promised in terms of ticket sales. You are best served, therefore, to take an honest inventory of who it is that you can rely on to buy tickets and how much time you will have to market the fight before committing to a projected figure.
3. Negotiate a Base Purse: Even if it’s a nominal amount, do you really want to hazard making money only off of your percentage of ticket sales? What if one of your major sponsors pulls out? What if the community that you have historically sold tickets in has a planting closing or is otherwise negatively impacted by the economy? Sometimes this option is unavailable, as the only reason a boxer will be placed on a card is because he can sell tickets. But if the option is there, do not hesitate to explore it and exploit it.
4. Know How Much of a Percentage You Can Ask For: It might be realistic on some cards to seek an unusually high percentage of the money generated from your boxer’s ticket sales. However, certain venues will not allow to take more than a relatively low percentage. Do your homework on this prior to signing a contract for a given fight where you’re expected to sell tickets.
5. Promotional Agreements are Optional Early On: With the right management and public relations team behind a boxer, it may not be necessary to lock him into a promotional agreement until he is on the cusp of a world title fight. At that point, a boxer may need a major promoter’s juice with the sanctioning bodies, or their connections with other promoters, to make the needed fights take place. But before that time, do not feel pressure to lock your ticket-selling boxer into an exclusive promotional agreement. A prematurely signed promotional agreement could result in a restricted level of activity and restricted access to the right cards to really build up your boxer’s reputation in a given market. As a ticket seller, your business is portable and can go to the highest bidder. Never lose sight of that fact.
6. Have a Plan B for Your Boxer: As charismatic and as big a ticket seller that your boxer might be, remember he may no more than the flavor of the month. The promoters have seen dozens, if not hundreds, like him before he came on the scene. Fans have too. If he loses one too many times, or otherwise loses his luster, keep your options open through relations with a wide range of promoters and matchmakers.
7. Move Your Boxer Smartly, but Steadily: There is sometimes a fine line between an attraction and a fraud, and people will start to look for that line when your ticket seller gets to 472-0 and has not fought a top 50 contender yet. Fans like their undefeated boxers, but will begin to ask questions when they keep fighting zeroes after 15 or 20 professional fights. The Good Lord created sturdy journeymen, limited boxers with glossy records from the sticks, and former world-class contenders that don’t know when to quit for you to place them against your boxer as he makes his way up the ladder in the boxing world. No need to face complete stiffs with this knowledge. On the flip side, do not be tempted to move your ticket seller too fast, even if you have a lot of money invested in him. You could wind up with a champion, or you could end up with a premature end of a profitable club level career. Remember, when you can sell tickets, you don’t have to jump at every opportunity that comes your way. As long as your boxer keeps winning, you’re golden. Even if he doesn’t, the crowd will always appreciate a gritty performance. Just ask someone like Vinny Maddalone, or better still, Arturo Gatti.
8. Know When To Close Up Shop: No matter how much money you have made from your boxer, or how much money you have invested, be honest with yourself and your boxer when it becomes clear he is at the end of the line. The disturbing flipside to having a ticket seller or name is a situation like the one surrounding the recent bout between “Merciless” Ray Mercer and former UFC Champion Tim Silva. Mercer, the former Olympic gold medalist and owner of the heavyweight division’s best chin for a majority of the 1990s, is now 48-years-old, still a name, and taking bouts like the one with Silva that are criticized and disallowed by serious boxing commissions. Although Mercer wound up knocking Silva out within 12 seconds, there are enough name or ticket selling boxers well past their prime that will never get such results, who resurface to make some money off their name, take a pummeling, and end up worn out and useless in life outside of boxing. And there’ll be no fans to cheer him on at the end.
9. Keep Away Toxic Influences: Sure, some of your boxer’s neighborhood friends and peers at the gym may contribute to the buzz surrounding him, but their presence around your boxer may lead him to some bad decision making out of the ring, or unjustified second guessing of the speed in which he’s being moved. Some might say bad company is what did in popular New York junior welterweight prospect Edgar (El Chumaco) Santana. Of course, if it’s the manager that’s the bad influence, the boxer’s stuck either way. Just ask Kendall Holt.
At the end of the day, the key to effectively managing boxing’s rainmakers is to recognize when you have a commodity and act smartly, conservatively, and with poise when moving him. Only when a manager appreciates that he has a truly marketable boxer and realizes that he does not need to jump at every opportunity that comes their way will he be giving the boxer a true opportunity to ply his craft and get to as high a level as he can in the sport. Remember, these few lucky managers have the boxers that are the lifeblood of the sport, so it falls to them to make sure that blood does not get poisoned.
Originally published on 8 Count News.com in June 2009.