Brooklyn arena positioned to host boxing events
The fertile boxing ground that produced dozens of world champions, from Mike Tyson to Riddick Bowe, will soon have a regular series of fights in a glimmering new arena.
Golden Boy Promotions has agreed to bring at least 12 shows each year to the New Jersey Nets' new home in Brooklyn. The announcement was made Wednesday by Los Angeles-based Golden Boy and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which is behind the 22-acre Atlantic Yards development.
The centerpiece of it, the 18,000-seat Barclays Center, is scheduled to open in 2012.
''There's a rich heritage in this marketplace,'' Brett Yormark, president and chief executive of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, told The Associated Press. ''We're going to work very closely with Golden Boy, and we're very excited about the possibilities.''
The agreement is exclusive in the fact that Golden Boy will not have similar agreements to develop other boxing franchises in the New York area, but Yormark said it will not prevent local promoters from working with Golden Boy to stage fights at the Barclays Center.
''The exclusive word is a little overstated,'' Yormark said.
The strategic partnership is modeled after what Golden Boy has accomplished at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. Last year, the promoter began a series of monthly ''Fight Night Club'' cards that feature local talent and draw about 2,000 fans. Boxers who are successful both in the ring and in drawing crowds graduate to fighting in the 8,000-seat Nokia Theater.
Eventually, Golden Boy hopes that fighters who started out at the bottom will become big enough attractions to headline across the street at the 20,000-seat Staples Center.
''This is not just bringing once in a while a championship fight to New York,'' Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer said. ''It is about developing a new fan audience for the sport of boxing, and doing a combination of different shows.''
Golden Boy has never been heavily invested in the East Coast, instead staging most of its fights in California and Las Vegas. But the idea was always in the back of Schaefer's mind to make inroads in New York, where the Golden Gloves is an institution and arenas such as Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium have hosted some of the sport's greatest moments.
''We like to take our time and make sure when we do make a decision, or team up with somebody, it will be someone who can be a strategic partner with us,'' Schaefer said. ''As we were looking at the landscape on the East Coast, we got together with Brett Yormark, and when we reached out to him - when you have these meetings, sometimes it clicks immediately.''
Schaefer and Yormark both said that they are not necessarily out to compete with the Garden, which has long dominated the New York boxing scene.
''For me, it's about defining what the Barclays Center is about - it's about volume and variety,'' Yormark said. ''And boxing will have a place in our programming schedule.''
The design of the Barclays Center works well for boxing, with numerous configurations to trim the seating capacity to about 4,000 for smaller shows. The video board hanging over center court will allow for replays and the relatively low level of luxury suites are also a draw.
Perhaps the biggest thing going for the arena, though, is its location in Brooklyn.
The borough across the East River from Manhattan is home to the famed Gleason's Gym, and has produced numerous world champions, from Tyson and Bowe to Zab Judah and Paulie Malignaggi
Ebbets Field hosted nearly 90 fight cards outdoors before it was torn down, and small shows are still held in the borough at places such as the Aviator Sports and Events Center.
''This is for the betterment of the sport,'' Schaefer said, ''and I think it's fantastic when you have a venue and an ownership group that makes a commitment to the sport of boxing. We want to show the audience these fighters as they grow, and hopefully become world champions.''