Garone: "Boxing is not dead, nor is it dying"
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Boxing is finished...say the masses.
That's nonsense...says Nick Garone.
In fact, not only does the Long Island-based fight promoter dispute that his sport is on the critical list, he points a finger at those vested in mixed martial arts as having falsely cultivated the grave impression in the first place.
But that's not to say he doesn't think the infrastructure could use some work.
"Boxing is not dead, nor is it dying," Garone said. "If you think about it logically, the only people that are starting that rumor are MMA people. How can an Olympic sport with gyms in every major city in the world and hundreds of thousands of participants around the world, all of a sudden disappear?
"It isn't happening, but we as boxing people do have to do a better job in marketing ourselves and stop fighting between ourselves, because it's not going to help our cause."
The former Syracuse University student-athlete -- an alternate to the U.S. wrestling team for the 1992 Olympics -- runs fledgling X-Cel Worldwide, an outfit that's run a series of shows in his native area of downstate New York and around his wife's upstate hometown of Niagara Falls.
His most recent event at the Niagara Falls Conference Center drew 2,000 fans to see Hasim Rahman stop Shannon Miller in a heavyweight feature that competed with a live airing of Andre Ward's super middleweight title defense against Allan Green on Showtime.
"Competition is good. Coke and Pepsi, McDonald's and Burger King, etc. It has actually helped us in the boxing industry because it has given us a chance to see that we can blow this thing and lose market share if we don't start handling things differently," he said. "The networks should also step up and support the industry as well, because that's how we can build tomorrow's stars.
"When I was younger, the networks showed Cuba vs. USA and we had USA's Tuesday Night Fights and FOX Sports, too. These outlets have dried up, but I still believe we can get it back if we get the right television executive to support the mission."
Garone's highest-end promotional client -- ex-heavyweight title challenger Michael Grant -- will face former two-division champion Tomasz Adamek in a scheduled 12-rounder for a pair of regional belts at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. on Aug. 21.
Now 37-years old, the 6-foot-7 Grant is 46-3 in 16 years as a professional.
He's won 15 of 17 fights, including 12 by knockout, since a two-round stoppage loss to Lennox Lewis in an IBF/IBO/WBC championship bout in April 2000.
The X-Cel stable also features former two-time super middleweight title claimant Byron Mitchell and mid-card veterans Dorin Spivey and Meacher Major, as well as rising prospects in welterweight Adrian Mora and 140-pounder Nick Casal.
The marked mix of young and old is both intentional and vital, according to Garone.
"It's different in every case," he said. "Yes, you need young guys because there is a turnover on talent continuously, but there is a catch-22. The older, more experienced and name-recognized guys are sometimes better because you have a built product. If you sign guys that are established you have an instant draw and an opportunity to solicit television, venues, etc.
"Younger guys need to be built into contenders and more often than not it takes a huge commitment with money, time and resources. But don't get me wrong; if someone came along that was a winner you have to take that risk. Guys like Michael Grant and Byron Mitchell have name recognition, so fight fans might want to come out."
Though roster moves are largely dictated by a fighter's past results and future prospects, Garone conceded a fair amount of selling is necessary to convince clients the personal touch of a smaller company can be more advantageous to them than the name of a big one.
Some fighters, he claimed, can get lost in the shuffle with promoters with giant stables.
"If I'm waking up every day and moving a guy and making calls and really working for the fighter, I think they can appreciate that," Garone said. "If a fighter is just getting a call to fight one of his stable-mates, then what does the promoter care if he loses or wins? It is hard on occasions, but a lot of these guys realize it's easier for a promoter that has four or five guys to concentrate on their careers."
Also challenging is maintaining a bond with a fighter who's started small and hit the big time, thus leaving established mid-level fighters as the safest - and most loyal - alternative.
"You have guys that get to a certain point and start getting notoriety, and they don't stay loyal. They were brought up by their promoter, have gotten their wins and were taken to the next level the right way, but they think the grass is always greener," Garone said. "But in reality it's a shame, because the promoter that put up his money and invested in his career to get him into contention is all of a sudden not good enough anymore.
"This is a problem with boxing. Promoters are sometimes hesitant about signing guys because of that. My formula has always been sign guys that are proven and that have seen what's out there, so they appreciate what you do for them."
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This week's title-fight schedule:
WBO featherweight title - San Juan, Puerto Rico Juan Manuel Lopez (champion) vs. Bernabe Concepcion (No. 5 contender)
Lopez (28-0, 25 KO): First title defense; Held WBO title at 122 pounds (2008-10)
Concepcion (28-3-1, 15 KO): Second title fight (0-1, 0 KO); DQ'd in WBO title shot in 2009
Fitzbitz says: "The champ is simply too tough, too strong and just too good for most comers." Lopez in 9.
Last week's picks: None
Overall picks record: 207-72 (74.1 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 21-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz and read more at fitzbitzonfights.wordpress.com..