For those of you who think boxing promoters and their operatives just sit back and wait for the cash to roll in, prepare to be a little better informed.
When I first began writing about boxing back in 1981, what I didn't know could have literally filled up the Orange Bowl. Like a lot of writers, I would generally arrive at the arena for an event about a half hour early, and, unless there was a press conference or post-fight interview, go home right after the show's conclusion. That was the extent of my connection to a show. I would suppose there was no other need to involve myself to any greater degree, was there?
As a result, I really had no idea about what a promoter, matchmaker, or site coordinator did as part of their job.
Even now, when I go to a fight card, the writers concern themselves with interviewing the fighters, and sometimes the manager, after the show is over. Of course, they're only getting half the story.
Very few people outside of the boxing industry itself have an idea of what has to happen in order to facilitate those fighters being in the ring in the first place.
And I think maybe they should.
When I entered the business side of things – around 1984 – I was honestly surprised at the amount of minutiae that had to be dealt with before a promoter could even open his doors to the public. It can be argued that one never really has an idea of it until one has to assume personal responsibility for much of the details and coordination of such an event.
Early on, people in this business told me “don't educate writers”. I certainly understood what they meant – after all, who really needed to know about the motivations of a promoter in making a particular match, or the purse figures, the infighting, the contract problems, who was trying to steal whose fighter, who was ripping off who. There was plenty to cultivate in all that, and the rationale was that the less information a member of the press had at his/her disposal, the less ammunition they could use to create a scandalous situation.
But in the year 2004, with the perception of boxing as it exists in the eyes of the public and the press, I figure the more information you put before a writer, the BETTER the industry itself might look. That's because you leave less room for misinterpretation, and generally speaking, interpretation tends to lean toward the negative.
One of the areas where I think people could, and should, be better informed, concerns the inner workings of a show itself; the “anatomy” of the show, as it were, because I can't see where it could do anything but give the press and public a greater appreciation of the things that go into a boxing promotion, and a better understanding of how missing the boat on just a single task could literally “make the wheels come off” a show.
Toward that end, I'd like to post this checklist, containing a rundown of virtually all the tasks that must be performed in the process of putting a successful boxing show together. This particular version of the checklist assumes a show that is to be televised, and staged at a casino location.
What I would do when using this list was delegate each and every one of these responsibilities, whether it was to myself or a staff member. Adding target dates for the completion of each task is important too. Every day, the list is referenced in order to monitor the progress of the production.
Many novice promoters are astounded at the kind of detail that needs to be attended to. I have sent this list to some of them, and they have been eternally grateful for it.
Maybe, if you're a promoter, you'll find some use for it as well.
Here it is:
_____ The network has settled with us on a date. Clear this date with the commission.
_____ Get specific instructions to the matchmaker – these include who he has to make matches for, how much money is available for purses for each fighter, how many plane tickets will be allotted, and whether extra expense money will be apportioned.
_____ When a date is finalized, get word to front desk of casino. They can communicate this to players.
_____ Make posters up as soon as possible.
_____ Put as much IN-HOUSE promotion on the property as possible. This is stuff that doesn't require a lot of out-of-pocket expenses.
_____ Get tickets printed. ASAP.
_____ As matches are made, run them by quality control people at network to get approval. This is more critical, at least initially, than commission approval, since the network's criteria is invariably higher.
_____ Get contracts out to fighters who need to get them ahead of time.
_____ Devise schematic of ring set-up so as to meet television specifications
_____ Pre-arrange seating for press, photographers
_____ See if any writers need phone lines at ringside and what we can do to help them
_____ Pre-arrange accommodations for TV crew and personnel
_____ Figure out how fighters are going to come into and go out of the ring.
_____ Do we need any priority vehicles (Winnebagos, trailers for dressing) on hand, and where do we go to get them?
_____ Create elaborate press kit with bios of key fighters, introductory press release for event, extensive information about the property, details of special promotions within the promotion itself, and stat sheets to assist local and national media.
_____ Write release which gives general information on the event, highlighting the participation of national television.
_____ Write detailed bio of our main event participant(s), with retrospective from prominent boxing figures across the country.
_____ If called for, issue a historical perspective of our main eventer's career, illustrating his true place among all-time greats, greats of today, etc.
_____ Write and issue release for the second ten-round bout (the semi-final)
_____ Write and issue release which gives overview of event, but highlights our undercard, which may or may not feature local fighters.
_____ Write and issue release which details the plans the casino has for their facility and their own sports/entertainment program in the future.
_____ Follow up with telephone and face-to-face contact with all pertinent media, both locally and regionally.
_____ Contact key boxing writers throughout the country – USA Today, AP, UPI, New York Post, Washington Post, Miami Herald, magazines, websites, etc.
_____ Arrange one-on-one interviews of the major fight participants, whether it be with the local media in person, or the national media over the phone.
_____ Organize press conference/luncheon on casino property, in which all major announcements will be made.
_____ Do the same with press conference in local large media market (whichever market that is) in order to facilitate convenience for TV, radio, print personnel.
_____ Arrange teleconference of major national media with our main event people.
_____ Send letter, releases to mailing list of the casino (potential patrons)
_____ Arrange some ticket giveaways with local radio stations, especially those slanted toward sports and Top 40 format.
_____ Invite celebrities. This can go a long way. But DO NOT use them as a major staple of the promotion unless you're absolutely positive they are going to be there. If they don't show, we look bad.
_____ Lower prices of tickets to make the event more accessible for average fans. After all, the idea is to get people onto the property.
_____ If the intent is to conduct fights on a continual basis, introduce the concept of a season ticket holders' program to allow rabid fans to have the same seat to all boxing events at a discounted price.
_____ Set up plan to contact local businesses for bulk purchases of tickets, for their employees, clients, etc.
_____ Have ringside tables available for group ticket purchasers.
_____ Get daily reports on sales from TicketMaster, if that's who we are using.
_____ Comprise a more substantial, informative program which people will be more likely to hold on to after the event is over. Include coupons good for specials at the casino, as well as information on upcoming events, season tickets, etc.
_____ Let's set up a program where each ticket sold is accompanied by a match-play chip which is good for action in the casino within 24 hours of the conclusion of the event. This way, you will be encouraging patrons to visit the casino after the fight.
_____ Capitalize on main eventer's training sessions on the casino property. We'll set up the buffet tables close to the training ring, so that people can eat and watch the sessions, with waitresses circulating and selling tickets for the event.
_____ Design new banners for display in the auditorium which will have a little more impact when they're seen on TV. What is (CASINO)? Where is it? You have to convey the message.
_____ Build some goodwill: How about a charity tie-in featuring main eventer and the casino, thus creating good public relations for both parties involved?
_____ Explore the possibility of conducting a ring card girl contest at the casino.
_____ Compose video news release (VNR) with highlights for purposes of using in advertisements, and also distribution to local media.
_____ Devise special giveaway contest at fight in order to gather names for mailing list database.
_____ Investigate the possibility of bringing an event sponsor in (must be coordinated with TV network, since they have sold the canvas and corners).
_____ Get a tape (preferably an overhead) of the property so that the network can get this into their intro and other segments of the show.
_____ Get a copy of the fight card into the commission's hands as soon as possible. After all, they must approve it.
_____ Make sure you know the commission's rules. If not, ask for them.
_____ Find out as much as you can about what your final settlement with commission will be.
_____ Tell the commission where the weigh-in is going to be. THEY tell you the time. YOU tell them the place.
_____ Find out how many passes and/or tickets the commission is going to need. Keep in mind there are commission rules spelling this out, but commissions tend to be very generous with our tickets, so make sure we have a surplus.
_____ Spell everything out to commissioners, because they don't always understand everything.
_____ Get new gloves for main events that are in compliance with commission regulations.
_____ Review the contract with the TV network, and make sure you have their provisions taken care of, especially with tickets. They often need these for friends and sponsors.
_____ Make sure you contact the security service, and allocate enough security people.
_____ Contact the local police to make sure you have enough cops at your event. This often is dictated by local ordinance.
_____ Make sure you have enough fire exits. Instruct casino security (or the private security service) to follow up on all of this.
_____ Compile rooming list and communicate it to the hotel.
_____ Have boxer instructions typed out, which include 1099's, maps with directions, licenses, medical forms, so that the weigh-in will go a lot smoother.
_____ If possible, have a package ready for each fighter's group as they check in. This could include all the aforementioned things, as well as their passes, meal tickets, itineraries, etc.
_____ Arrange all airport pickups and transportation of fight personnel.
_____ Get the program to the printer, with all ads, changes, copy ready.
_____ Draw up expense estimates with boxer purses
_____ Prepare passes for commission officials, television personnel, fighters and corner men, all working press, VIP's.
_____ Make sure all boxer contracts are complete and in accordance with commission rules and regulations.
_____ Make sure all of the casino VIP's are taken care of with their ticket requirements. Coordinate this with casino manager's office and casino host.
_____ Make sure scale is on site, calibrated and ready to go.
_____ Act as information liaison with television network, which will use weigh-in to gather most of its information on the fighters.
_____ If the TV network needs extended interviews with main eventers, make sure you know the room where these are held, and send the fighters to that room at staggered times, so one goes in as the other one is finishing. This is best done during weigh-in time, since you have them out of their room, they can come right to the weigh-in afterwards.
_____ Use this time to distribute as many of the official passes as possible to those who are to receive them.
_____ Make sure all fighters are organized. Ideally, they will go from the doctor's exam, to the commission table for contracts and licensing, to the TV info people for measurements and brief interviews, then ready to step on the scale.
_____ Make sure all fighters have their proper directions, instructions, meal monies, etc., because it is likely you won't see them before the show.
_____ Also use this time to issue your own special instructions, and ask the commission if they might want to do the same.
_____ If possible, use this opportunity for another press gathering and photo opportunity, but try to do this in an area where there is room for everyone involved.
_____ Check hotel expenditures to see if fighters owe money.
_____ Make sure the boxer purses are deposited in the bank.
_____ Make sure any walkie-talkies you may be using are charged and ready.
_____ Pick up programs at the printer
_____ Make sure all equipment (gloves especially) is intact and ready.
_____ Make sure the ring cards are on hand with the appropriate logos.
_____ Make sure the fight lineup and corner assignments are posted in clear view on the walls of both dressing rooms.
_____ Make sure the ring, banners, TV lights, etc. are set up just as planned.
_____ Make sure the ring announcer is supplied with all the correct information.
_____ Make sure any introductory music for the fighters, as well as a fight schedule, is in the hands of the sound people.
_____ Make sure we have a flag – after all, we are not un-American!
_____ Make sure all press tables and VIP seats are labeled.
_____ Make sure your contest forms are available at all entrances to the facility, and that there are writing devices for fans to fill them out.
Double-check that we have the following:
_____ Ring card girls and their assistant
_____ Box Office Personnel
_____ Ticket Takers
_____ Dressing Room Attendants
_____ Ice for the fighters
_____ Towels for the dressing rooms
_____ Tape and gauze, if that is our responsibility
_____ Do we have a recording of the National Anthem? And someone to sing it?
_____ Do we have a date and main event for next show to announce to crowd?
_____ Check to see if all fighters have arrived on time. If not, this could affect your schedule.
_____ Make sure fighters are taped and gloved when they are supposed to be.
_____ Be certain they all understand that “swing fights” can begin at any time, and that they should be ready.
_____ Keep in contact with the truck to get updates on what might be the next swing fight.
_____ Make sure your helpers in the back have their walkie-talkies on and that they are functional.
_____ Make sure no fighters did a “quick switch” of their trunks. If anybody does, you have to send that info to the TV truck.
_____ Get the fighters out of the dressing room and into the ring on time. This is coordinated with the TV people as well.
_____ Figure out where your post-fight press conference, if any, is going to be.
_____ Be certain all the press is accommodated somewhere.
_____ Make sure the reporters who are working on deadline have someplace to file their story from.
_____ Check to see if any fighters have to go the hospital, or have already gone.
_____ Conduct post-fight press conference, if appropriate.
_____ Call all concerned media to report results of fights
_____ Contact local AP, UPI, Reuters, etc. so that news of the fights can get on the national wires.
_____ Compile and send complete results release to media mailing list.
_____ Make sure all the boxers are paid.
_____ Make sure fighters have paid their incidentals.
_____ Make sure everybody has a ride to the airport.
_____ Make arrangements for the return of all rented vehicles.
_____ Make sure ticket sales report is in the hands of the commission with proper figures double-checked.
_____ Return all equipment that needs to be returned, and get back your own equipment, in particular the gloves.
_____ Make the final settlement with the commission.
_____ Make sure your banners get taken down and returned.
_____ Get to the post-fight party and thank as many people as you can.
_____ Make a settlement the next day with the hotel, if necessary.
_____ Write thank-you notes, or make thank-you phone calls, to all who gave of their time to make the event a success.
_____ Review cost analysis of show to see what can be augmented and what can be eliminated in the future.
_____ Start all over again for the next show!!!
Now allow me tell you a funny story about this list —
The nucleus of the boxing checklist was a similar (though much less extensive) list put together by Brad Jacobs (now an assistant for Roy Jones Jr.) when both of us worked with Alessi promotions in Tampa and later for USA Network. I took it, re-worded it, and added a lot of items to it. Then, when I was hired as a consultant by Casino Magic in Mississippi prior to a Larry Holmes fight in March of 1993, I sent the checklist to the casino's special events manager to illustrate a better way to organize their shows – a level of organization that was absent in the casino's first Larry Holmes fight, which had taken place two months earlier.
The next year, the promoter for some of those Larry Holmes shows, a gentleman named Jimmie Wheeler (by whom I was NOT employed), filed suit against the casino, because it chose not to do business with him anymore. One of Wheeler's allegations was that the casino, and people associated with it (presumably including me), had “stolen trade secrets” from him. When I stopped laughing over that, I endeavored to take a look at his “evidence”. Lo and behold, there was my checklist, as if HE had given it to US!
Well, at some point the original fax of the checklist, sent from me to the casino, time-stamped and sourced from my fax machine, was put before Wheeler.
I don't know if I can accurately describe the look on his face when that happened. The best way I can approximate it is this – envision a TV shot from the World Series of Poker, when one of the players goes “all-in” with a full house and stands there confidently, only to see his opponent catch a straight flush when the “river' card is turned up.
It's the look of being, well, crestfallen.
That's about how Jimmie Wheeler looked.
I may reveal some secrets on these pages, but I tell you no lies.