Dib, 50 Cent, Dibella and Gradovich pose in NYC Wednesday, ahead of the Friday Foxwoods/ESPN card. (Ed Diller)
If you were expecting 50 Cent to walk into the Strand Hotel in midtown NYC packin' a 9 with a posse of menacing thugs in tow, talking eff-bomb laden menacing trash, you'd have been mistaken this afternoon. The Queens native is doing the boxing promotion thing, adding that to his resume, to go with rapper, and all-around enterpeneur who has set up nice revenue streams from his energy shot line, his headphones and who also made a killing on an early investment in a beverage company which was bought out by Coke. Will the boxing promotion foray be generating him more green or leave him in the red, and looking for another arena to conquer after a spell? That remains to be seen, but I've been impressed with how 50 has been soaking up knowledge of industry vets, rather than parachuting in with the belief that his skill set and wisdom in other realms will necesarily translate into the boxing world.
50 co-promotes a card at Foxwoods in Connecticut on Friday night, along with NY-based Lou Dibella. 50's top man in his small stable, Billy Dib (35-1), the IBF featherweight champ, headlines against challenger Evgeny Gradovich, and all of them gathered at the Strand to hype the card, which will be shown on ESPN's "Friday Night Fights."
I asked Dibella what he thinks of 50 within the boxing sphere and the promoter of middleweight champion and pound-for-pound ace Sergio Martinez gushed. Yes, I know, he's a promoter. Gushing is part and parcel of what he does. But I've known Dibella for a good little while, and when he says, "This guy impresses me so much, he's so smart," then I'm pretty certain he's not BSing me. If he didn't think that, he would have offered a less gush-y, more politically correct boilerplate assessment.
I'm not a rap fan myself, and really knew next to nothing about the man apart from some Wiki-level basics. He'd been shot, he'd dealt drugs, he'd used that darker side material to his advantage in marketing. But 50 came across as almost gentle, and thoughtful at the Strand. He talked about wanting to "get the youth that has drifted away from boxing" to watch fights again. No, he didn't haze the 15-0 Russian Gradovich, with lyrical thunder you might hear on his albums, but he did get in a zinger at old pal Floyd Mayweather. They were planning on doing the promotional thing together, but that fell apart this summer, over what is still not exactly clear. 50 asked the writers how the great boxers are remembered. Is it because they fought the best, or because they maneuvered skillfully? One writer assumed 50 was talking about Mayweather and 50 pounced.
Ah ha, I didn't say Floyd's name, but you assumed that.
He grinned broadly, and let a media handler take him downstairs for another appointment. He played his best tune, left on a high note, left all wanting more.
50 Cent is assuming there will be a vaccum in the game to be exploited, I thought to myself on the same day I listened to Don King laud Bernard Hopkins on a conference call after Hopkins talked about wanting to beat King's fighter Tavoris Cloud March 9 at Barclays Center, and thus stick a nail in the 81-year-old King's promotional coffin. King doesn't have the taste for the sparring anymore, and while Bob Arum does, he too is 81, and who knows when that zest might evaporate. Seeing and hearing the 37-year-old budding mogul 50 Cent in action, it looked to me like it wouldn't be a smart move to assume that this go won't be in this for the long haul, and might well be leading the pack in five years.
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