CES’ Burchfield offers solutions, not excuses
16.12.03 - Pro boxing’s not on ropes – Entertaining shows, creative sponsorship packages, and aggressive marketing campaigns are the keys to promoting professional boxing in 2004 and the immediate future, on and off television, according to Rhode Island promoter Jimmy Burchfield, president of Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc. (CES).
Article posted on 16.12.2003
“ESPN has been great for boxing, keeping it going for years,” Burchfield said. “Boxing fans look forward to watching ESPN2 Friday Night Fights like they did in the old days on Gillette Friday Night Fights. If ESPN, as well as other networks, wants to maintain a high level of boxing entertainment, promoters need quicker answers to some critical questions in order for us to do our job. We need a larger window for dates to attract national sponsors, who need to know well in advance where and when a boxing show is going to be in order to work within their budgets.
“CES has proven that, time in and time out, we put on top quality shows and we’ll continue to do so. We already have secured sponsorship deals that will enable us to present first-class professional boxing on ESPN in 2004. CES has requested ESPN dates, but the problem is we haven’t received a commitment from ESPN. We’ve done what ESPN asked. CES has sponsors ready for a 2004 series, but we cannot pull the trigger until we have committed dates. These sponsors need to know what dates CES has for shows on ESPN, in addition to what’s available to them in return (advertising on ring mat, corner posts, etc.) to lock into their 2004 schedules and budgets.”
CES has developed a reputation for promoting exciting, competitive fights. Burchfield’s belief that boxers need to learn from fighting tough, seasoned opponents has resulted in competitive, action packed matches, no matter the final results.
“Young fighters have to realize that losing isn’t the end of the world as long as they give it 100-percent and learn from each fight,” Burchfield explained. “Winning is great, but beating inferior opponents means nothing. You’re better off losing to a great fighter than beating a hand-picked opponent brought in to lose, if you learn from each experience.”
Burchfield feels that pro boxing is in its present state of dire straits, coming on the heels of ESPN’s announcement to no longer pay a licensing fee, in large part due to some other promoters not sharing his aforementioned philosophy. ESPN had paid promoters $65,000 per show, lowered to $50,000 this past season. Its decision to discontinue licensing fee payments, effective February 1st, means promoters must create additional revenue streams to compensate for the loss.
While many are now predicting the end of boxing, Burchfield feels that this is just a gut check, and eventually it will separate bonafide promoters from pretenders. Jimmy and his CES staff believe they have potential solutions to the ever- changing challenges facing boxing promoters. Television executives, however, need to give promoters a fighting chance, so to speak, in terms of offering advanced notice of date commitments and what specific marketing opportunities are available to sponsors.
Burchfield, of course, is unable to divulge the names of these potential sponsors, nor revenue amounts generated by their respective deals, prior to contract signings. Jimmy is confident, though, that CES has sufficient sponsorship agreements to continue promoting first-class pro boxing shows on ESPN.
“Promoters who have never had to worry about sponsorships and ticket sales are most adversely affected by ESPN’s recent decision,” Burchfield continued. “CES can’t afford to sit back waiting to get TV dates. Promoting is about rolling up your sleeves and bringing up a four round fighter; doing off-TV, off-casino fights just to keep your fighters busy. Sometimes it means losing money on those types of shows, but we also understand that these shows are a means to an end. Some promoters don’t understand that. Where would Major League Baseball be without its feeder system? Well, we bring fighters up in hopes of one day getting them on an off-TV main event (Class A), moving up to an ESPN co-feature (AA), and than an ESPN main event (AAA). The dream is to make it to the big leagues like HBO, Showtime and Pay-Per-View. We want to keep that dream alive.”<
Unlike some other promoters, including Cedric Kushner, Burchfield does not believe a summit of promoters will help boxing at this time.
“I think Cedric is one of the hardest working promoters in the world and he said a lot of great things when he first proposed this summit issue,” Burchfield commented. “Based on my life experiences, however, there are some great people in pro boxing, but also a lot of con men. You talk to someone on the phone for two minutes and in an hour everyone knows your business. A summit, in my opinion, will only cause more problems because everyone will know everyone else’s business.
“Everybody seems to be complaining that pro boxing can’t survive without ESPN’s licensing fee payments. Boxing has survived similar blows in the past. CES will lay the groundwork for a solid year of boxing on ESPN. If other experienced, proven promoters also work with ESPN, I’m confident that we can team to generate the type of ratings that will convince ESPN to work together with promoters to bring boxing back to where it belongs. We’re in the entertainment business and ticket buyers have to be entertained or they won’t come back. Sports have become specialized. Many fans only follow one sport, like baseball or football, and we need to come up with a solution to where they’re interested in pro boxing. We’ve expanded our market by introducing non-boxing fans to the sport. In the past few years, we’ve made boxing fans out of a l
CES promoted (or was an associate promoter) seven ESPN shows this year. Burchfield noted that CES still had many fighters left without work.
“We work very hard promoting CES shows and our fighters,” Jimmy added. “There aren’t too many of us left, promoters and their staffs that work our butts off to give boxing fans what they want – entertainment, real fights and real fighters. With boxing’s future hanging in the balance, I feel networks like ESPN should focus on giving opportunities to credible promoters who have a proven track record for producing positive results. CES puts on great fights. We don’t publicize fictitious fights to sell tickets, or get dates and sites; we don’t cheat the public by making mismatches. CES has always been committed to doing what’s best for the sport of boxing and we’re in pro boxing for the long haul.
Highlights of CES fights and fighters on ESPN in 2003 include Fight of the Year candidate Scott Pemberton W12 Omar Shieka, NABF “Fight of the Month” Michael Clark W12 Antonio Ramirez, Elio Ortiz W12 Ray Oliveira, Dale Brown W10 Rich LaMontagne, and Goyo Vargas W12 Gary Balletto.
“We want to promote pro boxing shows on national television,” Burchfield concluded. “CES and other promoters know how to fill arenas, entertain the public, and sell sponsorships. We have some great venues, too. These are the promoters who should get television dates. CES isn’t waiting around and whining about the state of boxing. We’re much too busy marketing our young fighters and building champions.”
CES’ next show is “The Battle II”, January 23 on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights, at Foxwoods Resort Casino. Pemberton-Sheika II is the main event for the IBU & NABF super middleweight championships, while unbeaten junior middleweights Peter Manfredo, Jr. (19-0, 9 KOs) and Sherwin Davis (17-0, 11 KOs) fight for the vacant NABO title.
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