By Ivan G. Goldman
The new Premier Boxing Champions outfit has run straight into serious obstacles posed by the obsessive secrecy of its reclusive boss, boxing godfather Al Haymon. And it’s hurting the Adrien Broner-Shawn Porter card on Saturday.
Haymon’s loathing for publicity has seeped down to the organization beneath him, making it difficult to get full coverage for his events. Not all his shows are terribly scintillating, but Broner-Porter happens to be a good match-up that deserves more attention than it’s getting.
But how does a company get publicity when it follows the lead of its mysterious leader, an inscrutable character who won’t talk to the press and doesn’t seem to attend his own cards (unless he’s there in disguise)? His creepy-silent way of doing business is a disservice to his fighters.
The fact is, publicity has to be filtered through the very media that PBC avoids. Getting it out there directly is just about impossible. How many potential viewers are likely to go straight to the PBC Internet site? Not enough to matter. Those eyeballs belong to hard-core fans who wouldn’t miss the fight anyway. The real trick is pulling in an audience that wouldn’t ordinarily tune in.
This particular show on NBC of course gets publicity from the network, mostly in the form of commercials sandwiched between shows, but there are a lot of other places that can put out the information if they get the proper encouragement.
The difference between publicity and advertising is simple. Advertising is something you have to pay for and publicity is something you get for free. It’s that free angle that prompts promoters to chase TV cameras like cheetahs running after antelope.
If you want to attract a crowd you’ve got to go out there and hustle, the way the late Dan Goossen used to, and as Don King and Bob Arum did in their younger days. A promoter has to be a kind of carnival barker, and though Haymon calls himself a manager/adviser, what he’s doing looks awfully much like promoting, except there’s no one out front to promote the cards.
A daytime NBC card at the StubHub center in Carson, California earlier this month drew an embarrassingly small crowd as Robert Guerrero won a split decision over Aron Martinez. It’s also bad TV. Viewers instinctively shun sporting events that cameras reveal are sparsely attended.
Which brings up the yin-yang paradox posed by getting boxing back on free TV, no cable required (something PBC has managed to do). Although this electronic accessibility can, if publicized properly, draw more casual fans to watch at home, it also makes it that much harder to induce people to go down to the arena, pay to park, and buy tickets to the event.
This is where publicity comes in. Good promoters can generate TV, newspaper, and Internet stories just by being themselves. And if they have colorful, quotable fighters, that makes the job even easier. But getting someone on the phone at PBC who can and will actually answer your questions is like trying to order a drink at a Mormon assembly.
So editors, writers, and photographers pass on by.
Broner, 30-1, 22 KOs, is no role model for children, but neither was boozing, woman-chasing Babe Ruth. A good public-relations apparatus can make water taste like wine.
Porter, 25-1-1, 16 KOs, is a rock-solid test. This contest will likely stop one career dead in its tracks and the fighters know it. There’s an excellent chance that they’ll do everything in their power to be the other guy, the one whose career advances.
If getting free publicity is not an option, understand what the advertising alternative involves. A half-page color ad in the Los Angeles Times could easily cost $40,000. One like that heralding the Broner-Porter card appeared in the Times sports section June 12. PBC hoped to induce L.A. residents to travel 300 miles into the desert to attend a show at the Las Vegas MGM Grand that they could pull in at home with a low-grade antenna.
A tough but not impossible sell. It just takes the right kind of promotion.
Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available now from Permanent Press wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.