By: Sergio Martinez
As the phone rang, I sat and pondered what Leon Margules (Warriors Boxing Promotions) and I were going to speak about during our scheduled interview. Unlike when I am interviewing fighters, a boxing promoter/attorney is an entirely different animal; they are privy to aspects of the business side of the sport which most fighters do not know or understand.
Experience has taught me that having a general direction planned for the interview is a good idea, but being scripted mostly leads to the same old bland interview with very little in the way of substance. I was determined not to allow this to happen, so I called Margules with one main theme in mind: let’s just have a conversation.
This was the first time I was interviewing Margules. I found him to be an honest and engaging person. He was gracious, funny and appeared genuine in his responses. He did not duck any questions and was open about his thoughts and opinion on the current state of the fight game. He also provided a lot of insight about boxing from a business standpoint.
When he answered the phone, Margules sounded happy about American heavyweight Tor Hamer’s “Prize Fighter” tournament championship victory over fellow American Kevin “Kingpin” Johnson. Margules had plenty to be joyful about as Hamer is promoted by Lou DiBella and Margules is DiBella’s legal counsel.
“[Hamer] is a good kid, a well-spoken kid and winning the tournament is a good thing for him,” said Margules.
“DiBella, who I represent, has this kid and he has potential to really make something of himself in this sport.”
This quickly led into a conversation about how a tournament of this nature, which was successfully held in London, England, would fare in the United States.
Margules responded that “it could work but I don’t think it would be successful. American fans are so different to other boxing fans around the world. We are more star-driven here as opposed to fight fans from other countries which are more nationalistic. Nationalistic fans will support their local fighters just because they are local. There are fighters in England that bring in 5,000 people to a small show. You tell me how often that happens here in American? It’s rare. We have major television fights here with top American fighters that don’t get that kind of fanfare. America is just such a different market and the boxing business in America is so different to what it was several years ago.”
As our conversation continued, we gradually moved into the current state of boxing in America and what are some significant changes modern boxing has experienced. Margules, who has actively been in the business for over 20 years, said, “There has been a great shift in boxing over the last two decades involving certain promoters and the networks.”
When asked to elaborate on this, Margules responded, “So you want me to piss everyone off? Okay, without mentioning specific names, there are certain boxing promoters that control the networks and bully the networks into buying fights that they normally wouldn’t buy. These same promoters protect their products through bad matchmaking, which leads to poor fight quality that is televised. This has really hurt the sport and our credibility in the last 20 years.
“Another huge shift in boxing has been the media side of it. Because of the Internet and all of the social media available, the reporting side of it has really changed. Also, the quality of the writers is not the same as it was before. Guys like Ron Borges, Bernard Fernandez, and Kevin Iole gave great coverage to the sport and were legitimate writers with credibility. Today, because of the Internet, anyone can call themselves a boxing writer without having any kind of real credentials. Don’t get me wrong, as there are solid writers out there, but there are also a lot of people that shouldn’t write.”
“There are a lot of boxing websites that cheapen the sport with their tactics,” Margules continued.
“Not all of them, because there are good ones out there, but a lot of websites will only report on fights, fighters, and events of certain promoters because those same promoters buy significant ad space on those websites. It’s ridiculous! I can tell you that, right now, I can call a lot of the websites out there and offer to buy significant ad space and all of a sudden, my fighters and promotions will be big news on those websites. This really does cheapen the sport and the credibility of so-called boxing media. You don’t see media of any other sport calling for the end of that sport when there is a bad decision or something perceived as not right.”
And on this last statement, it was logical to discuss the recent chaos following Timothy Bradley’s split decision win over Manny Pacquiao, which led to boxing fans, media and promoters to collectively lose their minds.
Margules had this assessment about the outcome of that fight: “It was a bad decision. I know it’s hard to believe it but it does happen. Do I believe that the fix was in? I would hope not. I don’t think so. Judging fights is so subjective. I can tell you that I’ve promoted fights that were hard fights to score where I knew a couple hundred people in the audience. I can also tell you that when I spoke to them after those fights, each area was consistent in scoring the fight with each other but not with other people sitting in different locations at the same event.
“What I mean is that groups sitting in the same general area with the same view scored it similar to each other but not the same as people sitting in another part of the area. I really don’t believe that there was a fix in this fight because there was no motive in the industry for Bradley to win this fight. Arum would have been better off had Pacquiao won the fight. He actually lost money because of this fight so it doesn’t make any business sense for this fight to have been fixed.”
In the aftermath of the Pacquiao-Bradley fight, many in the boxing community, including Bob Arum, were suggesting that this might end boxing for good. We all know that this is not the first time that boxing’s obituary has been written. Every time that a new blood sport rises, the ranting of how boxing is dying immediately follows.
“Boxing will never die because the core boxing fan is a very loyal fan,” Margules stated.
“I am not talking about the casual fan that is only interested in named fighters. I am taking about the true core boxing fan. If you have ever known anyone who grew up watching boxing with their father or grandfather, this fan will be a fan for life. I will say that boxing in America has dropped, but it is as healthy as it ever was in other parts of the world.
“In the past 20 years, boxing in this country has lost its middle class. Before, fighters made more money from smaller televised shows and all of the promoters were able to also earn a living. Today, there are only a few promoters that are making all of the money and the rest are just trying to get by. This has caused the middle class of boxing to disappear as there are only the rich and the poor. This is really only a problem here in the United States. Still, boxing is healthy around the world and it will continue to thrive.”
In closing, Margules said, “Thank you for allowing me to speak about the sport I truly love. It was a pleasure to speak with you and I just want to add that I hope to continue in boxing for many years to come.”