After reading some derogatory stories unfairly criticizing Irish Ropes Promotions for canceling its March 16th scheduled “Erin Go Brawl II” pro boxing show at WaMu Theater in Madison Square Garden, I am compelled to set the record straight about why we pulled the plug 10 days out and to explain what really happened leading up to the final decision.
First, though, I’d like to offer my condolences to Liam Neeson, and his family, for the loss of his wife. He attended several of the shows we promoted and I met him at many Irish benefits. Liam is a great man.
I’d also like to congratulate Brian Dunne on his great world-title winning performance last weekend and also to his promoter, Brian Peters, and trainer, Harry Hawkins – you reap what you sow! I’d also like to congratulate Mathew Macklin for winning the British middleweight championship, Paul McClosky for successfully defending his British title, and Andy Lee for his good performance.
I am, however, disappointed by what Lee said in newspapers back home about our show being canceled. I had a choice of losing $50,000 by canceling when we did, or to potentially lose $250,000 to go ahead. I was not under any contractual obligation to any of the fighters and chose to take the lesser hit.
The poor economy in New York and back in Ireland played a part in poor advance ticket sales, but the real reason for it was Team Lee. Let’s review the situation leading up to the cancelation. My first call to Manny Steward was for Lee to fight Walid Smichet. He agreed and it was even listed on Boxrec.com. Damien McCann, who is in charge of making deals for Lee, said they would take the fight but not for $30,000. Negotiations went back and forth for a few weeks and we finally agreed on $50,000, $4000 in comps (tickets), plus another $10,000 if the gross gate receipts were more than $425,000.
But then Lee said he wouldn’t fight Smichet because he knew about the animosity between Irish Ropes and John Duddy and he didn’t want to embarrass Duddy by fighting Smichet. Well, as it turned out, fans weren’t interested in buying tickets to watch Lee fight somebody that hadn’t won any of his last eight fights, Antwun Echols, who hasn’t won since 2004 and was knocked out the same night Andy fought in Ireland. Lee ridiculed us for the way we promoted the show and he even trashed the traditional Irish pub we had the press conference at, Jack Dempsey’s, where Gerry Cooney had his press conferences in the old days, as well as John Duddy and James Moore, and even a press conference for a documentary about Billy Collins was held there.
We promoted “Erin Go Brawl II” the same way we promoted any of our shows at Madison Square Garden. People simply weren’t buying tickets to see Lee fight a non-competitive fight against Echols. When I decided to pull the plug on the show, 10 days before the scheduled event, we had sold only 1500 tickets, approximately $130,000 worth, compared to $400,000 at the same time for our previous show (“Erin Go Brawl”) there. Bars that normally sell 300-400 tickets had sold only 20-30 for this one and nobody was going in or calling for tickets. It was inevitable and although I was terribly disappointed, I really didn’t have much of a choice about canceling the show.
Lee goes and talks to papers back home ridiculing me, saying he had to find-out from a third party that the show had been canceled. Within 10 minutes of deciding to cancel the show, I called, in order, the commission (New York State Athletic Commission), Madison Square Garden, (Irish-based boxing promoter) Brian Peters to ask if he could put Andy on his card, and then to Emanuel Steward. I told him the bad news was our show was canceled, but the good news was Andy would be fighting on Peters’ show in Ireland a week later than our show was scheduled. Andy Lee was with Emanuel.
Looking back at what happened, there was also a lot of bitterness about boxing in the Irish community (in New York City) resulting from a very negative article written by Thomas Hauser, of Team Duddy. My hands are tied on the advice of my attorney, but when everything is settled in court, I guarantee you the truth will come out on that subject.
We took the high road and didn’t blast anybody in the media for what’s happened to Irish Ropes Promotions. Too many lies and mistruths have been told, so I felt there was a need to explain everything from our side.
Irish Ropes Promotions, President