On Saturday night, WBC Champion Deontay Wilder (39-0, knocked out every fighter he’s faced) will defend his title against Luis “King Kong” Ortiz (28-0, 24 knockouts), headlining a night of fights at Barclays Center (and on Showtime, CBS). Brett Yormark, the CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, is the man responsible for bringing big-time boxing back to Brooklyn. JWS caught up with Brett at the Wilder/Ortiz press conference on Thursday afternoon and asked him about the return of big-time boxing to Brooklyn, the value the Brooklyn Boxing franchise brings to Barclays Center and if we can expect Brooklyn to land the Wilder/Joshua fight (should he defend his title).
JWS: Brooklyn has a storied boxing history that dates to the late 19th century; but, before Brooklyn Boxing’s arrival on the scene, it had been 80+ years since the borough held a title fight. What was the motivating factor to bring boxing back to Brooklyn and to Barclays Center?
Brett: When I took this job, I spent some time to truly understand and identify the D.N.A. of the borough from a sports & entertainment perspective, where some of the history was. I read about the Tyson’s and the Riddick Bowe’s. I visited Gleason’s gym and realized this could be a differentiator for us.
JWS: You talk about being in the big event business, but early on there was some criticism that Brooklyn Boxing fights were “mismatched”. That’s no longer the case with the biggest heavyweight fight in 15 years, at Barclays Center this weekend. Has there been a change in strategy in terms of the fights you look to book or was the early competition simply a product of being new to the business (i.e. taking the fights you could land)?
Brett: Early on, we looked at volume as opposed to keeping it real premium. About a year and a half into it, we decided that rather doing X amount of shows, let’s concentrate on doing 6-8 of the biggest and best shows possible each year. Those are the shows that the people want to see and that matter the most; and we’ve seen attendance rise to an all-time high as a result.
JWS: Barclays Center is among the 3rd highest grossing arena in the U.S. ($83.7 million). How big of an impact does Brooklyn Boxing have on the bottom line?
Brett: The boxing business is a nice revenue stream for us but you can’t compare it to our anchor tenants like the Nets or Islanders, or some of the more mature businesses that we have. What boxing delivers though, that some of the others don’t, is the glamorization of the borough and our building. People are recognizing Barclays Center as a major sports and entertainment venue and that creates a lot of value for us. So, it’s not so much about the immediate economics; it’s what boxing can do as an over-arching platform for the building.
Howie Long-Short: BSE oversees programming, marketing, sales, and operations for Barclays Center; NYCB LIVE’s Nassau Coliseum; LIU Brooklyn Paramount Theatre; and Webster Hall. BSE also manages and controls the Brooklyn Nets and its NBA G League team, the Long Island Nets, as well as the business operations of the NHL’s New York Islanders. The privately-held company is owned by Mikhail Prokhorov.
Fan Marino: Should Wilder defend his title on Saturday night, it will set-up a potential showdown with IBF, WBA and IBO championship title holder Anthony Joshua. I asked Brett, should that occur, can we expect Barclays Center to host what would be among the most anticipated Heavyweight Title fights of the last 40 years?
Brett: From a business perspective and a fan point of view, everyone is looking forward to that fight. I can’t sit here today and tell you we’re going to get it, but I will tell you that we’re in the big event business. I’ve made it crystal clear that if there is a Wilder/Joshua fight, which at some point in time there has to be, we’ll be in the mix and I’ll be very aggressive in going after it.
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