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Fighters fight, Promoters promote....If Only
By Bernie McCoy
August 20, 2004
Two of the integral ingredients in the business of boxing are fighters and promoters; the fighters fight and the promoters promote. This is especially true for the sport of Women's boxing which, today, has more talented fighters than at any time since the sport began in the 1970s. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the promoters.

Here's how Mr. Webster defines promotion: "to contribute to the growth and prosperity of; to present for buyer acceptance." To me that translates to selling the product, aggressively selling the product, in this case, talented female fighters. However, from my perch, the vast majority of boxing promoters, currently working the Women's boxing scene, are not remotely familiar with Mr. Webster. The vast majority of these promoters are mainly interested with publicizing fights featuring boxers with well-known names and reputations, regardless of the skill level or whether or not that "familiar face" is involved in a compelling matchup.

In the past 16 months Sumya Anani, considered by many in the boxing community as the best pound/pound fighter in the sport, has fought twice, a total of seven rounds. In the past 18 months, Laila Ali has had five fights, a total of 27 rounds Included in those five fights was a ridiculously easy win over a previously retired Mary Ann Almager, a second win over Valerie Mahfood, a win over Christy Martin, whom Ali outweighed by at least 20 pounds and recently two desultory wins over Nikki Eplion and Monica Nunez, bouts, held within the space of 13 days, that had real benefit only to insomniacs. During those same 16 months, Mia St. John has had 11 bouts, a total of 55 rounds. Included were three fights against "quality" fighters, Jenifer Alcorn, Jessica Rakoczy and Olivia Pereira, which resulted in two losses and a disputed draw, respectfully. The remaining eight bouts were, basically, against the Washington Generals list of familiar opponents that St John has fought for the majority of her career.

Let me be clear: I'm not knocking either Ali and St. John (I'm really not). Both fighters deserve the full measure of the plaudits due any athlete courageous enough to climb into the ring. Both are, likewise, free to "carefully" choose whom they climb into the ring with. My concern is why fighters such as Ali and St John maintain a steady, and in the case of St John, an almost continuous fight schedule, while Sumya Anani, literally, has to go "begging" for bouts. Did I mention that in Anani's last bout, which accounted for six of her seven rounds over that 16 month period, came only after a series of last minute, frantic phone calls to the promoter by Anani and, ironically, her opponent in that bout, Lisa Holewyne.

Here's a theory: Laila Ali, in addition to being a real good fighter, has a famous name and comes to any bout with a "presold" promotion gimmick: "the daughter of Muhammad Ali"; instant press, instant recognition, little or no additional "sell" necessary by the promoter. Mia St. John, while lacking world class boxing skills, is, in the true sense of the label, a celebrity: "someone famous for being famous". In St. John's case, the celebrity emanates more from her activity outside the "squared circle" than her moves inside the ring. Nevertheless, St. John, like Ali, brings a wealth of publicity to her bouts. That publicity, already in place, means the promoter puts the Ali or the St. John name on the press releases and the posters and the "promoting" is, for all practical purposes, done. It's about the fighter's name and fame, not their skills or the matchup in the ring. That's not promotion, that's publicity.

Sumya Anani doesn't have a famous last name, yet. To my knowledge, Sumya Anani has never been featured in the centerfold of a magazine, yet. What she does have is prodigious boxing skill and punching power. What she does have is a win over Christy Martin, and a spectacular KO of Jane Couch a bout still considered the best female boxing bout ever telecast on ESPN ( just ask Teddy Atlas). But, here's the problem: That prodigious skill and fearsome punching power doesn't translate into "presold" promotion. It means the boxing promoter has to go the "extra mile" to "sell" Sumya Anani. So far, no "promoters" of the sport of Women's boxing have been willing to go out and sell a fighter who never fails to impress fight fans once she gets the opportunity to climb into the ring. Two fights, seven rounds in sixteen months, is all the proof that's needed. Two fights, seven rounds in sixteen months. Absurd!

On August 8, the management team of Sunshine Fettkether publicly bemoaned the fact that their fighter, a ranked welterweight, had no prospects of a fight thru the end of the year and appealed to boxing promoters to set something in motion. "Shockingly," no promoters rushed forward with their business cards out in front of them. Like Anani, Fettketer, a fighter who has been in with Ann Wolfe, Lisa Holewyne, and Lucia Rijker, doesn't have a famous name or the "pre-sold" publicity element, that promoters so love, but she does have an air of fearlessness when it comes to opponents (yeah, that Ann Wolfe.) However, guess who did rush forward? Sumya Anani publicly replied to the Fettkether "people": she'd be glad, even anxious, to step in with Sunshine. The result, while disappointing, was unsurprising: no promoters seem willing to make the fight.

Is this one more example of the unwillingness of "promoters" to promote; to actually do some selling; to "present for buyer's acceptance"? This is a great fight waiting for a promoter. These fighters can fight, of that there's no dispute. It's now simply a matter of some promoter willing to promote. Isra Girgrah, how 'bout you? "Yahya" you know what Anani's all about? What about it, Chris Middendorf? How about Team Freedom Promotions, you did a great job with Sanders/Holewyne, make it two for two with Anani/Fettkether? A great fight is out there just waiting for a promoter with a little "sell" left in them: Sumya Anani, "the woman everyone fears," eight or ten rounds with Sunshine Fettkether "the woman who fears no one." There's the headline, some promoter, worthy of the name, finish the story.

Bernie McCoy


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