Miami-Dade County sports commission may manage boxing franchise
By Zachary S. Fagenson
Miami has baseball, football, basketball and soccer and may soon add boxing to the list of sports with a professional South Florida franchise.
The Miami-Dade Sports Commission last week announced that the World Series of Boxing has named Miami home for one of its 12 international franchises, giving it another event to use to promote sports locally and allowing the sports commission to fill some positions that were previously frozen.
The sports commission today (9/30) is to consider a one-year agreement to manage the franchise and, if it agrees, be responsible for promoting fights and selling tickets and sponsorships. Executive Director Mike Sophia declined to say how much the commission is asking to be paid by the Switzerland-based International Boxing Association and the sports marketing arm of IMG, which own the series, before its board has a chance to take up the issue.
The other franchises in the Americas are based in Los Angeles, Memphis and Mexico City.
"The benefit to the county is threefold," Mr. Sophia said. "First of all they're hiring the sports commission… which is going to allow us to have a few more resources. On a different touch point, I've got a little more of a permanent event, another resource, which we can use to engage the community.
"From a county standpoint there will be some benefit in terms of economic impact and there will be some people that come in as we get later in the season," he added.
The series, organizers hope, will re-energize the sport, which seems to have fallen out of the limelight and lost steam since the explosion of mixed-martial arts' popularity.
"The international organization that governs the sport of boxing at Olympic level is really using the World Series of Boxing to give the sport a shot in the arm," Mr. Sophia said.
"They created a situation where Olympic boxers can get paid but still maintain their Olympic eligibility."
Being eligible to compete in Olympic boxing, unlike basketball, requires athletes to be amateurs. With amateur and professional status governed by each sports international body, the World Series of Boxing offers the sport's most promising athletes the ability to earn a living while also maintaining their eligibility.
"It's going to make boxing a little more friendly to just the general sports fan because now I can root for the Miami team, the guys on the Miami team, and I can follow them as they go through their career," Mr. Sophia said. "From boxing's perspective it keeps these guys a little more stable so they don't have to take one-time contract."
The Miami team will be made up of 18 fighters, nine from the US and nine internationals, including 2008 Olympic silver medalist Kenneth Egan.
Though none of the fighters hails from Miami, they'll be based here during the season and train under Olympic boxing coach Pat Burns, Mr. Sophia added.
The season will include 12 events, six in Miami at the AmericanAirlines Arena and six at venues around the world. They kick off Nov. 18 and run until mid-March. If the Miami team, whose name and logo is still in the trademark process, moves into the playoffs, additional matches will be scheduled during April and May.
With only a one-year contract it seems the International Boxing Association and the sports commission are feeling out the market for season-style boxing.
The association and IMG have all financial responsibility for the venture, and while Mr. Sophia said one of its biggest benefits is the filling the spring gap of major sporting events, he's looking for what will most help the sports commission and the county.
"We're approaching it one year at a time, and that's for a couple reasons. First of all, because we just need to see how it impacts the sports commission in the short term," he said. "If it's successful we'll look at how to do it moving forward. If not and we find we have a bunch of opportunities we want to focus on, we'll certainly help the transition."