Just before the first round, Miami-Dade County unit signs boxing contract
By Zachary S. Fagenson
Moments before the bell rang for the first match of Miami's new professional boxing team, the Gallos, the Miami-Dade Sports Commission's executive committee approved its deal to manage the team for the World Series of Boxing and cleared the way for the commission to receive $117,000 for work it has already done.
Though the deal, which will fill a significant chunk of Executive Director Mike Sophia's time, was a bit outside the scope of the sports commission's usual work, it's one that county Commissioner José "Pepe" Diaz, who also chairs the sports commission, helped lead.
"Mike was assigned to look for places where we can enhance the sports commission and grow sports in Miami-Dade County," Mr. Diaz said at the opening of the executive committee's meeting Monday morning.
As the ink on the contract dries, the sports commission continues day-to-day management of the team, including selling tickets, promoting, and securing sponsors and local advertising.
Though the deal requires Mr. Sophia to spend no less than 80% of his time managing the team, he told the executive committee he didn't remember the last time he had a 40-hour work week and that the deal offers the sports commission more manpower than it's had in some time.
"Based on the contract, in terms of total staff the number of hours we have to apply to sports commission work will double," he said.
At the moment, the sports commission has one full-time employee and two part-timers, Mr. Sophia said. The signed contract helps that grow to six or seven staffers, with some dedicating to boxing and some to sports commission work.
On the books, the money the sports commission will receive for its work will increase its income 47%.
Currently, the commission receives the bulk of its $775,500 budget — $500,000 — from Miami-Dade's general fund, with the rest from event operations, sponsorships and tourism partners.
It's to receive $365,000 for its work for World Series of Boxing, $85,000 upon execution of the contract and $32,000 monthly until June, pushing its budget past $1.1 million.
The additional funds, according to a proposed budget for fiscal 2010 and 2011, would allow the commission to bolster its staff, volunteer programs and marketing.
Though HEAT Group Enterprises Executive Vice President Mike Walker raised concerns over the profitability of boxing, noting "the revenue projections seem pretty aggressive," Mr. Sophia ensured the committee that the sports commission will be paid no matter how the season plays out.
World Series of Boxing "has investors who've set aside $7 million to $8 million," he said. "They understand this may be a money-loser in the first year, even the first two years."
But "if they stop paying, we stop working," he added.
Though the contract was signed only Monday, a day before Miami's match against the Los Angeles team, the sports commission for the past few weeks has been working to build the infrastructure around the team, including sending out press releases documenting the team's training and sparring matches as well as its participation in a Nov. 6 Ronald McDonald House Charities fundraiser.
The website www.miami-gallos.com is up and running and the team has a regularly updated Twitter account.
Although boxing has seen better days, Mr. Sophia said World Series of Boxing's owner, the International Boxing Association, hope this new format, which allows Olympic-class boxers to compete while receiving a salary and maintaining their eligibility, could revive the sport.
And Miami's status as an international city, Mr. Sophia and Mr. Diaz said, might make it the perfect incubator.