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Kathy Duva Talks New Boxing Order, And The Room For Booking More 50-50 Fights

Michael Woods

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Attorney Kurt Emhoff has a podcast called Boxing Esquire, and the fight game insider, having worked in the sport for three decades, has a sharp depth of knowledge of the sport, both inside and outside the ring.

In his latest effort, he chatted with New Jersey based promoter Kathy Duva, who herself has 40 years within the boxing sphere. No surprise, Duva showed the breadth and depth of her acumen.

She drew chuckles when she noted that her daughter Nicole likens boxing to the “Law and Order” of the sports world. No, it’s not the very best show, but you watch it when it’s on. And, she continued, the price is right to platform owners and rights buyers. The promoter owns the rights to the show and thus it’s cheaper to get a foot in the door in this professional sport than if one wants to deal with the MLB, NFL, NBA enterprises.

Duva said that the nice thing about the streaming world is that success can be measured by how many peole are watching, and we aren’t attached to how much advertisers like the product. “Boxing people will watch it, it’s on, it’s a great time to be involved in boxing,” and even more so, to be a premium fighter, because so much money is sloshing about. Duva and her team have been consistently rebuffed when seeking advertisers and sponsors in the business world, because people have been leery of aligning with this red light district of sports. She returned to that issue, noting that fights can end in one round, and that can make a spot buyer leery.

The promoter said she wants to “build stars as Main Events has done since the late 70s as we always have and once they get big enough we will have the freedom to go to everyone.” She noted that she brought Sergey Kovalev to fight on ESPN, and she would be happy to talk to Eddie Hearn or Oscar De La Hoya to bring her talent to their platforms. “I’ve known Eddie Hearn’s father for 30 odd years,” she said, so she’s comfortable in approaching the son.

The NJ based boxing promoter said she thinks HBO will run Oct. 27, will run the Dmitriy Bivol-Jean Pascal face-off Nov. 24, and then have a finale Dec. 8. It will take some getting used to, she said, not having HBO to appreciate. She shared her recollection that a pal called it when Seth Abraham had the free reign to toss mega money at people like Vinny Paziena. That would be the death of boxing on free TV, her pal predicted, and he wasn’t wrong. Nicole told Kathy a few years ago that the trend would be toward streaming, and she noted that she dealt with ESPN in the early 80s, and now again, as they seek to build their stream foundation.

Duva was asked about the new world order, and her plan to try and book more 50-50 fights. Too many fights involving the elites are not coin flip fights, she continued. People at HBO told her that in this age, HBO would not have made Gatti v Ward. That was creating “great television,” and that recipe can be replicated. A platform and the funds for those sorts of fights, there is a market for that.

More tidbits:

—The promoter said that if you put boxing on ESPN young boys will dig it. She saw it with her then teen son when he saw Arturo Gatti on TV. That was what opened his eyes to the promise of the sport.

—Duva said it’s good that boxing is cheap, in the eyes of rights buyers, but in the past, being a “cheap” buy meant that they didn’t get the great push that a more “valuable” property did.

—The promoter said that a great boxing event, a great match, kicks the tail of MMA fare.

—Emhoff said that he’s seen Top Rank getting better grade of advertising now, and Duva agreed that is a plus.

—Duva said the Nov. 3 show topped by Sullivan Barrera versus Sean Monaghan is the fifth event in the stream series which has Main Events pairing up with Golden Boy and Facebook said they’d evaluate where they were after five.

—Duva said boxing has that loyalty going for it; what other sport has fans watching library content from 30 years ago?

—Sports gambling in NJ will do better with evely matched fights, and she can work in sync with that understanding. “We’re going to try and give people the opportunity to revitalize their careers, and step up,” she said to Emhoff.

—Duva spoke on the status of heavyweight Czar Glazkov.

—Duva recollected the history between Main Events and Top Rank, and yes, they sparred, and sued…but now get along.

Listen to the pod here.

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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