MORE MORRIE! 7 Questions With Alonzo Benezra of the Box Fan Expo
There is a fairly big middleweight rematch happening in Las Vegas on September 15.
There is also a special event taking place in Las Vegas during the daytime hours of September 15 that should appeal to all boxing lovers.
Before Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez renew their hostilities at T-Mobile Arena the Las Vegas Convention Center will host the fourth Box Fan Expo.
For this interview the founder and organiser of the Expo, Alonzo Benezra, spoke to NY FIGHTS about what goes in to putting an event of this magnitude together as well as the history of the Expo and some new additions to this year's edition.
Alonzo also provides up to date (at time of writing, some new guests may still be added) information on the guest list as well as where to keep up with all things Box Fan Expo related on social media and online and how to get tickets.
The lineup for this year's Expo is very strong, so if you're going be in Las Vegas for the middleweight title fight this sounds like a good way to spend the hours prior to it.
I know it's what I will be doing before the fights. Maybe I'll see you there!
CM: Hi Alonzo. Can you begin by introducing yourself, your background in boxing and tell the readers exactly what Box Fan Expo is?
AB: My name is Alonzo Benezra. Although I was born in Canada my father is from Spain and my mother is from France. I am a boxing fan first. I personally feel that boxers are the most courageous and special athletes you will ever meet. I have always been attracted to boxing although my parents did not allow me to box myself. I initially wanted to be a manager and that is something I may return to down the line. As for what I do now – I really wanted to find a way to get boxing fans and the fighters themselves under one roof for an experience like no other. The Box Fan Expo is truly the ultimate fan experience as it brings together fighters from any era, along with companies that are directly involved with the sport. They are all in the same venue so the fans can interact easily and directly with them.
CM: What was it that made you come up with the idea for the Expo? How did it go from idea to reality in the early days?
AB: The idea first came to mind some years ago when I saw that the UFC organise a fan expo and the exposure it brought to not only their fighters but the companies that support the fighters and events in that sport. As a boxing fan I said to myself, why can't we do that and how cool would it be if we did. Boxing has much more of a rich history and if we can consolidate the fans, fighters and companies under one roof it can be a successful event. Once we knew what we wanted to do, we then had to re-educate fighters that were getting paid to attend signing sessions to buy into the concept. It wasn't easy but the first fighter to agree to do it was Roy Jones Jr., while the first promotional company to agree was Mayweather Promotions. We used the pitch that saw success with them to lure other fighters and companies for the purpose of the Expo.
CM: This year will be the fourth Expo. You have had an impressive list of boxing figures at the previous editions – Mike Tyson, Roberto Duran etc. My question here is how much work goes in to organising all these individuals to be in the one place at the same time on a given date?
AB: I should start by saying no sleep. That's what it takes to get everyone under the same roof. In all reality it requires 100% dedication to the event along with a lot of consistency in your work ethic. You also have to be able to shift your approach based on the different personalities that you deal with when engaging various fighters and companies. I do have a great team of people that help with organising the event – a marketing director, publicist (now including a Spanish speaking one), marketing team, event coordinators, contractors and social media managers. A team effort all round.
CM: What kind of attendance figures have you had in previous years and are you hoping for good numbers this year as the event coincides with the GGG-Canelo rematch?
AB: In the last three years we have had a little over 10,000 total fans attend the Expo. Due to the increased excitement for the Canelo vs. GGG rematch, we are expecting over 3,000 fans to attend on September 15. The event itself will see over 30 companies involved with the sport along with 50 fighters – prospects, current champions and legends – in the building. All of the major sanctioning bodies will also be there and some additional fighters will be attending with them.
CM: Speaking of the GGG-Canelo rematch, the Expo was originally slotted in for May 5, the intended date for that bout. When that event fell apart you postponed the Expo. How much of an inconvenience was this for you and how has the process of reorganising for the new date been?
AB: This was the first time that we experienced having to postpone the event. Even with the postponed fight in May we were trying to find a way to still have it but with no major fight happening in Vegas that weekend, it was not going to be worth all of the trouble. Rescheduling was a ton of work as we had to re-book the convention center and re-engage with the fighters – some were not going to be able to participate on the new September date. We ended up having to do double the work in order to get everything rescheduled. It has all been worth it though as the majority of the fans that purchased Expo tickets for the May date, ended up keeping them and we are looking forward to welcoming all fans on September 15.
CM: Looking ahead – are there any behind the scenes talks happening regarding expanding the Expo? Maybe turn it into a weekend long event?
AB: We are currently in the early stages of possibly having the Expo in another country. Stay tuned for more news on that via our social media (@boxfanexpo) or our website (boxfanexpo.com).
CM: Finally, I'm looking for details about this year's edition. Give the readers as much information regarding the guest list and specifics as you can. Persuade a boxing fan to attend, and bring their friends!
AB: The ultimate fan experience will be on September 15 at the Las Vegas Convention Center from 10am until 5pm. Tickets are still available for purchase through eventbrite or, for a slightly higher fee, can be purchased at the door. This year we are adding a new wrinkle to the event. We are going to have an inaugural ‘Box Fan Expo Invitational' which is something I have been working on with Fernando Vargas and his foundation to help inspire the youth. There are going to be ten to twelve fights composed of invited number one seeded USA boxers out of Nevada and all over the US. The fights will begin at 11am. Along with that we will have fighters like Errol Spence, Mikey Garcia, Andre Ward, Abner Mares, Tommy Hearns, Badou Jack, Erik Morales, the Benavidez brothers and the list goes on. The WBC, WBA, and Mayweather Promotions are just a few that will also have a booth with activities and merchandise. Make sure you stay till the end as last year, Floyd Mayweather appeared during the last hour of the Expo to meet and greet fans so don't leave early and miss out. Aside from that we will have a DJ, ring card girls, places to eat and plenty to see and do making that day a full boxing experience from start to finish.
* thanks to Abraham Gonzalez for facilitating this interview.