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The Lowdown on “Throwdown”

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If you are a sports fan who watches games on free TV, you saw, and saw again, and yet again, ads for those leagues who run a daily competition, Fan Duel and Draft Kings. They blanketed the airwaves the last few months, and have gained the attention of powers that be in the last year plus.

That’s for a simple reason–they are making money hand over fist, and, presumably, powers that be are irked and want a taste.

So, in the New York region, for example, the attorney general slammed his fist on the table, and ordered those entities to cease operating in New York. Why? Because, AG Eric Schneiderman opined, their products are gambling, games of chance, and were not being regulated and controlled as such. His ruling came on the heels of one in Nevada, whose rule-makers demanded DraftKings and FanDuel to stop doing their thing in that region.

But wait, protested people who enjoy playing daily fantasy..this isn’t pure chance..

I do my research..I choose the players, based on prior performance, on past precedents, who my reasoning and wisdom deduces are likely to perform better than other alternatives..thus, I am buying a chance at having my acumen, my wisdom, the general manager in me, pay off. Hey, it’s basically like picking a stock, isn’t it? Based on my research and intuition, I am making a bet that the stock will appreciate, and I will be rewarded for my choice. Yeah, I guess I am taking a gamble..but if playing the stock market isn’t gambling, then why the hell does the NY attorney general deem daily fantasy play gambling?

Great question…and one that is playing out in the courts.

As of now, in NY, a judge ruled that the fantasy bigwigs should be able to stay open. The stakes are not peanuts;  “At least 600,000 New Yorkers play daily fantasy on DraftKings and FanDuel, having put up more than $200 million in entry fees combined in 2015,” wrote ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell.

This kerfuffle left me curious about a fantasy player in the boxing space, Throwdown Fantasy.

I reached out to the guy who runs the site, Nic Canobbio, to learn more about what he does, and see if the NY AG ruling affected his property.

First and foremost, the 33-year-old Canobbio, a Long Island resident told me, Throwdown Fantasy is open for business.

They kicked off this marquee version of TF in April. Nic is the son of Bob Canobbio, the guy who started CompuBox, the punch-count service, three decades ago. The son is offering “fantasy sports games that let you draft a team of fighters and win real money.”

“Fantasy Boxing for real cash,” the site promises, and they tout they have paid out over $40,000 to the skilled/lucky persons who have played.

Boiled down, you choose a particular contest and pay an entry fee; you pick a team of boxers; you track how well your team does–factors include who wins, punches landed, who scores knockdowns, etc– in real time; and if you score the most points, you win moolah. Games run a week-long, or a month-long.

Canobbio said business is good, and a new investor has injected some cash into the venture, seeing the promise in the play. He is confident that Throwdown will not get that same scrutiny as DraftsKings and FanDuel, because “it’s skill with a little chance. It’s no different than playing the stock market, or other fantasy sports. You do research, and you’re successful, if not, you lose money.”

Me, I shake my head at the AG’s rulings; the state sanctions gambling, with their lottery offerings, and they over-promise hope, and under-deliver. Gambling addicts fritter away their social security check or meager paycheck, hoping to hit big..and are left with scratch ticket residue, and a lighter wallet. Canobbio doesn’t disagree; he cites high stakes poker, which doesn’t get hammered by the AGs. “It’s not luck,” it’s skill, he declares. “But of course, we will comply with anything that needs to be complied with.”

No minors can play, Canobbio told me, and the stakes are manageable, $5, $10 a game.

TF is improving the service by letting boxing aficionados score fights as they watch, and Nic Canobbio calls that “a second screen engagement tool.” Fox Sports has been featuring TF scorers activity on their shows, he said. A new app will come out in the first quarter of 2016, he shared, and the product is formed to be as dummy proof as possible. “Boxing fans aren’t necessarily fantasy fans,” he noted, which makes sense to me, as I think we skew older, with many of us being out of the typical age range for being fantasy converts.

Canobbio says you can log in, and play a free game, get those feet wet, before ponying up. He says TF fans enjoy the fights they watch more, with some upped stakes, including bragging rights, upping the buzz. He says that getting into the Throwdown Fantasy mix is giving fight fans more of a reason to watch the smaller shows, off HBO or Showtime or network prime-time space.

Canobbio said the endeavor has shown him how smart many fight fans are; he’s impressed with their knowledge chops. Hey, let’s hope some of those smarts seep into the head of Schneiderman, who is accused by some of cracking down on sports fantasy as a favor to existing gambling space Godzillas. C’mon, AG, be consistent with your reasoning and don’t pick and choose enforcement targets….Wall Street fleecers cause infinitely more damage than fantasy sports helmers do.

NYFights.com friends, have any of you tried Throwdown Fantasy? Talk to me about the experience; I’m considering flipping the AG the bird, and jumping in myself, picking a team.

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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