The Rise And Fall Of Ring City USA & Triller
Boxing has been around a long time, and although we could go down that rabbit hole, we won't as the sport has evolved since its inception. Boxing took off when Bob Arum and Don King started promoting fights through the ‘60s and '70s. Since then, we have seen promotion companies like Main Events, Golden Boy Promotions, and Premier Boxing Champions/TGB Promotions become part of the fight game, which led to network deals with HBO, Showtime, and NBC, to name a few. More recently, DAZN has joined the crowd, but although they have gone through some lows financially, they are stubborn enough to muscle through the tough times in hopes of better days soon.
Two companies that haven't had the success or have shown an ability to muscle through the tough times are Triller and Ring City USA.
Both had a fast rise with unique business plans. Still, for one reason or the other, they weren't able to sustain the model that was introduced, which has led to them either disappearing or giving off a seemingly false impression that they are still in the business of boxing. What exactly happened? That's what many want to know, but more than likely, we won't ever get the crystal-clear answer, so it leaves us to speculate based on the truths that are out there.
Is the Trill(er) gone?
Although Triller the company started in 2015, it wasn't until 2020 that they threw their hat into the prizefighting ring. As many remember, that was the year the whole world was on lockdown, and Triller Fight Club was looking to capture the imagination and attention of the public by staging a nostalgic matchup. They also added musical performances by various artists while having pop-culture figures involved with the promotion. That was a mouthful… and often their presentations were a little over the top, but it worked, arguably. (Apart from that contact high Al Bernstein must’ve contracted in Atlanta, we wonder if he still needs to do utilize Visine as a counter measure.) Tyson vs. Jones was a huge hit and reportedly sold over a million PPVs which was something that boxing hadn't seen in quite some time.
The page on the calendar was flipped to a new year to build on momentum, 2021, and those involved with Triller were super giddy. Even other promoters were too because they saw Triller as an additional outlet for their fighters. The ad/sponsorship money seemed to be more available than for traditional fights, so the Triller gang was off to the races. But quietly, the O.G. boxing guys weren't so quick to crown Triller as something to stick around the long term because the word on the street was that they didn't have any real boxing guys in some of the more critical billets so that a successful boxing promotion can be established. Nevertheless, things continued to move forward. But the next big move for Triller was, it looks like, the beginning of the end.
The purse bid tracked worldwide took place in February 2021 for the right to host Teofimo Lopez against George Kambosos Jr., an undisputed lightweight title fight. Triller stunned everyone by overpaying for the fight and submitting the winning bid of six million dollars. Everyone raised an eyebrow except for the fighters as they were staring at record paydays. They raised both eyebrows to the ceiling and hollered “hell yeah!” Shortly after, Teofimo Lopez and his dad started some rifts by flying the Triller flag high and claiming them as the future of boxing. But not so fast, as after many delays and some financial disputes, the fight ended up on DAZN, and Triller was left without the big fight they had promised to deliver.
While that Teofimo/Kambosos Jr. slow motion soap opera was occurring, Triller pivoted to hosting club show-type fights in the Hulu Theater at the Madison Square Garden while announcing they would do these once a month. Looking to find another way to help drive eyeballs to their shows, Triller essentially bought out VERZUZ to expand their audience and brand.
VERZUZ is a concept created by hip-hop icons Swizz Beatz and Timbaland. It's a platform where they pit two artists to match catalogs live on Instagram for people to enjoy. This was a significant hit during the lockdown, and Triller wanted to use that vehicle to help promote their fights. So, in August, Triller hosted a fight, but the more memorable part was the battle between The LOX and Dipset. To date, that clash was one of the most watched VERZUZ’ and the most discussed. One issue, though; no one can tell you who fought that night, which seemed like a failed effort on the boxing side of things.
After that, Triller went dark and, starting in 2022, announced a whole year slate of fights that they would host, some of which were BKFC (Bare Knuckle Fighting Competition) events. Out of that entire slate which had monthly shows, we have only witnessed one fight actually happen. The tickets barely sold, and most attended were either given the tickets or bought them at a low rate. I am not too confident that the Triller Fight Club will put on any other shows this year because the interest isn't there, and they continue to lose money.
On the topic of losing money, it seems like Triller as a whole isn't doing so great and continue to have financial issues. A story broke earlier today that Swizz Beats and Timbaland are seeking 28 million from Triller as their payments have not been received. That is a huge amount of money and continues the recent history of Triller not paying their bills. I know the analogy of the Titanic has been overly used, but this is truly that, and that ship is sinking really quick. I would not be surprised if the doors do not reopen after everyone shouts ‘Happy New Year' on December 31st.
Ring City had a good thing going
Ring City USA made its debut right around the same time as Triller, ironically enough, which was in November 2020. Their model was different from Triller's as they mainly targeted hardcore fans and were looking to stage the fights in unique atmospheres while also adhering to COVID protocols. Those unique venues included places like the Wild Card Gym in L.A., Pagan Pintor Gym in Puerto Rico, and one of the most famous military schools, West Point. The intent was to work with all promoters while allowing them to showcase fighters that were a level lower than the top guys within a promotional company.
Ring City was housed at NBC Sports, which allowed fighters to be on a significant platform while exposing them to millions of viewers. Ring City had more of a consistent run than Triller had, and there was a decent momentum going into the summer of last year. This is where things came to a sudden halt. NBC Sports were hosting the summer Olympics and with that came Olympic boxing. The rumors were that Ring City would take a break while the Olympics was on but would resume shows shortly after. Upon the conclusion of the Olympics, NBC Sports merged with USA Network, leading to some of their programming moving over to that side. During all of this, Ring City was stuck in the middle and didn't have anywhere to go and eventually fell casualty to the merger.
(Note: I did reach out to those up the food chain of Ring City to get some more clarity and quotes about the situation, but there was no reply to my request.)
A few weeks ago, a Twitter post came on my timeline where Mark Ortega, who was a researcher and part of the production staff for Ring City, filed a lawsuit for money that was owed to him that still hadn't been paid. Sound familiar? So, Ring City USA is now joining Triller in cases where someone is owed money. This certainly doesn't look good for the company, and unless something comes up within the next couple of months, it's safe to say that Ring City will not return anytime soon, if ever.
📍Where will #RingCityUSA go next?
Full Album here➡️https://t.co/8aklsfjZ8o
📸: @Hoganphotos #ThursdayNightBoxing #NBCSN #Twitch #AnyoneAnytimeAnywhere pic.twitter.com/MM70I66p17
— Ring City USA (@ringcityusa) May 3, 2021
The fall of Ring City USA wasn't as sharp as Triller's because the level of expectation wasn't as high. Not saying Ring City USA was low budget because it wasn't. They just didn't come into the situation with their chest poking out and had more of a humble approach. It sucks to see it as many enjoyed the programming, but boxing isn't high on the priority list for these networks as it once was.
My Three Cents
Both Triller and Ring City came into the boxing sphere looking to bring a new and different look into the sport. Both tried but ultimately saw their demise after going through some ups and downs. One—Ring City—has basically signaled last call without saying it, while the other, Triller, is still in denial.
Here’s a low burning question: how long will DAZN stick around before suffering the same fate? Also, will ProBox TV fall before it rises, as the staff continues to change more than a Walmart superstore? Only time will tell, and hopefully, DAZN, ProBox, and whoever comes after will find a way to not only get in the business but also stay in it.
You can follow Abe on Twitter @abeg718 and subscribe to “The Boxing Rush Hour Show” podcast on all streaming platforms.