It doesn’t matter if Oscar De La Hoya’s famous friends attend his two-year-old LA Fight Club series because they want to see young fighters in action, or because they want to pal around with the former champion. Just as long as they continue to show up to the regular fight series at the Belasco Theater in the heart of downtown LA, he’s happy.
“We get celebrities who are asking for tickets every single time, so it’s as we call it, my baby,” De La Hoya told Amplify, adding that he is trying to create a more personal, experience-driven boxing series that serves as the alternative to the music venues and nightclubs and bars that populate the rejuvenated Broadway corridor.
“The idea is not about selling tickets but giving the fans the experience that they want to come back for more,” De La Hoya said. “We want to give these kids an opportunity to showcase their talents locally and eventually be at that global stage” with top-tiered fights televised on ESPN and HBO.
With exactly two years under its belt since its debut in March 2015, Golden Boy Promotion’s monthly LA Fight Club series pits the city’s newest and hottest local boxing prospects against one another. Given the rough times that Golden Boy was facing at the series’ inception, LA Fight Club is a true testament to the enduring strength of the Golden Boy brand. A year before the series officially kicked off, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer quit the organization with manager Al Haymon, creating their own rival promotional company Premier Boxing Champions in March 2015. Golden Boy accused Premier of poaching most of its top fighters, leaving the company bleeding talent and running out of options.
Hoping to rebuild his roster from scratch, De La Hoya launched LA Fight Club and today has a multi-fight deal with ESPN in the works with LA Fight Club Alum Jason Quigley as it’s headliner. De La Hoya hopes to turn LA Fight Club into a development system for boxers, graduating on to ESPN, HBO and eventually high-dollar Pay-Per-View bouts. It’s also De La Hoya’s second jab at amateur boxing — he ran “Fight Night Club” at Club Nokia at LA Live. While Club Nokia’s fight nights were successful enough, the more intimate layout of the Belasco seems to be a positive by making people feel like they are a part of something larger versus mere spectators of a great show.
“It’s a beautiful complex, but it was a little bit too big,” Golden Boy President Eric Gomez told Amplify. He believes the Belasco is the right venue for right now, adding, “the ring is on the floor – that’s where the action takes place.”
This sentiment is echoed by manager Rachel Charles who counts Quigley and fighters David Mijares and Julian Ramirez as clients: “It’s local, it’s intimate and yeah, I think it’s fantastic. I love the series. Golden Boy has made it so it’s ‘where are you going to be on Friday night? I’m going to the Belasco.’”
The series has a nightclub vibe, carefully cultivated as something more potent than the boxing alone.
“The atmosphere is great – not just the old dingy club vibe that used to happen in the past,” says Gomez, adding: “It’s a real nightclub and it’s a place where you want to be seen.”
And then of course, there are the fights themselves. Quigley is a prime example of the high bar set for prospects entering Golden Boy’s farming system. The club serves to weed out talent unprepared for higher tier exposure and competition on ESPN, HBO or Pay-Per-View. Golden Boy’s Gomez explains that Quigley’s debut on ESPN as a headliner is a testament to the quality of fighters that routinely participate in the club’s series. Prior to the Belasco, Quigley who recently moved to LA from Donegal, Ireland, was a highly ranked and medaled in Europe and is now one of several celebrated amateurs taking part in the series.
“Joseph Diaz, he’s an Olympian and he’s a kid who is ready to fight for a world title. He’s ranked top three in the world,” explains Gomez. “That’s kind of what we’ve got set up. We’ve got some really good names fighting at the Belasco.”
The club benefited greatly from Quigley’s position as an up-and-coming fighter in need of a fan base and continues to use newcomers as a win-win for fighters and fans.
“For Quigley, it was, ‘who is this kid? How can we see him?’” says Charles. “When he came to the Belasco, the affordability of the tickets was a major factor. So everybody was able to come and watch him fight. And then that started word-of-mouth for him. He started getting a following and it’s led to him being the headliner on ESPN. So it’s been perfect.”
While the Belasco currently seems to be the right fit for the continued success of LA Fight Club, neither Gomez nor De La Hoya are adverse to figuring out how to make a larger venue work or seeing some of the Belasco fights cross over to ESPN. However, as with most institutions that are built to last, the work is a marathon versus a sprint.
“I like taking my business year-by-year,” said De La Hoya, adding: “I can see this series going into a bigger venue but staying in downtown LA maybe next year. But this year we are going to be doing most of our shows from the Belasco in Downtown.”
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