BERN, Switzerland -- Wladimir Klitschko wants his next fight to be in the United States.
Chris Arreola, as I reported yesterday, is unlikely to be available.
Tomasz Adamek, however, is.
In September, Vitali Klitschko beat him bell-to-bell, administering a serious whoopin’ to the former two-division champion before the referee mercifully stepped in.
But since then Adamek has slowly rebuilt his career and won two straight fights, most recently a unanimous decision over former title contender Eddie Chambers that was nationally televised on NBC Sports Network. Adamek is as close to a household name as you are going to find among heavyweights, with his popularity in the U.S. (he draws 8,000-plus per night in Newark, N.J.) and abroad.
Then there is this: Main Events, which promotes Adamek, picked up a December 22 date under its new deal with NBC that will be televised on the main network. That’s a reach that extends to more than 100 million households, giving boxing the kind of exposure it has not seen in nearly a decade.
Main Events has already penciled Adamek into that slot. He will fight once more in September, off television, likely against the bloated carcass of James Toney. That will line him up perfectly for December.
Right now, Adamek has no opponent. Names of the usual suspects (Odlanier Solis, Arreola) will be tossed around, but there is one opponent who could blow them all out of the water: Wladimir Klitschko
Think about it: The unified (and if not for his brother’s one title, undisputed) heavyweight champion on network airwaves. It’s great for Adamek, who will get another lucrative title shot. It’s great for Klitschko, who will get the U.S. exposure he craves, and because NBC has it penciled into an afternoon slot, he can still make his pot o’ gold by selling the rights to European broadcaster RTL, which can air the fight live in prime time. It’s good for Main Events, because they would sell out the Prudential Center and cash in on some of the television rights.
It’s good for boxing because, well, duh.
But there’s one problem -- KMG, Klitschko’s management team. In particular his manager, Bernd Boente.
Boente has plenty of critics in this business. People think he is obstinate and that cutting a deal with him is like having your spleen removed without the anesthesia. He’s a skilled businessman, though. He extracts every possible nickel from a Klitschko fight by selling sponsorships for the press conference, the open workout and the weigh-in.
When it comes to the Klitschkos, Boente believes in minimal involvement from other promoters. They are the heavyweight champs, he reasons, and they don’t need anyone else. Many times, he is right. Take the dicey situation in Brooklyn, with the Barclays Center. Boente wanted to open the building with Wladimir fighting in October. But Golden Boy, which has a multi-year deal to promote fights there, blocked it, insisting they be the co-promoter. Boente balked and, as it stands, Wladimir won’t fight there.
I thought Boente made a compelling argument in that situation. Representatives from the building wanted the Klitschkos, and Boente had no need for Golden Boy, a Los Angeles-based company without any legitimate heavyweights to speak of. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer did a masterful job cutting the deal with the Barclays Center but it wasn’t as though he partook in the construction of the building; it was going to have boxing, with or without him.
Without Main Events, and president Kathy Duva, there would be no boxing on NBC. Duva negotiated the original deal with NBC and for the last six months has been putting on strong shows that have done solid ratings on the NBC Sports Network. Not to mention she promotes Adamek, who in New Jersey is a stronger draw than Klitschko. If Boente insists on a solo promotion, well, that’s a non-starter, and it should be.
Ideally, smarter heads will prevail. Adamek-Klitschko would be a huge show, one that, because of free TV, would draw casual eyeballs to boxing in the U.S. the way no fight in recent memory has.
- Chris Mannix