LAS VEGAS – Promoter Gary Shaw walked out of the ring after Yohnny Perez had taken the International Boxing Federation bantamweight title from Joseph Agbeko in a sensational fight Saturday with a grin reaching from ear to ear.
Shaw picked up a pair of world championships on Saturday, adding Perez's title to the interim World Boxing Council lightweight belt Antonio DeMarco won earlier in the evening by stopping Jose Alfaro in the 10th round.
But Shaw wasn't the promoter with the most reason to smile on Saturday.
Don King, whom many believe had faded into irrelevance over the last several years, could barely restrain his glee.
Before the fight, he was waving a sheet of papers, a list of the more than 200 countries to whom his international broadcast team had sold the fight, and he reunited with former undisputed heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, who once accused him of bilking him out of hundreds of millions of dollars. King hired Tyson to do color analysis on the international broadcast.
King also sold the fight on his Web site in an attempt to broaden his brand with a deep and relatively entertaining card.
Saturday's title fights were broadcast in the U.S. on Showtime, a rarity for King these days to get a date on a premium cable network. Yet, after landing a deal with Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin, who paid $775 million in the spring to buy the resort from MGM Mirage, King was beaming because, at 78, reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.
"I guarantee you they'll be thrilled if the big [Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto] promotion they're doing on the 14th [of November] will have 100 countries," King said. "We don't have any heroes out here, so what you see is me demonstrating what I can do without a hero. And we will build a hero, even if I can't get a date [on television]. You know what they're doing. They don't want to give me a date, but that's fine. I'll find my way. I always have."
King will go a long way if he can consistently put fights like Agbeko-Perez on his cards. It was a pitched battle from the early moments, with the two men largely standing in the center of the ring and trading power shots.
Perez twice whacked Agbeko in the first round and pushed him back in a sign of things to come. Perez pulled out a unanimous decision, winning by scores of 117-110, 116-111 and 117-110. Yahoo! Sports also favored Perez, 115-112.
It was a fight between a pair of largely unknown fighters, but they gave their souls in the ring. Each man had a swollen and disfigured face as he climbed down out of the ring after one of the better fights in a year filled with outstanding matches.
Perez knew he could do nothing less than his best against Agbeko, who was coming off a huge upset in July of Vic Darchinyan.
"I knew I was winning the rounds and I deserved to get the victory," Perez said. "I trained to throw a lot of punches. I know Agbeko likes to throw a lot of punches, so I knew I had to be better conditioned. All the hard work and preparation paid off."
And it paid off for King, too, who hadn't been the lead promoter on a card in Las Vegas since 2005 when he promoted the Felix Trinidad-Winky Wright bout down the street at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
King has run out of stars over the last four years and has largely filled the role of a promoter who supplies opponents for the stars. It's not where King is used to and it's clearly not where he wants to be. He made a run at signing Floyd Mayweather Jr. earlier this year but came up short.
And while he's not likely to develop any major drawing cards from Saturday's show – the card was filled with retreads like Ray Austin and DaVarryl Williamson – he showed his ability to sell by putting together an international network the breadth of which remains staggering.
He knocked the way promoters today make a card with an attractive main event and fill it with second-tier fights on the undercard.
"What they're doing now is putting on cards with a main event and they let the rest of the show go to nothing," King said of his rivals. "If the main event ain't no good, the people leave mad, feeling resentful like someone just took their money. But this card, from the bottom to the top, we had fights, real fights, and they were all like co-features.
"We gave you value for your entertainment dollar with this card tonight. People were saying they thought I was retired, but I wasn't going to be part of reducing the standards."
After the show, King helped Tyson judge a Halloween costume contest and then walked out with hundreds in the sold-out ballroom slapping him on the back. One man dressed as a pirate saw him coming and bowed. King beamed and offered him a high five.
"I'm back, baby!" he bellowed. "I am back!"
- Joseph Agbeko
- Gary Shaw
- Mike Tyson