Billion-dollar Brooklyn arena blows shot to host Klitschko fight

Kevin Iole
Boxing Experts Blog

By all accounts, the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., is going to be an awesome facility. The $1 billion arena, which will open in September, will be the home of the NBA's New Jersey Nets.

The building's managers wanted to keep it busy between Nets games and so have been working on bringing in other events. It approached Bernd Boente, the manager of heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, about putting an Oct. 20 Klitschko fight in the building, and Boente was interested.

Klitschko defends his IBF, WBA, WBO and Ring Magazine belts against former cruiserweight champion Jean-Marc Mormeck on Saturday in Germany. If Klitschko wins, the plan then would have been to match him with American Chris Arreola in Brooklyn on Oct. 20.

It seemed a perfect match: The dazzling new arena could debut with a heavyweight title fight featuring Klitschko, one of the biggest attractions in the sport, defending his belt against the hard-hitting Arreola. Instead, it will get a card that is expected to feature former super lightweight champion Paulie Malignaggi, who is a New York native.

The reason? According to Chris Mannix of, the arena signed an exclusive deal with Golden Boy Promotions. And because Boente doesn't have any interest in working with Golden Boy, Barclays will lose what would have been a mega-event.

The people who run the building came to us and asked us to bring a Klitschko fight to the Barclays Center. When we said yes, they said we had to take Golden Boy as a co-promoter. We're not going to do that. I don't want to do a co-promotion with an American who has nothing to do with the Klitschkos. Why should we? We're about to do our seventh stadium event. We do huge shows all over Europe. We have fought at Madison Square Garden. They bring nothing to the show.

Talk about being blunt, but Boente has a point. The question is, why would a New York City venue ever want to do an exclusive deal with a promoter, particularly a promoter based in Los Angeles? Had the building remained open to all boxing promoters, it could have gotten a number of great shows which would have local interest from New York metropolitan promoters such as DiBella Entertainment, Main Events and Star Boxing.

As it is, it will get only Golden Boy shows from folks who are willing to cede their promotion to Golden Boy. Boente told Mannix that was hardly appealing to him.

If the Barclays Center wants a Klitschko fight, there can't be any preconditions. If they want to deal with Golden Boy and their crappy fighters, fine. I can't understand why an arena is doing an exclusive deal with an American promoter. What do they bring to the table? A Klitschko fight is a worldwide event. It would be covered by 150 countries. It would be huge with the Russian speaking community [in Brooklyn]. I just don't understand what they are doing.

Golden Boy is one of boxing's two most successful promoters, along with Top Rank, and it undoubtedly will put on a number of big shows in the venue.

Richard Schaefer, the CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, told Tim Smith of the New York Daily News that the issue is bigger than Klitschko himself.

It's pretty simple. We have a multi-year deal with the Barclays Center. We made a commitment to bring boxing to Brooklyn. Opening night is Oct. 20. It's a big event with fighters signing autographs, and a red carpet. That night is not about Golden Boy Promotions. It's not about the Klitschkos. It's about Brooklyn and bringing boxing to Brooklyn. This is all part of a bigger picture. For the Klitschkos to think they can show up, steal the show for one night and then leave town and not show up again, they're a bit naïve.

Still, you have to think that someone from Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, the building's owner, is asking the arena manager how he ever saw fit to do an exclusive deal with a boxing promoter and wound up blowing a major heavyweight championship fight.

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