Box Fan Expo 2015: A Day of Celebration

By Caryn A. Tate on September 14, 2015
Box Fan Expo 2015: A Day of Celebration
Duran had an amazing display of some of his championship belts at his booth. (Tate)

Every fighter I met was kind and down-to-earth, surprisingly easy to talk to, and seemed to truly enjoy meeting the fans…

Imagine growing up in a remote village in Siberia, a slum in South America, or a ghetto in the United States, where poverty and struggles in daily life are the norm. You may be surrounded by people who have long since given up on lofty childhood dreams and aspirations, and have resorted to crime or addiction or simply surrendered to the kind of life they once hoped they could rise out of one day. But despite this, you have a dream in your heart and believe you can achieve it. Boxing becomes part of your life, and you begin training diligently to improve your skills and conditioning—even if you barely have enough to eat at home for sustenance, much less for strength. You enter the amateurs and begin to gain experience in the ring, in victory and in defeat. Finally you become a professional, often with little amateur experience—having grown up in poverty, you’re in a hurry to make money at what you do and rise through the ranks. Before each fight you experience a rush of adrenaline, fear, motivation, excitement. You take punches; some of them cause you great pain and may knock you down or out. But you throw punches back, fueled by all the pain and struggles you’ve experienced. You keep fighting despite everything, striving to remember your training and the motivation burning in your gut to never go back to the life you once knew. Each fight gains you invaluable experience, and the years pass until you finally get the title shot you’ve been working so hard towards. In victory you become a world champion, and you finally feel you’ve reached the goal you had in your heart for such a long time through all of the innumerable hard times.

This is often the basic backstory for many professional fighters, regardless of what part of the world they hail from. As anyone who has any involvement in the sport of boxing knows, it is a sport with zero forgiveness afforded its athletes. Yet the huge majority of these fighters, who have struggled so mightily to achieve greatness and are subjected to many unfair or ignorant critiques, make themselves incredibly accessible to the fans who admire and love them. Perhaps partly because of their backgrounds and having risen above some of the worst life has to offer, they seem to understand better than most other professional athletes the connection their fans feel to them and the special nature of that bond.

I was struck by that at Saturday’s Box Fan Expo in Las Vegas. Boxers in attendance included Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, Terry Norris, Sergio Martinez, Ruslan Provodnikov, Timothy Bradley, James Toney, Fernando Vargas, Joel Casamayor, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Leo Santa Cruz, Danny Garcia, and more. The fact that these fighters made the decision to attend the expo at all showed how much they value their fans. They got nothing out of it, so to speak, other than spending that time with complete strangers who look up to and believe in them. They gave of themselves generously, offering autographs and photos and just chatting with the fans.

Every fighter I met was kind and down-to-earth, surprisingly easy to talk to, and seemed to truly enjoy meeting the fans. Of particular note were those fighters who speak little or no English—while they may be used to being in the United States and not speaking the same language as most folks here, it shows their depth of character that they would come to an event like this where it’s all about interaction and communication—without the benefit of a translator. Ruslan Provodnikov only spoke a few words to me due to the language barrier, but carefully signed his autograph in English characters and, with his body language, made it clear that he enjoyed all of the fan interactions and pictures (and really hammed it up in fan photos, to the delight of his audience).

Timothy Bradley is exactly the way he appears in his TV interviews; he’s incredibly personable and approachable, and was chatty and articulate. He arrived with his family and was in a jovial mood while posing for photos and signing autographs. He clearly enjoys meeting his fans and appreciates those who support him, and the folks waiting in line to meet him were die-hard fans.

Sergio Martinez arrived just minutes after the expo opened a little after 10:00 am, and immediately a very long line formed to meet the recently retired middleweight champion of the world. He radiated accessibility and kindness, and many children got up on the platform with him to chat and have their pictures taken with Sergio; he signed anything people put in front of him and posed for many photos with fans, rising out of his seat on the platform to get in close to people. Martinez was available for the majority of the event (which ran until 5pm), a remarkable feat particularly considering how the busyness of his booth and how genuine he was with each and every person he met. It’s no wonder the man is so well known for his personality and how he treats people, in addition to his superb ring skills—and, hence, also no wonder the line to his booth was so long.

Most organizational booths were handing out great freebies and swag. Boxing gear manufacturing greats Rival, Reyes, and Title were present, selling everything from gloves to headgear to hats, and handing out some cool swag. Brooklyn Fitboxing were generously giving out free pairs of bag gloves and t-shirts, promoting their 30 boxing training gyms in Spain and introducing the concept to the United States. Legendary gym Kronk had a presence at the event, selling an assortment of merchandise and chatting with fans. But my favorite thing about these gear booths was that the representatives at them were truly knowledgeable—they weren’t just folks hired to man the booth. They clearly know the sport and they know their business. The WBC (World Boxing Council) had a booth complete with a replica championship belt and backdrop set up for photos. It was great to see how many children were at that photo booth. Sartonk Belts had an impressive display, including the WBA Super Champion Mayweather-Pacquiao belt.

Premier Boxing Champions had a striking booth as well—this was also where PBC managed fighters Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Leo Santa Cruz, and the great retired fighter Paul Williams signed autographs and met fans. Their booth also had a “VIP”-like experience, complete with sofas, cool swag, and a big screen TV playing highlights from PBC fights in the background. The people manning the booth were very friendly and enthusiastic and to top it all off they knew their boxing and readily engaged the fans that came to visit.

Having the chance to meet retired legendary greats like Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, and Terry Norris, was a remarkable experience for attendees. Duran had an amazing display of some of his championship belts at his booth and delighted fans when he entered the room, took his seat, and proceeded to meet with his lengthy line of fans. Norris and Hearns were so accessible and friendly that it seemed to almost take many fans off guard. But the young champions like Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, and Leo Santa Cruz, were not to be outdone and the event was truly a boxing fan’s candy store.

For fans of all ages who attend this event—whether a past event or a future one—the memories created are unforgettable. For many, their favorite fighters are not only that but heroes, inspirations, someone to look up to, particularly during hard times. So having the opportunity to meet these same individuals who so inspire them is so much more than a meet-and-greet. When I spoke with Box Fan Expo’s creator Alonzo Benezra last month, he stated that the intent is to hold this event annually for the foreseeable future. You owe it to yourself to attend if you’re a boxing fan. It’s a phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and the value is nearly unbelievable. And in the bigger picture, for the sake of the sport and the fans of it, we must support events like this that represent the heart of the sport we all love so dearly.

Follow Caryn A. Tate on Twitter@carynatate

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Roberto Duran - Box Fan Expo Las Vegas September 12, 2015

Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez - Box Fan Expo Las Vegas September 12, 2015

"Terrible" Terry Norris - Box Fan Expo Las Vegas September 12, 2015

"Showtime" Shawn Porter - Box Fan Expo Las Vegas September 12, 2015

Ruslan Provodnikov - Box Fan Expo Las Vegas September 12, 2015

James "Lights Out" Toney - Box Fan Expo Las Vegas September 12, 2015

"El Feroz" Fernando Vargas - Box Fan Expo Las Vegas September 12, 2015

Tim Bradley - Box Fan Expo Las Vegas Sept 12, 2015

Zab "Super" Judah - Box Fan Expo Las Vegas September 12, 2015

Jessie Vargas - Box Fan Expo Las Vegas Sept 12, 2015

Joel "El Cepillo" Casamayor - Box Fan Expo Las Vegas September 12, 2015

Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin - Box Fan Expo Las Vegas September 12, 2015

Mike McCullum - Box Fan Expo Las Vegas Sept 12, 2015

Wayne McCullough - Box Fan Expo Las Vegas Sept 12, 2015

Mia "The Knockout" St.John - Box Fan Expo Las Vegas September 12, 2015

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  1. Big Wally 09:52pm, 09/22/2015

    I live in LV and have for 40 years. This kind of thing is great for the city. So is Floyd Mayweather.

  2. Caryn A. Tate 07:18pm, 09/15/2015

    This was at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

  3. KB 06:37pm, 09/15/2015

    In what hotel was this held, Caryn?

  4. Caryn A. Tate 07:28am, 09/15/2015

    Thank you KB! Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. KB 07:11am, 09/15/2015

    Sure wish I had gone. Great coverage. Thank you

  6. Caryn A. Tate 06:50am, 09/15/2015

    Eric yeah, all of the “young-ish” fighters there were all in great shape actually, as was Terry Norris. Aztec Warrior, that is awesome! I’d love to attend that as well. Leigh, sorry to hear that…a trip to the Box Fan Expo or IBHOF induction ceremonies as mentioned by Aztec Warrior might be worth your time/money!

  7. leigh 06:38am, 09/15/2015

    Nothing like this in England whenever a boxing great comes here we get milked by the promoter or whatever business man has bought them over £40 for a signature or £50 for a photo all rushed along in lines and hardly get to say hello before your told to move on it really is piss poor, would love to go to something like this sounds perfect for fans .

  8. Aztec Warrior 09:58pm, 09/14/2015

    Sounds like a great time ! I’ll definitely have to add it to my bucket list! I have attended the Annual induction ceremonies at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY.  for the last five years.
    I have been fortunate enough to meet some of the same fighters such as Sergio, Tommy Hearns, and Fernando Vargas. I’ve also spent some time chatting it up with the likes of Carlos Palomino, Ruben Olivares, Aaron Pryor, Erik Morales, Freddie Roach, Tony Weeks, Amir Khan and even Iron Mike Tyson to name just a few. ALL were so humble, kind and generous with their time. It’s always a fun and exciting weekend. Highly recommend!
    Eric, you’re right ....Mia looks great !

  9. Eric 04:46pm, 09/14/2015

    Terry Norris still looks in shape, and so does Mia. teehee.

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