Box Fan Expo: Giving Back to the Fans

By Caryn A. Tate on August 20, 2015
Box Fan Expo: Giving Back to the Fans
“The expo should belong to the boxing industry, and this is the legacy I want to leave.”

“Once we got Roy Jones, Sergio Martinez, Mike Tyson—it made other fighters understand they want to be there too…”

If you had the opportunity to meet your favorite boxers on the same day, under one roof, would you take it?

That chance is here. The annual Box Fan Expo is coming up on Saturday, September 12 from 10am-5pm in Las Vegas. Inspired by the UFC Fan Expo and resembling a boxing version of San Diego Comic-Con, it’s designed with fans of the sport in mind—dozens of fighters, including a few retired legends, attend the event at booths where fans can meet them, take pictures, and even buy merchandise from the fighters if they have it. Boxing organizations including sanctioning bodies, gyms and boxing gear manufacturers, and promoters are also invited to the event.

So far for this year’s event, boxers who have confirmed their attendance include Roberto Duran, Sergio Martinez, Ruslan Provodnikov, Timothy Bradley, Shawn Porter, Fernando Vargas, and Terry Norris (to name a few). Many more will no doubt add their names to this list over the coming weeks as schedules get sorted—check the Box Fan Expo website or follow on Twitter for regular updates.

With “early bird” tickets available online for only $30.00, or $40.00 at the door, it’s a surprising value and a truly wonderful opportunity for the sport to come together for one day and celebrate what makes it great—most of all, the fighters and their fans.

Recently I was able to chat with Alonzo Benezra, the creator and organizer of the Box Fan Expo.

What inspired you to create the Box Fan Expo?

Boxing is something I’m very passionate about, and I thought there was a hole that needed to be filled for the fans. As a fan, I would like to see the sport grow. So when I came up with the concept it was mostly emulated from the UFC Fan Expo, where all of MMA gets under one roof and they promote their brand amazingly. It’s all about creating a fanbase and these are the kinds of things that make the sport grow. Boxing needs this—there are expos in other industries but never one for boxing. The sport is so rich in history that I thought it was strange for this not to happen even earlier, to have this type of expo. We thought by having all these major boxing celebrities together it’s more powerful than just one. We’re promoting all the fighters, all the celebrities. We want to bring back the legends that made this sport what it is—it’s their chance to become relevant again. A lot of these guys have been “in hiding”—the spotlight was on them, and when it goes off of them the media starts following the next superstar. But a lot of fans are passionate about these legends as well, so it’s a chance for legends to come out, up and coming fighters to showcase their brand and their style and build new fans, and for superstars to continue building their brand they’ve already built. The expo is also about fighters promoting their own brands of merchandise, some have their own brands of merchandise. Who better to showcase to than their fans?

How have you been able to get so many high profile boxers and other important people in the industry together on the same day? It must be a lot of work to get in touch with and follow up with so many busy people in the sport!

The most challenging thing is to make them understand that, unlike the UFC that is one brand, we had to go out and use all our connections over the last few years and go individually to each fighter and each fighter’s manager, or assistant, to talk to them—more to educate them about how important this is. A lot of fans are very thirsty, so by doing a meet and greet with all the fighters under one roof, fans get to thank the fighters and shake their hands. We had to make all the fighters understand how instrumental this is, that fighting is just one part of the game. Marketing is another aspect. Floyd Mayweather, with his brand and promotion, showed other fighters how to do this—the blueprint on how marketing and branding should be done. He’s now making millions of dollars merchandising his brand. We use the Mayweather Promotions and TMT brand as an example of how important marketing is. They’re marketing their personality and their product and selling it to their fans. So getting in touch with all these fighters took many years, many months, non-stop 24/7. It was a super big challenge but once some of the big names started appearing…last year’s event was a success, and now we have video, we have pictures, we can make them understand better what we were trying to tell them in the beginning. Once we got Roy Jones, Sergio Martinez, Mike Tyson—it made other fighters understand they want to be there too.

It’s a huge, massive publicity platform for the fighters to express themselves in any shape or form—they can just meet their fans, or sell their merchandise. Once they understood how they could benefit and understood the expo, it got things going. We also help out foundations—last year we had the Retired Boxers Foundation, this year we’re having the same and also Terry Norris’ Final Fight Foundation. We’re also providing a booth for the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame so they can sell the products at the expo and raise some money for their foundation. We’re also inviting some bigger names that weren’t there last year—Canelo, Cotto, Leonard, Hearns, Hagler…the more they come out and support it, we’ll have double the amount of people coming out to the expo. With all of these powerful names it will only help the sport. It also helps other fighters who are a little less fortunate so they can make more money, etc. This is a boxing effort for all of the industry—this belongs to the boxing industry. It doesn’t belong to me, to anybody, but to boxing and its fans and for the industry to grow.

We schedule this event purposely on Mexican Independence Day Weekend—there’s always a major fight [that weekend], so we wanted to make sure, since we can’t control promotion—we knew 30-40,000 fans would be coming out for the fight, so we might as well give them [the chance] from 10am-5pm to meet all the fighters you’d want to meet all under one roof. You don’t have to wait, see them from afar—you can have an interaction with them. And that interaction turns into dollars, the fans tweet out a picture with the boxer, and it shows the fighter is accessible, and it turns into a bigger fan base. When a PPV comes around, or a fight comes around, people want to tune in because they remember when they met that fighter. Now there’s a connection, a bond that’s been created. In boxing there’s a special and unique thing about boxing fans—they’re very loyal. The same people come back and get an autograph from a boxer 10 or 20 times because there’s a bond. So I think a fighter should try to give back to the fans in the same way.

Can you tell us about what the experience is like for fans? How much are tickets, do they have to pay extra to meet or get the autograph of anyone once inside, any other nuggets of information that you’d like people to know?

Right now we have tickets online, what we call early bird tickets. They’re $30 tickets which is very affordable to be able to see all these fighters. At the door it’s going to be $40. You come in, there are DJs playing, ring card girls, gifts that are being given to the fans from different vendors…you get to meet all the fighters going from one booth to another booth, you get to meet every single fighter at the expo. The fighters have full control of their booth—some charge for autographs and some don’t. Some fighters have their own merchandise, some fans get to take a picture and the fighter doesn’t charge—they’re all different. If you want to take a picture, or do a face off with a fighter, there’s no better opportunity than this. Based on the success of last year you should come very early, because people line up early in the morning since it’s a one-day event. We also get special surprise guest appearances and you never know who’s going to come by—a lot of fighters come at the last minute. So you also get to meet them as well as a bonus.

On a personal level: who would you say has been the most enjoyable for you to interact with as a fan and as the event organizer? Do you have any interesting stories you can tell us for a behind-the-scenes look?

I build relationships and become friends with some of these fighters, whereas before it was just cold-calling them. Once we got to know each other and they saw what I was doing, and how passionate I am about what I was doing, we became friends.

The first person that ever told me about how big the boxing expo would become was Emanuel Steward. He passed away before this became a reality but I told him about the idea and he thought it was great. All they had at the time was the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, and he said if I do something it has to be in Las Vegas, the boxing capital, and all the fighters will be happy because they can come out to the event and also enjoy their time in Vegas. He told me he was going to be the first one to pick a booth at the expo. And funnily enough, many years after it became a reality, I contacted his daughter from the Kronk Gym, and she remembered—I told her what it was and they decided to take a booth. Steward promised he would bring Wladimir Klitschko and Lennox Lewis and guys like Thomas Hearns to his booth, all the guys he trained, that was his dream, to be at his booth to continue his legacy. That’s one thing I would like to eventually honor for Emanuel, to have these guys come to the expo. Last year the Kronk booth was very popular and they sold a lot of merchandise. Hopefully the idea is to bring in these guys even if they have their own booth, they could come by the Kronk booth and say hello to the fans and honor Steward and what he did with them.

Where do you see this event going in the future? Will it continue to be annual?

For now, the short term vision is to have it once a year and build up the anticipation for the expo. We’ll do this on an annual basis, grow the sport more and more, have more boxers and celebrities and more activities during the expo. We’ll have the participation of the bigger companies that are involved in boxing. The idea is to grow the sport and build the expo and build the fanbase.

The expo should belong to the boxing industry, and this is the legacy I would like to leave. Whether I’m here or not, the expo will be here. It’s bigger than I am.

Follow Caryn A. Tate on Twitter@carynatate

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  1. Caryn A. Tate 06:55pm, 08/25/2015

    You’re welcome Laurena. Definitely agree with you on Ruslan! :)

  2. Laurena 05:02pm, 08/25/2015

    I had no idea, Caryn! Thank you for the great info, and I am sure the fans will have fun with Ruslan. He’s a character. Not to say that the others aren’t, mind you.

  3. Caryn A. Tate 04:13pm, 08/23/2015

    Thanks Vido & glad you enjoyed it Big Wally!

  4. vido 12:27am, 08/23/2015

    Good job

  5. Big Wally 09:48am, 08/21/2015

    Excellent info as I reside in Henderson

  6. Caryn A. Tate 11:03am, 08/20/2015

    You bet KB!

  7. KB 10:50am, 08/20/2015

    Thank you for the info.

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