TKO on the rise
Q&A with President Chet Koerner
Interview by Matt Thompson
In the last 18 months, fast-growing promoter TKO Boxing has, literally, appeared out of nowhere to rack up 30 shows. During the next 12 months, there are another 30 shows in the works. Fightnews.com recently sat down with the company's president, Chet Koerner, to discuss TKO's future.
What's the history of TKO?
I sold my first ticket to a fight card when I was seventeen years old. Throughout college, business school and in my earlier career, my sideline business was sports ticketing and marketing. When I graduated from business school, I started a company called CD Warehouse, franchised it across the country, then took it public and sold it. I then went completely into the sports ticketing business with another new company called Razorgator. Boxing, pro football, bowl games whatever worked. Give us an exciting sporting event anywhere in the country and we were there. I recently sold my interest in that company and as you can see, boxing is getting my full attention.
So, all of a sudden you decided to become a boxing promoter and promote shows across the country?
Not exactly, I had been involved doing some management of fighters and then was approached to promote in Florida. I ended up not making that deal, and instead asked Chris Middendorf, to come and join me and build an international promotional company.
TKO has recently made some high profile signings, from world amateur standout Mikael Zewski to Edner Cherry. Do you want to tell us a little something about what you are doing?
We are blessed to work with some of the best managers in the business. Cameron Dunkin, Bret Hallenback, Edward Goumachian among others, and they have brought us some of the best fighters in the world. As we move forward in 2010, we will continue to add the best talent that we can find and promote them across the country and soon around the world.
The most exciting aspect of what we are doing is definitely the stable of fighters that we are building. In addition to Cherry, Bowman and Zewski, we are showcasing Peter Manfredo and NABF Featherweight Matt Remillard (20-0) at Mohegan Sun on the 29th of January. In addition on that show we will have Francisco Contreras a hard punching lightweight 12-0 kid from the Dominican Republic, who is as exciting a fighter as you will see. Mickey Bey at 15-0 is with us and he will really be stepping up this year as will be Dat Nguyen. We are headed to Augusta, Georgia in February with world rated Rayonta Whitfield, who may be our first "Home Town Hero to World Champion."
And then when you go to our young guys, remember these names- Joseph Elegele, Leti Leti, Hastings Bwalya, Michael Finney, Robert Rodriguez, the Chudinov brothers and Bastie Samir (Florida, New Zealand, Zambia, Alabama, Colorado, Russia and Ghana respectively). And I could go on, I promise you. The strength of a promotion company is its talent. We have guys this year who will be ready to compete at the world championship level and guys that are in the pipeline that will be champions in three years and beyond. With the level of talent that we have, it is clearly an exciting time for TKO. As we move forward in 2010, we will continue to add the best talent that we can find and promote them across the country and soon around the world.
Exactly. Our strategy is to promote a fighter where possible in his home town. It is a process obviously, but something that the TKO Team does very well. When we first started in York for example, promoting Carney Bowman, we sold 800 tickets for the first show. The last show we did there, we were over 5000. The economics of that sort of promotion is that it allows us to develop younger fighters who may not have fan bases on the under cards. When those fighters reach a certain point, then we take them to their home towns. There is no reason that this strategy won't work around the world.
As you can see, we are working with fighters from Russian, the Ukraine, New Zealand, Africa, Vietnam as well as our North American fighters. We are starting to broadcast their US fights back to their home countries, I think that it is only a matter of time before we take them home and promote in their home towns.
There are many promoters that work overseas and do international shows. I have the utmost respect for what they have done. But our goal is a little different, as the goal is not to be a Houston promoter or a Las Vegas promoter. We will do shows there of course, but our goal over the next few years is to be a global company. And I think that if we have the best talent, we will be successful anywhere. It sounds ambitious, but hey, boxing is a tough sport, and like anything if you are going to be a promoter, why not try to build what has never been built before and therefore try to be the best.
Maybe we can do a follow up next year and we can see how far we have gotten!