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Pugnacious promoter: Lisa Elovich
July 29, 2009
By: “Boxing” Bob Newman
In the world of boxing promoters, one would expect to see and hear big mouths and big egos, all belonging to men.
Well Lisa Elovich embodies none of that.
The upstate New Yorker is the only licensed female promoter in the State, and the CEO of Pugnacious Promotions.
Elovich juggles her boxing endeavors along with two other important jobs - her legal career, and most importantly, full time mom.
FightNews caught up with Elovich earlier this week prior to her “Night of Future Champions” show this Friday in scenic Saratoga , NY .
Lisa, on top of being a full-time mom and boxing promoter, you have a legal background, correct?
Yes. I'm an attorney. I'm a former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney, and Deputy Attorney General. I'm also a former Administrative Law Judge for Children and Family Services. Now I work at the division of parole.
So you're obviously not making a living off boxing!
No, no! I'm not quitting my day job. I like my job. I really love criminal law. That's my field. I don't want to give that up because I really do enjoy it and that's also how I earn my living. There’re very few people in boxing who don't have day jobs, unless you're Oscar De La Hoya, or promoters who have signed a tremendous amount of boxers and who have HBO and PPV fights. So, I do boxing on the side. This is my fifth year now that I've had Pugnacious Promotions.
How did you get bit by the boxing bug?
About six years ago I started fitness boxing to get back into shape. I loved it and I really became hooked on the workout. Then I began to meet local fighters that worked out at that gym. They told me that they hadn't been fighting for quite some time because there was nobody promoting shows in the area for years. They didn't want to go into other people's back yards and be “the opponent.” So I kind of got recruited to become the local boxing promoter. It was a collaboration between myself and local boxers, sponsors, businessmen in the community- all boxing enthusiasts and people who were already in the field of boxing. We all kind of came together to see if it could work. I had initially planned on doing one show. When I first started, I went to the commission and was only going to help with the show to raise money and then bring it to another promoter. At the time, the New York State Athletic Commission had convinced me to become a promoter myself. They said they would help take me through the process, which they did. I never in a million years thought that I would become a boxing promoter. If you would've asked me ten years ago what I would be doing ten years later, this is not something that would've occurred to me. Once I started doing it, I became hooked. Now there's no looking back.
How did you team up with Paul Brown, your partner in Pugnacious Promotions?
Paul Brown is my partner in putting together these shows. He's a trainer at the local boxing gym where I started fitness boxing six years ago. He had a background in boxing training as well as public relations. He worked for a public relations firm at the time. So with his knowledge of boxing and skill in public relations, we were able to put together a good team. Basically Pugnacious Promotions is Paul and I and we have a team of volunteers that work with us for each show. They help with the door, the gate, coordinating the event the night of the show. We couldn't do it without them. Also, the boxers help a great deal as well. They sell tickets, do television and radio spots to promote the show. Everything we do is grass roots. I go around myself and hang posters and meet with the ticket buyers. The boxers that we work with make it easier because they're so good at helping promote the shows and doing all the media things.
You mentioned that your initial intent was to raise money for that first show. You have a background in fund raising and event organizing as well, correct?
I put together some events. In my background, I had some experience with event planning so that definitely helped. I'm a true believer in collaboration between the community, the boxers and the promoter. It's a model that I've been following. It's been a successful model for me. I think it's one that is important to the sport of boxing. I think that when you don't have that, it's hard to sustain fights for very long. I'm now going on my fifteenth fight (show) and I would not have been able to continue doing this without the help of the sponsors and also a real loyal fan base that we've built up over the years.
You mentioned meeting some boxers who weren't getting any activity due to the lack of promoters. I would imagine Shannon Miller was one of them.
Shannon Miller was the first fighter that I had signed. I had a total of three fighters in my stable at one point. Now all of their contracts have expired, but Shannon was the first boxer that I signed. It was right after the ESPN televised Vinnie Maddalone fight. He's now going into the fifth year of fighting with me. He's a prime example of the type of fighter that I like to work with. His concern wasn't with building his record so that he could get onto HBO or Pay-Per-View, although that would've been nice if that happened. The reason fans keep coming to our shows is because of fighters like Shannon who are willing to go in there and take competitive fights and help promote the show. He has four losses, all competitive fights against very tough guys. He fought Vinnie Maddalone, Joe Mesi, Derric Rossy for the New York State heavyweight title, and Malachy Farrell. Each of those fights was a total war and he went in there and gave 100% of what he had. With each loss that he had, the fans gained more and more respect for him because of what he put into it when he went into the ring. And now with his brother Shawn, Shannon is kind of handing the baton over to his brother Shawn who is carrying on the family legacy. Shannon and local guys who have fought on my cards keep me going because the fans come out to see them and they know the fighters will give 100% when they get into the ring. All of the fighters on the July 31st show are pretty much local. They all have followings, friends and family who are coming to the shows. I think that's a very important component to the shows and something you don't see a whole lot of anymore in boxing - the real fan based template - and that's the model that myself and my team have been following.
Outside of New York City , there are really only a few small pockets of promoters who are bringing boxing to the fans outside of the city- Ron Resnick, Nick Garone, Bob Duffy, Sal Musumeci and yourself. The boxing fans in the rest of New York State are starved for fight action.
Yes, it's a very unique audience. Every time we have a show, I write a personal letter to each fan and tell them about the show that's coming up and we have a tremendous amount of repeat ticket buyers - all the same fans from the beginning and it keeps growing every year. They really look forward to it because they know that I'm going to do maybe between two and four shows a year. Despite the economy right now, we keep selling out. We sold out in March, and though the gates haven't opened yet, we're pretty much sold on this show next weekend. Once the walk-up crowd comes on Friday, we'll be sold out. That's because the fans really look forward to these shows. We haven't over saturated the market with too many of them. There aren't too many people promoting in this area. They know they'll see a good quality card with fighters that they love to cheer for and they're going to see a good night of boxing.
Talk a little but about being a woman promoter - a female in a predominantly man's world. Have you ever been mistaken for a round card girl!?
Thanks for the ring card girl comment- I take that as a huge compliment! (Laughing) No one has ever mistaken me for a ring card girl but I'm still hoping they do! As for being a woman in an industry filled with so much testosterone, and the only current female promoter in New York , I have no problem with that. I think my girly girl "touchy feely" manner helps disarm a lot of the "tough guys." We are able to get more accomplished because there is usually no clash of the egos involved. At first blush, a boxing person might think I was a "pushover" but I think after they work with me, they realize that it is not true and I try to earn their respect by working hard and treating them with respect. I don't think being a woman in a man's industry is ever a disadvantage. Ability is sexless.
What kind of reception into this game have you had from other promoters? I know you've worked with other promoters like Lou DiBella and Joe DeGuardia. What has the response been like?
(Laughing) Oh, that's a loaded question! It has been a good reception and a positive experience with Joe and Lou in terms of the level of fighter that they've brought in. I think we helped each other because I was able to put on the show, bring in the local fighters and coordinate the whole event and they were able to bring in high level, ESPN tv fighters. It was a great partnership. I really enjoyed working with them. While they are the only two promoters that I have worked with, I'd like to see more collaboration between the promoters. I'm really excited about the prospect of this promoters association that's recently been created.
Did you attend that meeting?
Actually, I did not. I didn't find out about it until the night before and because of my day job, I wasn't able to attend. I would like have to attended, but I spoke with promoters who did attend and I think they are optimistic about the prospect of this association. When I first started promoting, it was like the Wild West. It was everyman, or in my case, woman, for themselves. People were very short-sighted. I didn't see a whole lot of long term goals or people establishing long-term relationships. But now, I'm glad to see the boys playing nicely in the sandbox with each other. Maybe now there will be less stealing of tv dates and fighters, and more collaboration. I think it's very important for success in the industry. I think there is enough success to go around for everybody. I also think there needs to be more uniformity throughout the states with boxing and more organization. Hopefully the promoters association will help with that. Also, this association needs to be not just about putting more money in the promoters' pockets, or getting more PPV or tv dates. It has to be about how to improve and sustain the sport of boxing. It must be used for the betterment of boxing, the fighters and the fans.
I also hope that local promoters like myself, Resnick, Duffy, Nick Garone and others have our voices heard in this association. It shouldn't be about just the big guys getting tv dates but about how to make boxing a better industry for everyone.
Do you think that this organization can regulate itself, or do you feel that there is a need to have government involvement, overseeing boxing as a whole?
As I said before, I would like to see more organization in the sport, between promoters. I'm not so sure what can actually be enforced by just the promoters. I would like to see some sort of national association as John McCain had proposed. I think it is dangerous when there are opponents that go into certain states where there are less stringent regulations and standards like New York or Nevada , just to build another fighter's record. So I think a national organization would help with that in terms of really bringing up the standards to a national level so it wouldn't be different from state to state. There also needs to be more help for the boxers like retirement, insurance, things like that to bring up the credibility of the sport. This is one of the only major sports with no national commission. In some ways that's good because you can start out with nothing and make it all the way to the top, which is one of the things that is so endearing about it. On the other hand, fighters aren't protected in every state.
So at the five year point in your boxing promotion venture, nothing has yet made you want to pack up and say, “I'm outta here!”
I say that every show! “What an eye opener!” “This is my last fight!” I shouldn't say after. I say that during the planning of every show. Usually it's around this time, a week or two before the show when I say, “Why am I doing this?” “Why do I need this?” But then when the lights go on and the crowd starts roaring, that's when I know why I'm doing it. I look around and I see everybody enjoying themselves, the diversity in the room, the adrenalin rush. That gives me that extra push to do the next show. It's been five years and I didn't think I'd last this long, but every time I feel like I wanna get out, I get pulled right back in. It's because of the feeling that I get brining people together for this common cause of watching this beautiful sport, which at it's best, is an art and a science. The thing that is interesting here is that I think we brought in some non-traditional boxing fans that tried it out and now they're hooked.
Well Lisa, with less than a week to go, it's crunch time for you. Anything you'd like to say to the fight fans in the region or even outside the region that might be inclined to attend?
They're not gonna want to miss this show. We have as a headliner the New York State heavyweight title between Darrel Madison and Nagy Aguilera. They both have the same record, 13-1. Darrell is the champion. It's going to be a highly competitive, pick-em type of fight. It's a tv type of fight, even though it's not going to be televised. The other fights are also highly competitive. We have Mike Faragon, undefeated at 6-0, who was rated #1 in the country as an amateur. He's fighting a very tough Puerto Rican Alberto Amaro who is known for going to people's hometowns and upsetting them. Shannon Miller will be fighting a war with Terrell Nelson from New Jersey . Shannon is like Arturo Gatti, may he rest in peace, in that win, lose or draw, fans love him because he brings it all to the ring. We also have Brian Miller who is a corrections officer, has a huge following. He's fighting a guy named Manny Cotrich who he fought in the amateurs. And of course we have Shannon 's brother Shawn, a former two-sport all-American and former Arena Football player who is making his pro debut and people around here are very excited about that. We also have a female fighter named Jackie Trivilino from the Plattsburgh area who has kind of been adopted by the capital region. She always goes in there and fights a war as well. Her fight on my last show in March was the fight of the night. People could not believe what a warrior this woman was. It's going to be a great night of boxing. I promise people if they come out to see the show, they will not be disappointed!
“Night of Future Champions” is this Friday (July 31st) at the Saratoga Springs City Center in Saratoga , New York . Tickets are available at 518-527-0160 or email@example.com. Reserved tickets are $125 for Golden Ringside and $75 for Ringside. General Admission open seats are $40.
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