Friday, February 21, 2014

Q&A with Artie Pelullo on Boxcino

Boxcino 2014 starts Friday, February 21st on ESPN's "Friday Night Fights" and ESPN Desportes "Noche de Combates." Boxcino  2014 features two, eight-fighter, single-elimination tournaments (one each in lightweight and middleweight) and is the brainchild of Artie Pelullo, the President of Banner Promotions. The lightweight tournament starts this week and next Friday the middleweight portion of Boxcino 2014 begins. The first round of each tournament features six-round fights, the semifinals bouts will move up to eight rounds and the finals will be ten-round contests. For information about the fighters and the fight dates, click here for the official release.  
I spoke with Pelullo today about Boxcino 2014 and he also provided some information about what's next for 140-lb. champ Ruslan Provodnikov.  
What was the genesis of the Boxcino Tournament?
First of all, the original Boxcino tournament was in 1997 and that’s where we found Acelino “Popo” Freitas and J.C. Candelo. For many years, I’ve been trying to do it again. When Brian Kweder took over at ESPN, I went to go see him. I said, “Why don’t we think out-of-the-box? Why don’t we put on a tournament? Why don’t we create some ‘wow’ for our sport besides just Friday Night Fights?”
I proceeded to tell him about Boxcino and what we did with it. He liked the idea. And essentially, since he took over from [Doug] Loughrey, he went out on a limb. We’re doing the tournament and we’re hoping to find some future stars, giving a lot of young kids that weren’t on HBO or Showtime or ESPN an opportunity on television to rise and grow to the next level in a big way.
What should fight fans expect from the tournament?
I’m hoping that fight fans see this tournament as what we think it’s going to be: an opportunity to watch the fighters grow. It’s a single-elimination tournament. I want them to have a rooting interest in who wins each fight and how they [the fighters] go down the road with their careers. And I think that boxing fans – and fans of other sports – love tournaments. They love to see a guy progress and achieve…and the heartache of somebody losing after a great fight. I think it’s really good stuff. I hope what happens is that fans will get an opportunity to see how these kids develop.
What was the process like for finding and signing these 16 fighters for these two tournaments?
It was hard. We went all over looking for fighters. We came up with these divisions – middleweight and lightweight – and then we proceeded with Eric Bottjer, our matchmaker, and our team to go forward and find out what exactly was going to happen, where we were going to go with this and see what fighters would put their hands up.
How did you arrive at the middleweight and lightweight divisions?
We came to that conclusion with ESPN. We wanted to find a rich division so it would make it easier to find the fighters. Lightweight and middleweight are deep divisions because there are a lot of fighters who could easily move up from 130 to 135 or 154 to 160. So it worked out pretty well.
Is there a particular fighter or two whom you are really looking forward to seeing?
I’m looking forward to seeing all of them. We were looking to find the best eight guys we could find at lightweight and middleweight to put in the tournaments to see if we could find a future star.
What was the input from ESPN regarding the tournament? How hands-on have they been? How would you describe that relationship?
The relationship has been great. Brian Kweder and John Campagna [Director of Program Acquisitions] have been very workable. They’ve been very flexible. Whatever problem came up, we sat on the phone and worked it out together. We came up with all of the aspects of the rules together. It’s a very good relationship.
And while I have you on the phone, what can you tell us about what's next for Ruslan Provodnikov?
Ruslan Provodnikov will be defending his WBO junior welterweight world title I hope some time in June. Tentatively, it’s looking like June 14th on HBO.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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