Thursday, October 1, 2015

Q&A: Russell Peltz

When considering Philadelphia boxing institutions over the last four decades, promoter Russell Peltz belongs on a short list with Joe Frazier, Bernard Hopkins, Rocky and the Blue Horizon. Peltz has served as the backbone of the local fight scene since 1969. Over the years, he has been Director of Boxing for The Spectrum, the head matchmaker for the Blue Horizon and the promoter of numerous world champions, including Jeff Chandler, Marvin Johnson, Charles Williams, Gary Hinton, Charles Brewer and Kassim Ouma. Perhaps he is most associated with the golden era of Philadelphia middleweights, which included "Bad" Bennie Briscoe, Eugene "Cyclone" Hart, Willie "The Worm" Monroe and Bobby "Boogaloo" Watts. Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the World Boxing Hall of Fame the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame and the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame, Peltz continues to persevere in the sport despite many trends that have harmed boxing both locally and nationally.

At heart, Peltz believes in the importance of good matchmaking, respecting fans with a quality product. To him, boxers shouldn't be afraid to fight tough opponents. If the fight is good, then both combatants stand to gain fan support and additional opportunities. Although Peltz bemoans many of the developments in U.S. boxing, from poor fighter development to various promoters' indifference to selling tickets to over-inflated purses, the good fight still excites Peltz; that's what he's after. That's what keeps him going.

On Friday, Peltz launches the Puerto Rican Boxing Classic (PRBC) at the 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia. The seven-fight card is headlined by Jason Sosa (17-1-3), an emerging junior lightweight from nearby Camden, N.J. who knocked out former world title challenger Jerry Belmontes in his last fight (the card is available on, 7 p.m. EST). The PRBC reflects the changing demographics of Philadelphia's fight scene. Over the last few years, Peltz has signed several Hispanic fighters and more than a few of them have cultivated significant fan bases around the region. He hopes that this event will showcase some of the emerging talent in Philadelphia and become an annual tradition.

Earlier this week, I sat down with Peltz for a wide-ranging interview in his Philadelphia office. The Q&A below covers the Puerto Rican Boxing Classic, the current Philly fight scene and how to improve local boxing.

(This interview has been edited and condensed.)

What is the genesis of the Puerto Rican Boxing Classic?

Michelle Rosado [Business Development and Marketing for Peltz Boxing]. It was all her idea and it was a good idea. We’re getting a lot of press and people seem to be excited. We’ve got a lot of Hispanic fighters in the area. Hopefully the fights are good. 

Has it been challenging getting sponsors to the event? What has the corporate support been like for local shows? 

It’s tough. We have Parx Casino in for four shows. Michelle has come up with Coors and Don Q Rum, which is a popular Puerto Rican rum. Cricket Wireless.  She’s got a lot of contacts so this is what she does. She’s done very well.

I noticed that the headliner, junior lightweight Jason Sosa, just signed a co-promotional agreement with Top Rank and that you will be co-promoting him. Tell me a little bit about what you’ve seen from Sosa and what about him excites you? 

He can punch. Anybody who can punch excites people. I know it’s the manly art of self-defense and I appreciate Pernell Whitaker as much as the next guy but I wouldn’t want to go to a show and see seven Pernell Whitaker fights. But I could go to a show and see seven Mike Tyson fights or seven Jason Sosa fights. He’s young and he’s a good kid. Religious, God-fearing, a good family. He tells me not to worry. He tells me, “Russell, I was born for this.”  

If Sosa comes out of this weekend’s fight OK, what are some of the immediate plans for him? 

December 11th in San Juan is written in pencil. That would be his next fight, probably off television, and then we start moving up next year.  

What can you tell me about lightweight Victor Vasquez, who fights in the co-featured bout? 

The Fighting Barber. He’s probably the most popular Puerto Rican fighter we’ve had in the city – including Danny Garcia – in years, especially for someone at his level. He brings a big crowd. He’s liked. He’s very well-known. He has a fan-friendly style. Is he going to become a contender or win a world title? I don’t know. But he gives you his money’s worth and you can’t ask for anything more than that.
You’ve been promoting in the Philadelphia market for decades and the city has gone through numerous demographic changes in that time. Who are Philadelphia boxing fans these days? 

There’s a small core of old-liners, those who haven’t passed on. It’s been tough getting young people involved with boxing because of the sport’s decline over the years. Whether or not the UFC and MMA have anything to do with it I don’t know, but they do attract a younger crowd. 

It seems in recent years that a lot of the shows are made up of fans of a certain fighter. They come to see that certain fighter. Unless you get a real fight that clicks, like [Joey] Dawejko and [Amir] Mansour back in May, even though the fight was a disappointment, the attraction wasn’t. Unless you can get a fight like that, it’s going to be a struggle. Like if Teon Kennedy were still fighting and he fought Sosa, that would be a big fight. Sosa against X? We’ll see Friday night.

How have ticket sales been for the event? 

Fair. Better than fair. I think it will pick up. The whole city has been buried under the Pope in the past week. It will pick up.

How would you classify the Philly boxing scene today? 

Sad.  I mean there are some talented fighters but how do you know because they’re not fighting anyone? Nobody wants to fight a competitive fight until they can make a lot of money. They all want easy fights. A guy called me up and said can you get me six wins in a row [laughs]. I said do you think Bennie Briscoe ever called me up and said get me six wins in a row. Or Jeff Chandler. The fighters talk like managers and that’s why the business is hurting because there’s no reason to go to these local shows. There’s nothing compelling about them. It’s just the case of one promoter trying to get his fighter wins at the expense of the paying public. That’s why people are giving tickets away like crazy.  

Besides Sosa, who are some guys in the region that you are excited about? 

Julian Williams is a good fighter. DeCarlo Perez just scored a nice win in Vegas. He’s young. He’s only 24. [Ismael] “Tito” Garcia, a junior middleweight from Vineland, New Jersey, he has a lot of talent. I like Dawejko. I just couldn’t see eye-to-eye with management so we’re not together but Joey Dawejko knows how to fight. People get blinded by his body type. Will he win the title when the champ is 6’7? I don’t know but there are a lot of guys out there that he could fight, certainly guys like Dominic Breazeale and Fred Kassi. He could beat them. What happened against Mansour? I have no idea? 

He had some good early rounds.  

Both of them were terrible. That was such a disappointment. That was such a big fight. I was so pumped and it turned out to be such a disappointment. For so much at stake on ESPN – I mean it was my first show on ESPN in seven years [Peltz once was the head matchmaker for ESPN's boxing programming] – not that it would have mattered because they were rolling over at that point to Haymon. But for them to perform like that… 

I remember that night I went over to Brian Kweder [he was ESPN’s executive in charge of boxing] and I said you could go to all those bleeping casinos you want but you’ll never get this kind of atmosphere, and he agreed. What a disappointment that was! But listen, Joey came back and if Mansour comes back to beat Gerald Washington next month – 
He’s live in that fight. 

Yes, he could win that fight. We’ll see what happens.
What will it take for big fights to come back to Philadelphia? 

If you put Danny Garcia in with Manny Pacquiao – but when you’ve got casinos paying big money – and I don’t know how big Danny Garcia is right now in Philly. He never fights here. He had a couple of early career fights in Philly. But you’ve got casinos competing against that for dollars. The Barclays, they’re not even a casino but they’re paying enough money that that’s where Danny Garcia fights. 

Philly is only going to make it as a boxing town if Philly guys fight Philly guys. I mean there might be an occasional transplanted Philadelphian like Marvin Johnson or [Billy] “Dynamite” Douglas. Or a big name like Emile Griffith or when Roberto Duran fought here for us. The recipe for success in Philly has always been Philly against Philly. For these “so-called” managers of today, they don’t get it.  

Dawejko fought Mansour, now that’s basically an all-Philly fight, but who got knocked off? Dawejko lost and then scored a smashing knockout on ShoBox. So if anything, he’s bigger now than he was before he fought Mansour. The same thing happened a couple of years earlier with Derek Ennis and Gabriel Rosado. Rosado lost the fight but he became a big star. That’s the formula. 

As long as you have promoters who are willing to cater to these guys and get them win after win after win…when I go to make a fight like [I talked about], even at the six-round level, and a guy says, “Why should I do this Russell? I could get a fight on Joe Blow’s card and fight an easy guy and get a win. Why should I fight a tough fight?” 

You’re promoting at the 2300 Arena now. What do you like or not like about that atmosphere? Do you enjoy promoting there?  

It’s off the beaten track although in 10 years from now it’s probably going to be the hot spot in the city with the river development. I mean there’s no real public transportation like there was at the Blue Horizon or the Arena or the Spectrum. It’s a little small. They’ve been talking about building a balcony but they’ve been talking about that for years. It’s a work in progress because they’re struggling to make ends meet.  

It’s a coming place but it’s never going to replace the Blue Horizon, unless or until they get a balcony in there to get more seating. Because, to sit on the flat, it’s not the same. If you had three rows of risers in the back, it would be better.  

Listen, Jimmy Toppi, who owned the Blue Horizon when I got into the business, said, “People will go up a blind alley to watch a fight if it’s a fight they want to see.” If they want to see it, they’ll figure out how to get there. 

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter, SN Boxing on Facebook
Contact Adam at

No comments:

Post a Comment