When Ken Thompson died earlier this year, the Southern California boxing scene lost one of its beacons. Thompson Boxing Promotions played a vital role in developing SoCal boxing talent over the past 23 years. In addition to cultivating world champions (Tim Bradley and Danny Roman) and contenders (Josesito Lopez, Mauricio Herrera and Juan Carlos Burgos), the company put together one of the best club boxing programs in the United States, utilizing its Inland Empire base of Riverside and San Bernadino Counties to build a consistent following that nurtured fighters and boxing fans in the region.
A central figure of Thompson Boxing was Alex Camponovo, who was its general manager and matchmaker. Camponovo regarded Ken Thompson as father figure, a man who taught him multitudes about business and how treat people with respect.
"His legacy is that he always trusted in people," said Camponovo. "He surrounded himself with positive people. He was an ultra-positive guy. He always found a silver lining in everything."
Thompson left a sterling legacy in the sport: giving fighters a chance, believing in a high-quality product, and willing to take risks to grow. And out of this reservoir of respect for his mentor and business partner, Camponovo understood that the brand of Thompson Boxing would end with the passing of its founder.
In evaluating his next steps in the sport, Camponovo wanted to build on his experiences with Thompson Boxing while exploring new possibilities for broadcast and distribution. Despite having a successful club boxing program, Thompson Boxing lacked consistent TV distribution for its product. In addition, because of their size, once they had discovered and nurtured fighters who could compete on the world-level, they often lost them to larger promotional companies.
|Image courtesy of CBN Promotions|
For his next boxing venture, Camponovo wanted to change the dynamics of his involvement in the sport. The result of his efforts is CBN Sports and Entertainment, Inc. (also known as CBN Promotions), where he has enjoined with new partners to create what he believes will be a larger platform in the Southern California (and global) boxing market. Home base will now be closer to the greater L.A. area, at Infinite Reality Studios (formerly Thunder Studios) in Long Beach, Orange County.
Their first show will be this Saturday and will feature Rigoberto Hermosillo (13-4) of Los Angeles against Alexis De Luna (10-1) of Bakersfield. Camponovo loves the matchup and believes that it will play great on TV. Oh wait...have I gotten ahead of myself?
CBN has already secured three television networks to broadcast its fight cards: Fox Espanol, Estrella TV and beIN Sports En Espanol (the latter two will broadcast fights on tape delay). Each broadcast will provide three to four hours of boxing. The series, unlike most Thompson Boxing cards, will take place on Saturdays.
"The new partnership that has been created," said Camponovo, "will bring not only knowledge on the boxing side, some of the fighters that we've featured before and new ones, but also the production, television and distribution that perhaps we were lacking with Thompson Boxing."
A key wrinkle of CBN's business strategy is the control of Infinite Reality Studios. One of the founding partners of CBN is Rolando Nichols, who is the president and general manager of the venue. As a result, CBN will have control of the presentation of its product and will not be at the mercy of an external venue. The control of the venue will allow them to create an optimal boxing experience for fans, broadcasters and sponsors. With a fixed venue, they will also be able to set their boxing calendar well in advance, providing the continuity needed to grow their business.
The Thompson family has graciously supported the new venture and has allowed CBN access to its existing social media networks and other infrastructure assets. CBN's series is branded "New Blood" with "The Tradition Continues" right underneath in its marketing, a mission statement about combining the old and new.
CBN could have waited longer to get more of its ducks in a row before going forward with its first live card (the company is still shopping for English-language broadcast distribution); however, Camponovo wanted to capitalize on the momentum from Thompson Boxing. He has relationships with scores of boxers in the Southern California market and he knows that many of them need to fight.
As of this publication, CBN has not signed any boxers to long-term contracts, but Camponovo and his partners, who also include Andrew Bocanegra and Jessie Sanchez (who have previous experience in managing fighters), will be looking for longer-term deals with the right fighters. Saturday's card will feature several fighters who had previously appeared on Thompson Boxing shows. Camponovo is particularly enthusiastic about 8-0 middleweight Nelson Oliva and 6-0 welterweight Juan Sanchez. Both reside in the greater L.A. area and have crowd-pleasing styles.
Camponovo knows that the Southern California boxing and entertainment market is competitive. There are lots of choices on a Saturday night and if the fights aren't good, the fans will stay away. Part of CBN's mission will be to develop future top-level fighters while providing quality entertainment for fans, broadcasters, sponsors and potential future partners.
As Camponovo sees it, if CBN has a successful first 12 months, they will promote fighters who will be ranked in the top-15 in the world in their division. The company will also be able to expand their distribution to different countries and languages.
Although these may be lofty goals for an upstart promoter, don't be quick to dismiss Camponovo. He wants to compete. He has a keen eye for talent. And now he believes that he has the infrastructure in place to be a factor well beyond a couple of counties in California. He's shooting for the upper reaches of the sport. And he's ready to go.