Grandma’s Sports Garden has been home to some pretty large special events – local sensation Trampled by Turtles; cover band spectacular Hairball; country rock star Jon Pardi; and many more over the past 25 years. So it was no surprise when local promoter, Chuck Horton, knocked on my door one cold morning seven years ago with an entertainment idea that he said “would” rival any of our big events.” And he could “bring it” multiple times during the year! With a bold approach like that, I was all ears. Chuck was in the entertainment business, but his company had a much different mission with which I was used to working. He had a boxing gym; and a purpose for channeling raw, youthful athleticism and sometimes misdirected energy into the timeless art and sweet science of boxing. He had built a solid following for boxing across the bridge in Superior, Wisconsin, and he wanted to bring that momentum and revenue stream into his hometown. Chuck understood that the venue had to make money for this to work, but he also wanted to make sure that Horton’s Gym could also sustain its expenses with such a large amount of work and investment. He understood the similarities between pro boxing events and rock concerts are incredible! 

Al Sands

Chuck Horton and the Garden have been partners for over 5 years and have brought prominent fighters to the venue such as Al Sands (pictured above)

Plan your show. Just like any entertainment event, boxing draws its own impassioned audience and fan base. The events success is determined by how well known and how talented the main events are. The main fights at a Pro-Am boxing event are the big draw. This requires much thought, negotiations and financial commitment. After all, you are hiring high priced “star power” on most occasions.  And just like a rock concert, in boxing there is oftentimes good local talent to put on the card before the main event. Such is the case in Pro-Am boxing. Once the headliners are determined, the amateur card is filled with local up-and-comers that draw their own, very specific local audience of family and friends. This allows amateurs the needed experience of focused performance in a large audience theater.

Clever advertising. Just like a rock concert, not only are dramatic photos, artwork and a catchy title strategically laid out to create excitement for the event, but different investments in advertising are needed to get the word out. There’s social media, radio, print advertising, press releases, electronic media and press conferences that all need attention, scheduling and financial commitment well before the main event. All this is needed to create buzz, interest and to compete with the many entertainment options out there to the general public! 

Setting the stage. While concerts have stages, sound and light requirements, the boxing events are equally, if not more elaborate on set up day. Clearing the room to bring in the 22’ x 22’ ring and construct it as the central point of the event is critical. It is truly a “center stage” for entertaining 360 degrees. Having plenty of hot white lights illuminating the competitors from all sides is also paramount to a good show. Sound has to also be tested and perfected for the music, the introductions, and ring announcements. And equally as important as back stage and sound board arrangements are to a rock concert, the table arrangements for the boxing judges, the referees, and the medical staff that need to oversee everything is a top priority. Then, of course, customer seating needs to be optimized to take care of sponsors, VIPs, and the general public at large.

Al Sands began his career at the Garden.

Al Sands began his career at the Garden.

Performers need their own space. Just like entertainers need their dressing rooms and all the contractual riders that go with them, the boxers need their space and accoutrements as well. Private rooms are set up for the boxers to dress, hydrate, and psyche up. It’s in these “dressing rooms” that each fighter gets taped up and given last minute coaching before the walk to the ring, complete with their custom music blaring during their intro.

The day of the big show. Now we’re ready to open the front door to the anticipating and adoring public. Programs have been printed, the staff is in place, security has been lined up, and if you’ve done everything right, the fans roll in. Room design and layout must include the ability to service the customers’ food and beverage offerings, which is the “life blood” of the venue. Now it’s up to the performers to give the audience what they came for… a great show. 

Grandma’s Sports Garden and Horton’s Gym began a successful 5-year relationship with events evolving from Golden Gloves to Pro Amateur shows to strictly Pro events. The evolution continues as Chuck Horton handed over the reins to one of his former Pro boxers, Zach “Jungle Boy” Walters, a highly recognized professional and equally driven promoter.

Jungle Boy Boxing continues to offer a high quality experience no different than any other entertainment options similar to many others at Grandma’s Sports Garden. And with the win-win partnership that remains intact with both venue and promoter, we look forward to many more years of evolution and success.

Author: Brian Daugherty