BROOKLYN, N.Y. – It juts out from the adjacent highway, and you can see the neon lights radiating from a distance – Barclays Center.
This state-of-the-art arena is light years from the smoke-filled venues that housed blood-stained canvases sprinkled throughout New York City in the 1940s and ’50s.
Brooklyn’s Barclays Center arrives in an ever-changing borough, from the grittiness of where it once was a half century ago to the polish and shine it has now. But what can this new arena provide for boxing?
If it’s up to Barclays-Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark, boxing will play a very important role in filling the venue, starting with this Saturday’s Showtime Championship Boxing show featuring Danny Garcia-Erik Morales II, along with a handful of Brooklyn-based fighters, including WBA welterweight titleholder Paul Malignaggi, Daniel Jacobs and Peter Quillin.
“I really can’t wait,” said Malignaggi. “I’ve been fighting and living in this area my whole life and now people who knew me coming up, and neighbors and friends that have watched my career don’t have to go halfway around the world to see me fight live. For me, this is fantastic.”
Neither can Yormark and Golden Boy Promotions, who have ironed out a deal to put on regular fight cards at Barclays.
“We went to Richard [Schaefer, Golden Boy CEO], through some mutual friends of mine, about three years ago about getting some shows,” Yormark said. “We had a strong desire to bring back boxing to Brooklyn.
“Boxing was something we certainly wanted to be a part of it when we opened up Barclays Center. After a quick meeting with Richard, we realized we wanted to be partners. It’s something we’ve obviously spoke about for the better part of three years, and Saturday marks the first of what we think will be many great moments when it comes to boxing in Brooklyn.”
Yormark said his group and Golden Boy would be meeting this weekend to discuss further fights at Barclays. He also acknowledged that Barclays would like to host one more show before the year ends.
“The goal is we would like to make boxing monthly here,” Yormark said. “We realize we’re not going to be doing the biggest fights every month, but we want to make Barclays Center a destination for boxing fans.
“We got the Golden Gloves moved from Madison Square Garden to Barclays Center. We want to make a serious commitment to boxing, and want to work with Golden Boy as much as we can. What’s important for us is the quality of the shows. That’s the most important goal. We want to put on as much boxing as we can this year, so it’s fair to say there is a possibility we’ll have another show on at the end of the year.”
Oscar De La Hoya was excited in announcing the Garcia-Morales fight back in August. The president of Golden Boy Promotions spoke about some grand plans for the venue, which he concurred with Yormark about.
“Being associated with a place like Barclays, and any place that’s going to give young fighters a chance to show what they can do, is good for boxing,” De La Hoya said. “Our big picture is to make Barclays the go-to place to watch a fight, like the Olympic Auditorium used to be in Los Angeles. I remember going there as a kid with my father to watch fights.
“The other thing is Brooklyn has such a rich boxing history. We have some great fighters on this show, but [Mike] Tyson, [Mark] Breland, [Riddick] Bowe, they all came from Brooklyn.”
Yormark said plans with Golden Boy are still in the works. Much will be accomplished and spoken about this weekend. Yormark also said he’d be open to reach out to someone like Tyson (to be a representative for the venue), someone with crossover appeal, who has defined boxing in Brooklyn.
The amenities are sterling. The venue is easily accessible with subway lines running right underneath the building. The architecture makes a bold statement, with lettered steel, and the bowl is intimate, though it’s a basketball venue. The Barclays people got a good dose of the fine acoustics after the recent Barbra Streisand and Jay-Z concerts.
The luxury suites are open-air and about 12 rows off the main floor. The 1,900 part-time employees that work at Barclays are Disney-trained customer service pros, Yormark said.
“We’re only getting started,” Yormark said. “We have a lot of work to do. The grand goal is to have monthly shows, and our timetable is 2013, we want to move right now.
“But I do have to say we don’t want to compromise the quality of our programming. We have a strong Brooklyn boxing contingent and we’re holding a fight here for the first time, where we’re expecting over 10,000 people. We have four championship fights. It has the makings of a great night. We feel we nailed it.”
Photo / Barclays Center