As president and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, Dan Beckerman has plenty of responsibilities.
What has become obvious this summer is that the man who runs Staples Center, StubHub Center and Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, among several international sports venues, should add another because he is positioned better than anyone else to stand as boxing’s much-needed middleman.
Between Aug. 5 and Oct. 14, AEG will stage five boxing cards featuring a slew of the world’s top boxers, all promoted by men who’ve had varying degrees of difficulty working together.
“Maybe in my next life I’ll be a matchmaker, but those guys make the fights,” Beckerman said of the promoters he has dealt with to stage these bouts: Top Rank’s Bob Arum; Golden Boy’s Oscar De La Hoya; Premier Boxing Champions-linked Richard Schaefer, Tom Brown and manager Al Haymon; K2’s Tom Loeffler; and even UFC President Dana White.
“I’m glad I have a great relationship with all of them, and I think it’s important that they know what they have in their back pocket with me. That enables me to have deeper conversations.”
Beckerman’s reach has helped bring five of boxing’s top 10 pound-for-pound fighters to the Southland and Las Vegas during this window, while also landing AEG’s richest live gate yet on Aug. 26, when Floyd Mayweather Jr. defeated UFC champion Conor McGregor by 10th-round technical knockout at T-Mobile Arena.
The run began Aug. 5 when Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko successfully defended his super-featherweight belt at AEG’s Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live.
That was followed by Mayweather-McGregor, which posted live-gate sales that Mayweather placed at $80 million, and four-division world champion Miguel Cotto’s 154-pound title victory before a sellout crowd at StubHub Center the same night.
More compelling fights are headed to StubHub on Saturday night, as former pound-for-pound No. 1 Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez of Nicaragua attempts to regain his World Boxing Council super-flyweight belt against Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai on an HBO-televised card that includes former champion Carlos Cuadras of Mexico and the U.S. debut of unbeaten Japanese super-flyweight champion Naoya Inoue.
Beckerman first placed boxing at StubHub’s “tennis” arena, which has become better known over the past decade as the “war grounds” after a continued run of fight-of-the-year bouts, including Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez I and III, Timothy Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov and Lucas Matthysse-John Molina Jr.
Right after AEG opened Staples Center, it landed De La Hoya-Shane Mosley I, which was attended by Muhammad Ali, in 2000, giving then-chief financial officer Beckerman the title of “Dr. Dan” for his boxing expertise and enthusiasm that dates to him being hooked by Sugar Ray Leonard’s 1980 loss to Roberto Duran.
“We tried to establish” an interest in boxing “early on and then aggressively pursued fights for [StubHub],” Beckerman said. “We started having great matches there, the audience grew and it became established as a boxing destination, a place that always has great fights — its own reputation, but we really had to feed it.”
Opening T-Mobile Arena in partnership with MGM Resorts last year allowed AEG to maximize its fight-game business. Not only did the arena enter into an exclusive agreement with the UFC, it landed both Mayweather-McGregor and the Sept. 16 Canelo-Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin middleweight title fight.
“We’re bullish on boxing and UFC," Beckerman said. "We see it in our venues all over the world, how both are performing extremely well, and now we’re seeing it in this perfect storm in this part of the country.”
While the promoters need venues for their bouts, Beckerman’s attention to the best interest of the sport while negotiating fight dates makes his influence intriguing.
For instance, when there was personal and financial hesitation to make a Leo Santa Cruz-Abner Mares featherweight-title rematch that was being eyed for Oct. 7 at Staples Center, where they fought in 2015, their revised doubleheader against lesser foes was demoted, so to speak, to StubHub Center on Oct. 14.
“I’m committed to boxing, I care about the sport and we have a lot of venues,” Beckerman said. “So it’s not like I’m talking to them from one angle. If one venue doesn’t work, they don’t have to hang up on me and call someone else.”
Those talks with promoters are not just about site fees. Beckerman wants to stage a Staples Center fight for Southland-based lightweight champion Mikey Garcia, perhaps against Lomachenko, even though Garcia and Arum endured a bitter split.
He wants Santa Cruz and Mares to square off that at Staples Center too. The winner should fight Arum’s Southland-trained featherweight champion, Oscar Valdez, even though Arum and Al Haymon have a tough time doing business.
“As venue operators, we are open for business to every promoter,” Beckerman said. “I tell them we are hungry for content. And I do know what fights will sell.”
The proof is this impressive stretch.
“These 10 weeks are like Christmas morning for boxing fans,” Beckerman said. “If you have any interest in boxing and you’re in this part of the country, this is your feast. We know this is where the fans come from. There’s a great tradition and history of boxing here in the southwest, and we want to keep it going.”