Veteran promoter/matchmaker Don Elbaum and financial backer Greg Sorrentino, today during a press conference held at historic Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, officially announced the creation of The $500,000 Great America Heavyweight Box-Off (TGAHBO). The tournament, planned as an annual event, is scheduled to launch in April at a site to soon be determined.
Introduced as participants were 2004 U.S. Olympians Jason “Big Six” Estrada (20-4, 6 KOs), of Providence (RI), and Devan Vargas (18-2, 7 KOs), of Toledo (OH), Tennessee (Chattanooga) knockout-artist Alonzo “Big Zo” Butler (28-2-1, 21 KOs), Minnesota (Coon Rapids) heavy-hitter Joey “Minnesota Ice” Abell (28-6, 27 KOs), former USBA cruiserweight champion Emmanuel Nwodo (24-5, 20 KOs), fighting out of Baltimore (Maryland), and a 22-year-old sleeper from West Virginia (Clarksburg), “The Mountain” Daniel Martz (7-0, 6 KOs). Talks are ongoing to finalize the remaining two challengers, plus one reserve, in case of injuries.
The purse structure will be $25,000 to the winners and $15,000 to the losers in the quarterfinals, $50,000 and $25,000, respectively, in the semifinals, leading up to the championship final in which the champion will earn $250,000 with $50,000 going to the runner-up.
“The history of boxing is the heavyweight division and America is a big part of it,” Elbaum said. “We weren’t looking for ex-champions or highly-rated fighters. Not one of the fighters here is. I’ll be the matchmaker; I’m picking the fights, no requests. I had this idea seven or eight months ago. Four months ago, I had discussions with some people and one person, Greg Sorrentino, said he’d back me because he believes we need this in the sport. He’s a former professional heavyweight and now a very successful businessman.”
“I’ve been involved in various aspects of boxing, never on the promotional end before, but I’m excited,” Sorrentino explained. “This is the greatest country in the world and we’re going to help get an American heavyweight champion to rule the roost again.”
Elbaum said he has had discussions with several possible venues, including some casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, Turning Stone and Madison Square Garden, and that he’s close to making a television deal. He also noted that 12 other heavyweights are in the running for the remaining two spots in the field, plus one reserve fighter, and $25,000 of the TGAHBO champion’s purse will be donated to the winner’s charity of choice.
Also attending the press conference was Las Vegas legend Bill Krachenberger, who will set tournament odds on the individual fighters, as well as for all TGAHBO fights, to be offered at several Nevada sports books.
The fighter demonstrating the most “heart” in tournament fights, excluding the TGAHBO champion, will be awarded the Gennaro Pellegrini Jr. Award. Pellegrini, a member of the U.S. Army National Guard, had a dream to fight at the famed Blue Horizon before being shipped out to Iraq for duty. Elbaum made that happen in 2004 but seven months later Pellegrini was killed in action.
Fighter Press Conference Quotes…
Joey Abell: “I want to thank everyone for getting me involved in this tournament with world-class athletes. I plan to win the tournament by putting everything into it.”
Alonzo Butler: “I’ve been given a great opportunity to be in this heavyweight tournament. I’m ready to get it on and then bring the world heavyweight championship back to the United States.”
Emmanuel Nwodo: “I’m so glad I’m in the tournament and can’t wait. This is something new in the heavyweight division. It’s awesome! We’ll all show our best. This is an opportunity to prove ourselves and I’m proud to be part of it.”
Jason Estrada: “I appreciate being in this tournament. Good luck to everybody else….but not as much as me. I’m working hard in training and I expect the winner to be me.”
Devan Vargas: “I’m very excited about this tournament. These fighters will be out to prove themselves, unlike the top heavyweights who won’t fight us and are protected by their promoters. One of us will be the next heavyweight champion.”
Daniel Martz: “I don’t have as much experience as these other guys. They have a lot more fights than me, but this is a great opportunity to prove that I belong here.”