By Boxing Bob Newman
This Friday, January 30th, professional boxing will return to St. Thomas, USVI for the first time in over five years. Billed as “The Class of 2008,” the vent will feature two of St. Thomas’ native sons in Julius and John Jackson, sons of former three-time world champion Julian “The Hawk” Jackson. In conjunction with Seminole Warriors Boxing, 340 Promotions will present up the card of amateur and pro bouts. 340 Promotions CEO Lesley Comissiong, is a graduate of Syracuse University’s Utica College and has been a special assistant to USVI Governor John deJongh Jr. Fightnews spoke with Comissiong about this upcoming historic event. Here’s what she had to say.
Tell us about how you met up with Sampson Lewkowicz and formed 340 Promotions.
Well, Julian Jackson and Tony Rosario are individuals who I met while working for the governor here.
Actually, I’ve known Tony all my life. He’s actually a life long friend. They came to me while I was working for the office of the governor for assistance for our Virgin Islands amateur boxing program. They needed help for the program and I committed to working with them. I had been working and volunteering with the amateur boxing program and they knew all along that I had a promotional company. About October of last year they came to me and said “Look, we have the opportunity to do some pro fights down here. We’re looking for Julian’s sons to turn pro.” I know that Golden Boy and Top Rank Boxing had already expressed interest in them, but Julian had met Sampson and decided that the best thing to do would be to form their own kind of guide his sons career from the Virgin Islands instead of signing them with a big company. They came to me, asked if they could use my promotional company, 340 Promotions, introduced me to Sampson, and I took him on as a partner. I like the way he does business. Just dealing with Sampson altogether, he seemed to have the know how to go about doing this, so we collaborated and here we are a couple of months later.
So, 340 Promotions was pre-existing? What sort of events had you been promoting prior to this boxing venture?
Basically we had been doing concerts.
With local sons Julian Jackson and Emile Griffith before him as multiple world champions from St. Thomas, it seems long overdue to get steady boxing back on the USVI.
Absolutely. Strangely enough, in Julian’s professional career, he only had the opportunity to fight professionally in the Virgin Islands once. It was the same thing with Emile Griffith. We wanted to make things different. We have a couple professional athletes from the VI, but so many of us haven’t had the opportunity to see them locally, whether it’s Tim Duncan in basketball, Raja Bell in professional basketball, Midre Cummings in professional baseball. Because we’re here, many of us don’t get to go stateside and see our local athletes perform. This is a very unique opportunity for the Virgin Islands, a chance for us to showcase the territory at it’s best.
I understand Julian Jackson’s nephew Samuel Rogers of the USVI as well as Evan Nedd from Aruba will be showcased as well. Julian told Fightnews he would like to see these fighters showcased in events throughout the Caribbean. Are you on board with that thinking?
Absolutely. Evan Nedd signed with us. He’s our first international boxer and Jackson has some other boxers he’d like to sign with us, so we’d like to spread it out as much as possible. We’re possibly going to have some boxers from Mexico and other parts of the world as well. So I’m truly on board with that.
What can you tell us about the venue where the show will take place?
It’s going to be at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center. The university has been home to professional boxing in the past. It’s hosted Division I NCAA basketball. It is the premiere sports venue on the island.
After seeing both Julius and John Jackson competing for the USVI in Beijing this past Fall and finding out that their pro debuts would be at home in St. Thomas, it cause me to recollect meeting with their dad Julian exactly four years while I was working in St. Thomas, and him expressing his dream to get boxing happening on a regular basis back there, and now it’s come to fruition…
Yeah this has kind of been the perfect storm- a situation that has all come together. We work together well as a team and are very concerned how these athletes progress in their professional careers. So we’re very much looking forward to doing this.
Now this event also coincides with the re-emergence of the the USVI boxing commission…
It’s a boxing and wrestling commission that is by law on the books. The commission has been dormant for a few years since there’s been no professional boxing in St. Thomas or the Virgin Islands, but they are coming together to do all the approvals for these matches and sanction the matches. There are a couple of vacancies on the commission but the Governor will be working to fill those vacancies in the next couple of months. Right now they have enough for a quorum which is most important and that quorum will be coming together to approve all of the matches.
How are things going with the sponsors? I know there had been some fallout. Are things coming together with that now?
Yes, in fact we picked up two checks today and we have Coors Light on board along with Southland Gaming, so the sponsorship has been coming together.
There seems to be extensive television coverage of this first show, and your plans are for a show the last Friday of every month. Will there be similar t.v. deals for the subsequent shows, or will be a show-by-show basis?
It’s going to be on a show-by-show basis. We have TV2 doing some coverage, but we also have WTJX, a local PBS station that will be taping for their usage as well. We also have commitments from television stations in Argentina, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic to rebroadcast these bouts. So that should bring a ton of exposure to the territory.
Lesley, it’s been a pleasure getting updated and Fightnews looks forward to covering this groundbreaking event. Thank you for your time!
You’re welcome! We look forward to seeing you!