Hip Hop is a culture that has transcended the regional borders of the urban New York landscape, penetrating all aspects of global life. Adherents to the culture come in all races, and its elements are felt throughout all forms of entertainment.
Sports entertainment is no exception as professional athletes and franchises have exhibited substantial success from the music-based genre.
Boxing, however, has had a mixed reaction when melded with hip-hop.
Now I’m not talking about your average fighter walkout with rapper accompaniment collaboration; I’m addressing the new influx of rappers turned promoters who want in on the sweet science.
From an early Dame Dash partnering with Lou DiBella for a few small fights, hip hop has tried to break into the boxing business. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and his tumultuous relationship as a fight promoter is probably the best example. He rallied a full frontal hip-hop styled movement into the boxing business that launched itself into the doldrums of the sports failed endeavors graveyard.
Two days ago, Jackson’s SMS Promotions filed for bankruptcy. The statement reads:
"SMS Promotions, LLC, (SMS Promotions) a boxing promotion company owned by Curtis Jackson, a/k/a 50 Cent, today announced that it has filed for relief under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. The filing allows the company to reorganize in an effort to protect its investment in worldwide boxing promotion and a promising stable of talented, young fighters.
"SMS Promotions is expected to continue operating under the supervision of the bankruptcy court – in furtherance of its mission to become one of the world’s leading boxing and sports promotion companies. Founded in 2012, SMS Promotions has gained international fame as the promoter of landmark sporting events and superstar fighters such as junior middleweight James Kirkland.
"This filing for bankruptcy protection permits SMS Promotions to continue the operation of its business, while it pursues an orderly reorganization of its affairs,” says Patrick J. Neligan, Jr., partner at Neligan Foley, LLP and counsel for SMS Promotions. “Under the direction of Mr. Jackson, SMS Promotions looks forward to reorganizing as a new corporate entity and becoming one of the leading promotion companies in the world of professional boxing."
When Jackson first famously began to show his face in the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. episodes of HBO’s 24/7, he started an unofficial campaign to be recognized as a boxing entrepreneur. He hung out with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. regularly in his Mayweather Boxing Club gym in Las Vegas and was seen through the ropes at the biggest fights on the planet.
Soon after, the "beef" syndrome plaguing Hip-Hop penetrated their relationship; they famously broke their courtship and became bitter rivals on social media, with allegations flying around that Jackson tried to usurp the managerial duties of Al Haymon in relation to Mayweather.
A letter purportedly written by Tommy “Smalls” Summers, a former associate of Mayweather, while “Money” was in jail alleged that Haymon and Golden Boy Promotions were steering deals that benefitted them more than Mayweather. Summers and Jackson began discussing the formation of a boxing entity and thus began a rift between the two celebrities.
Jackson eventually signed Miami’s Cuban sensation, Yuriokis Gamboa. and the controversial James Kirkland who headed his burgeoning stable of fighters. However, in the fight game there is one adage that always rings true- when the bell rings, anything can happen in a fight.
Gamboa was on a tear, going undefeated in 23 fights, winning mainly by KO. He faced off in a battle of the unbeaten against WBO Lightweight champion Terrence Crawford in Omaha, Nebraska, Crawford’s home turf. It took just 9 thrilling rounds to begin the plummet of SMS Promotions as Gamboa took a nasty KO loss that saw one fighter become known as “The Career Stealer” and the other head back to the drawing board.
James Kirkland, fresh out of prison and free of Ann Wolfe’s militaristic training methods, recently fought Saul “Canelo” Alvarez under the SMS Promotions banner. The event saw Kirkland rocked throughout and finally brutally felled in the third round. With that KO, described by Wolfe simply as, “f*#ked up,” the road to the dismantling of SMS Promotions seemed certain.
Kirkland told us in a recent interview that he signed with Jackson during the time when he and Mayweather were still close friends. Once Jackson fell out with Mayweather, Kirkland said his contract kept him with Jackson, who he begrudgingly continued with.
But Hip-Hop and boxing was not done yet, as the third voice on the "I Get Money (Remix)" stepped into the ring. Shawn “Jay Z” Carter formed Roc Nation Sports, and then recently expanded the brand to include boxing, signing two high profile notables to his up and coming roster. Andre “S.O.G” Ward and Miguel Cotto are two of the best boxers on the planet and are now throwing up the Roc sign.
Carter’s Throne Boxing Promotions has attempted to reel in a new fan base by integrating hip-hop musical performances and personalities within the fight event. Radio personality Angie Martinez hosted the first event in the Madison Square Garden Theatre, which featured a WBC Welterweight title matchup between Dusty Hernandez-Harrison and Tommy Rainone.
Fabolous performed mid event, donning a Frank Lucas from American Gangster styled gaudy chinchilla coat and hat and the front row was littered with star power from Rihanna, Beyonce and more. Yet the sold out venue, with extremely reasonable ticket prices, lacked in one thing: traditional boxing fans. When the performances were over and the celebrities began leaving, the fickle pop culture influenced crowd that Carter successfully wrangled followed suit. The pinnacle of the evening, the main event, was rife with empty chairs and instantly waned interest.
Historically, hip-hop has been able to permeate and virtually shape-shift some sports business models. But I for one think it is safe to say that in boxing and probably in all combat sports, hip hop’s ambition may be larger than its entertainment drawing power, and with SMS now KO’d, time will tell if Jay Z’s formula will make better gains.
After all, anything can happen in a fight.