'Fans want to see a winner'

MURRAY GREIG, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

If he thought he could get away with it, Glen Carriere would probably bring back winner-take-all bouts and fights to the finish.

The city's most experienced and innovative promoter -- in any sport -- has drawn up something of a master plan for 2009 to solidify Edmonton's standing as the boxing capital of Canada. And if past success is any gauge, Carriere's KO Boxing could well repeat 2006's coup of being named the World Boxing Council's promoters of the year.

"Others come and go, the fly-by-nighters and wannabes, but I think over the past 20 years we've earned a reputation for producing the kind of quality events that have become the gold standard for our competitors -- not just here in Edmonton, but across Canada," Carriere said in a wide-ranging interview yesterday.

GIMMICKS

"We don't have to stand on a soap box and tell people over and over again that our shows are sold out. We don't have to resort to name-calling or manufacture flavour-of-the-week gimmicks. Our success in bringing top-flight shows to Edmonton, whether for boxing or mixed martial arts, speaks for itself.

"We're the only promoters west of Montreal with a legitmate, recognized world champion (Jelena Mrdjenovich) in our stable, which we're very proud of. She's not the 'KO Boxing World Champion,' she's the WBC champion. There's a world of difference -- literally.

"Boxing fans are probably the most discerning in all of sports. If you're going to ask people to shell out their hard-earned cash for a night of entertainment, you better be damn sure they get their money's worth, otherwise they won't be back."

That said, Carriere has some concerns heading into 2009, starting with what he terms a "disturbing trend" towards "safe" scoring.

"To put it bluntly, there are too many matches being judged as draws -- not just on our shows, but on our competitors' cards too," he said.

"There's nothing in the Edmonton Combat Sports Commission bylaws that says bouts have to be an even number of rounds, so one of the things we're thinking of implementing is five- and seven-round limits for preliminary bouts that have traditionally been four or six rounds.

NOT TITLE BOUTS

"That wouldn't affect title bouts, which are sanctioned by the Canadian Boxing Federation, but we know that the fans want to see a winner. Nobody wants to see a draw. By eliminating the chance to balance scoring in even-round fights, we can dramatically decrease the number of draws."

Tougher qualifications for getting a promoter's licence or serving on the commission and minimum standards for venues are other issues Carriere is anxious to see addressed.

"As it stands now, anybody in Edmonton with $100 can instantly become a promoter. They don't have to have any experience or qualifications whatsoever," he said.

"All that does is encourage the fringe element that thinks they only have to rent a tent, put up a ring and starting selling tickets. It doesn't work that way. Same with serving on the commission. Being a housewife and the head of the PTA shouldn't qualify you to oversee a corner or make decisions that impact on the career of a professional athlete.

"In England, for example, prospective promoters and commissioners are subject to a long screening process that evaluates their history in the sport and their commitment to making it better. Unless they measure up, they don't get in."

As for venue standards, Carriere thinks that should be the easiest hurdle in cleaning up the local boxing landscape.

"You can't stage fights in a ring where it's dark enough to develop film," he said.

"If there's no room to have overhead lighting, it's not good enough. If a couple of hundred fans have to look around posts to see what's going on in the ring, it's not good enough.

"There are a half-dozen excellent venues in this city, but there are some unsuitable ones, too. For the sake of the fighters and the fans, the commission should set some minimum standards."


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