Thursday, February 7, 2013
Leon one of game's bright young minds
By Michael Woods
The pro boxing game has a low barrier to entry but also features a long learning/trust curve. It isn't too hard to secure a license to box, manage or even train a fighter, but getting a strong foothold in the business is another matter. Trust is not assumed, it is earned in small increments. Once you prove you can know where some of the bodies are buried, and not blab about it, you are on your way to being part of the club.
Greg Leon of the Bronx became of a member of the club quite early, considering he was 23 when he joined the website Boxingtalk.com as a reporter, and he was 25 when he bought out the publisher. Thing is, the St. Raymond's High School grad wasn't shy about stirring the pot. He was something of a muckraker, working the phones to get scoops, and ruffling feathers of industry bigs on occasion. Sometimes there'd be almost a TMZ-like edge to the content, but he gave fighters a platform to speak their piece more than most outlets. So a Bernard Hopkins, say, could let his emotions could run free, without being censored or sanitized to keep the peace or to keep power players from getting antsy. Yeah, the Bronx is strong in Leon, who has a quintessential New York style of spewing truth, consequences be damned.
As we talked for this piece, he took slight issue with my description of him "hammering" people. "If you're telling the truth, hammering is probably too strong an adjective, but had such noise never been made boxers wouldn't feel comfortable entrusting their career in my hands," he said.
Leon found himself advising fighters on the next move to make, for free, and figured that he might as well make a buck off of his counsel. In 2008, he made the leap to the advisory-managerial side, while still acting as publisher of Boxing Talk. And no, he hasn't really simmered down, and gotten religion, and embraced euphemisms and political correctness -- the Bronx is still very much in his blood.
Leon thinks too few people control too much of the action, and wants to see HBO and Showtime do a better job at working with a wider array of managers and promoters, rather than the biggest guns. "If the behind-the-scenes schematics haven't changed in the next decade, boxing will be an afterthought," he told me.
Leon's top client is Canadian light heavy Jean Pascal and he hopes he'll become a two-time world champion when he faces Chad Dawson on May 25. Zsolt Erdai, Troy Ross, Joachim Alcine, Allan Green, Delen Parlsey Jr., Kirk Johnson , Monte Barrett, Luis Rosa Jr., Ronson Frank, Sechew Powell and Vernon Paris round out his stable.
It'll be interesting to see how Leon's arc plays out. Is he "too Bronx?" Time will tell, but I enjoy his candor and his courage; the sport needs more of both, always.