Roc Nation Sports, the 16-month-old sports agency founded by music mogul Jay Z, wasted no time announcing its arrival on the scene as a boxing promoter to be reckoned with.
In a stunner, Roc Nation Sports won a purse bid on Monday at WBO headquarters in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to secure the promotional rights to a mandatory fight between middleweight titleholder Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin and Matt Korobov, even though it does not promote either fighter. Roc Nation Sports bid a whopping $1,904,840 and handily defeated two other bidders.
Golden Boy Promotions, which represents Quillin, bid $1.2 million, and Korobov promoter Top Rank offered $515,000. The minimum bid was $200,000. The purse bid took place because Golden Boy and Top Rank declined to negotiate the fight with each other.
Roc Nation's tentative plan is to put the fight on Nov. 8 in New York or Washington, D.C., the two places it has obtained a license to promote boxing. It still has to negotiate a television deal.
It is unusual for a promoter to bid on a fight in which it has no ties. But Roc Nation Sports, which on Sunday unveiled to ESPN.com its plans to get involved in boxing promotion, wanted to make a splash. In announcing its intent to become involved in boxing, David Itskowitch, the newly hired chief operating officer for Roc Nation Sports' boxing division, said, "We're looking to make an immediate and dramatic impact on the sport."
That is what Roc Nation Sports, which represents athletes such as Kevin Durant, Robinson Cano, CC Sabathia and Victor Cruz, did Monday: It made a statement by winning the auction with an exorbitant bid.
Itskowitch, who spent six years as Golden Boy's COO before he resigned last summer to take some time off, flew to Puerto Rico for the purse bid and surprised Ramiro Gonzalez of Golden Boy and Carl Moretti of Top Rank. He also surprised WBO president Francisco "Paco" Valcarcel.
"I'm definitely surprised by their participation," Valcarcel said. "On behalf of the WBO, I welcome Jay Z and his company, Roc Nation (Sports), and wish them nothing but success in their quest to put on quality boxing events and represent well the fighters they eventually sign. We are honored that they have chosen a WBO world championship contest to mark their entrance to the sport as boxing promoters and look forward to working with them."
Reaction from Golden Boy and Top Rank was swift and positive. Their fighters will each take home their biggest career payday. As the titleholder, Quillin is entitled to 75 percent of the winning bid ($1,428,630), and Korobov will receive the remaining 25 percent ($476,210).
"I'm surprised by the offer but glad someone like Jay Z and his team realize the value and opportunities in boxing," Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya told ESPN.com.
Moretti added: "Congrats to Roc Nation and their team on winning the bid. Top Rank and Matt Korobov will fully cooperate with the terms and any promotional requirements they may ask of us. Jay Z may have '99 Problems,' but apparently purse bids aren't one of them. Welcome to the business of boxing. Plus, I'd rather lose the bid and win the fight any day of the week."
Roc Nation has no fighters under contract yet but plans to build a stable. While it does that, picking up rights to fights at purse bids is one way to secure fights around which cards can be built.
Quillin (31-0, 22 KOs), 31, of New York, has defended his 160-pound belt three times, most recently by near-shutout decision against Lukas Konecny on April 19 in Washington, D.C.
Korobov (24-0, 14 KOs), a 31-year-old Russian southpaw and 2008 Olympian, scored a pair of seventh-round knockdowns against Jose Uzcategui en route to a 10-round decision victory on June 28 in Omaha, Nebraska.