Promoter: "They are trying to save her from a beating"
Boxingtalk recently caught up with Brian Young of Prize Fight Promotions, promoter of women's light heavyweight Ann Wolfe, WBO-115 pound champ Ivan Hernandez, and others. In this Boxingtalk exclusive story, Young claims that Ali and her manager husband have turned down a package worth $500,000 to fight Wolfe. The six-figure payday could have been the largest purse in the history of women's boxing (exact figures are not available, but Ali reportedly was guaranteed $250,000 plus a share of pay-per-view revenues when she faced Christy Martin).
"Actually, I don't blame them at all for turning this fight down," said Young from his Prize Fight offices just outside of Memphis. "Everyone knows that Ann Wolfe is the best female fighter in the world. She would knock out Laila Ali in two rounds." Young, who said he respects Laila and her husband/ Johnny McClain, knows that Ali can make good money fighting just about anyone. "So," he concedes, "why would they fight someone they know they can't beat, even if it is for more money than she's ever made before?"
Yet despite the risk, it would take Ali (20-0, 17 KO) five or six fights against nondescript opposition to reach the numbers being offered for just one fight with Wolfe. Still, Ali and McClain walked away from a deal that included what Young describes as a guaranteed $350,000 purse for Ali, and a $150,000 promoter's fee fro McClain's Absoloot Boxing. Young said the offer also had Prize Fight picking up all of the expenses. After Ali's fight on ESPN2 two weeks ago, she and McClain slammed Young and said Ali intends to face the less-dangerous Letitia Robinson next. Although he is disappointed, Young understands the Ali camp's decision not to risk their cash cow, and is looking forward to other opportunities.
"We'd love for Emanuel Steward to allow Lucia Rijker to meet Ann at a catch weight. Let's face it, these are the two best women boxers in the world. It would be a great fight." Wolfe, who came up from her natural super middleweight division to capture the light heavyweight title in a spectacular first round knockout of 6'6" Vonda Ward, would be the perfect opponent for Rijker, who has her own difficulties coaxing Ali into the ring. The winner of a Rijker-Wolfe bout would not only stake claim to the title of Baddest Woman on the Planet, but may even force the reluctant Ali into a real fight. Of course, Rijker could go directly to Ali and leave Wolfe out in the cold again.
But what about those rumors saying that Wolfe's next fight will be against a man? Even if Wolfe is willing, Young says he has exclusive promotional rights to Wolfe and would veto any such fight. "That will never happen," says Young. "We are Ann Wolfe's promoters. This other guy - and I wouldn't even call him a promoter because I don't know that he's ever put on a show before - will be hearing from our lawyers if he tries interfere with our fighter." It does seem odd that Wolfe, who's on the verge of some meaningful fights, would risk her career and legitimacy with such a sideshow.
Beyond the Ann Wolfe situation, the next couple months figure to be busy for Young. Prize Fight will be a co-promoter, working along with Golden Boy Promotions, of the April 9, 2005 pay-per-view show featuring Marco Antonio Barrerra. In the co-feature, Ivan Hernandez (20-0-1, 13 KO) defends his WBO 115 pound title against former champion Fernando Montiel (29-1-1, 23 KO). Hernandez and Montiel share a common opponent, former three-time champion Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson, who also will be appearing on the under card April 9. Johnson (44-4, 28 KO) captured the WBO 115 title from the previously unbeaten Montiel in August of 2003. However, "Too Sharp" suffered one of the worst defeats of his career when Hernandez knocked him out in the eighth round in September 2004 on the Roy Jones v. Glen Johnson under card. Hernandez is rated #5 in his division by Boxingtalk.
Prize Fight Promotions is one of the largest promotional companies in the country. Having co-promoted the Mike Tyson v. Lennox Lewis mega fight, Tyson v. Etienne, and Lewis v. Klitschko, Prize Fight also hosted the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials. Boxingtalk readers in Memphis can catch Brian and Prize Fight's radio show "Inside the Ropes" every Friday at 10:00 a.m. on WHBQ Sports 56.