Posted on | March 9, 2007 | 2 Comments
Richard Steele's International Fighting Organization Set to Debut Steele Cage Promotions This July
By: Rich Bergeron
Richard Steele is well known to boxing fans as a world famous referee and former pro fighter. After retiring as a ref, he crossed over into the promotional game. He's now beginning to make another crossover to a new endeavor. Recognizing the rise of Mixed Martial Arts--to the point where it is surpassing boxing in popularity--Steele and two business partners created their own fight league and promotional company. Steele Cage Promotions and the International Fighting Organization were both started by Steele's team to carve out a new niche in the sport to address the influx of eager fighters out there clawing for attention.
"My partners and I were sitting down talking about promoting MMA," explained Steele about how the whole concept was born. "Boxing is not up like it used to be, but MMA is definitely on its way up. It's almost about to take over the whole sport. We talked and put together the name of Steele Cage. They wanted to use my name, and it sounds good, cuz they're fighting in a cage. We all decided to incorporate, so we did. Steele Cage Promotional Company was the result of that. One of my partners is an attorney: Steve Oshins. He's a young attorney, he's very business minded, and he knows about the law. He's a very smart young man. The other partner used to be a boxing manager. His name is Ed Swindle, and I knew him in LA. He has a lot of business sense, and he's a good manager, so all three of us are in it together."
Steele's interest in the sport goes beyond studying the demographics of the fan base. He also surveyed the landscape out there for young fighters and realized that there is an abundance of young men and women involved in the various martial arts and wrestling disciplines who don't have a place to really show off their skills on a grand stage without Mixed Martial Arts.
"What's so good about it is you'd be surprised at how many fighters you have. You take Jiu Jitsu, karate, wrestling, and you take boxing, and that's what makes MMA. We have so many young people coming to us, young and older guys that have been in MMA or some parts of MMA for a long time," said Steele. "They want to come into MMA and get into the cage, and they have a lot of excitement. There's a lot of people who want to get involved. We get about 20 to 30 calls a day from people wanting to fight. There's just a lot of anticipation, and we're hearing from fighters and managers. They all love the name Steele Cage, and they all want to be a part of it. Everyone can not get into the UFC and some of the other bigger organizations. There's just not that many. We are trying to give young people a chance to show their talent, a chance to rise to the top."
Steele and his partners have four shows booked so far. The first one is set to take place July 7th in Las Vegas at the Orleans Arena. The follow up show is scheduled for September 1st at the Riviera Hotel. Then it's back to the Orleans Arena again on the 21st of September. The fourth show will be December 15th at the Riviera again.
In addition to the four dates at two locations, all the events will be broadcast on HDNet (http://www.hd.net) television. "That's Mark Cuban's network here in Dallas. He's the owner of the Dallas Mavericks," said Steele. "We're using his network to go to 5 million homes. That's a great start on a great network. We gonna have some great fights, and that's what we're here to do, to please the public. We just want to let young people display their talent. We're trying to produce best show in MMA. For those who work real hard, we'll have a rating system, and we'll rate 'em and let the cream come to the top where the best will fight for the title. These guys will have to fight the best to keep the title. There's not gonna be no playing around. Everyone's gonna have to fight to get a position, and they're gonna have to fight even more to keep a position."
Over 60 fighters are signed on already, and the group is still looking for new talent. Fighters can go to www.Steelecage.com and sign up for the new league by filling out the registration form on the site. One of the Steele Cage Promotions staff members will get in touch with the fighters once they submit their information.
"The best part about it is there's something new here, and it's exciting, and the fighters really want to fight. Boxing, I've been in boxing almost 40 years, and it has its ups and downs, but this is all new," said Steele. "It's just really exciting to me, because I see and I hear all the fighters trying to fight and prove themselves and try to get to the top."
It is no surprise that Steele has high hopes of someday competing with the more well-known organizations out there. "Our goal is to be able to have some of the best MMA champions ever. To be able to have world champions, where we can challenge the UFC, PRIDE, and all the leading organizations in the world," he said.
Having watched the rise and fall of so many boxers over the course of his career, Steele knows what it's like for fighters who don't ever make enough to support themselves when they finally reach an age and physical condition when fighting becomes impossible. "We gonna try to really direct the careers of these young people and make sure we do a really good job with the young careers they have, even after they finish fighting," he explained. "We gonna take it personally so we can help these young people have a great career and a great life after their career. One of my partners is a great business man who has a lot of companies. Hopefully after these guys careers, if they want a job or need one, we'll make sure they get it, and we'll make sure they get some education. We'll take the pride in directing these young people's careers and their livelihood."
Steele sees some stark differences between the sports of MMA and boxing. He's noticed that MMA is ushering in more excitement to the fight scene, while boxing is on the decline. "I was in boxing for over 40 years, and I love boxing," he said. "I know what boxing has done for so many young people, but the fans and the TV people, and everyone is really tired of watching the same fighters fight all the time. They want new blood and new talent, and they're just not getting it."
Steele sees the next generation of fighters turning to MMA for both the challenges and benefits of learning a host of different skills to survive and thrive in the sport. "Young guys are coming out and giving they best, and they're working hard to learn the sport," he said. "They're learning how to become a champion, and they're all new and exciting kids, you know, and you get what you pay for. When you go to see MMA and you pay money to see those fights, they fight. That's what you get. There's no messing around. So many times in boxing, the fight is one sided or lopsided. When that kind of thing goes 10 to 12 rounds, nobody wants to watch that. In this sport when they come and do it, it's only two or three rounds, and then it's over. They go all out and give everything they can to take the guy out. There's no playing around."
The transition to promoting MMA doesn't mean Steele is ready to completely give up on the Sweet Science. "Oh yeah, I still will be involved in boxing. I'm still promoting boxing and trying to keep boxing alive," he maintained. "Boxing is a great sport. I'm talking to four guys now that are Olympic hopefuls, and we're gonna get 'em through the Olympics so they can turn pro. We need to have a good Olympics with good fighters to come out of it."
Steele looks at the free TV stations like CBS and ABC as the key to getting boxing more exposure. "We need to get it back to that point where families can watch people box and display their talent on free TV, and that will build the interest in the sport again," he said. "I've never seen the gyms so empty. The gyms I've seen have been empty in Vegas and California, and I can remember a time when you couldn't get in the gym there were so many people learning. Today the gyms are empty. We have to get some more excitement, and we need good fighters and young fighters. We got to bring the interest back up."
Steele and his team are planning to go far beyond the traditional MMA show setup and make their events truly spectacular. "We gonna have videos, music, and everybody's just gonna have a great time. It's not just gonna be a event. People are gonna be able to come in and just relax and have a great party," he said. "We are planning to have the best DJs, the best videos on screen, and the best fighters. Every time we have a card, we gonna have 2 title fights. We have a sanctioning body: the IFO. Those are the belts we gonna have. There's gonna be a lot of excitement when these young people fight and reach the top to become world champions. With the IFO, we gonna build that organization so it stands for something, and we're gonna have the best champions in the world."
Steele promised he'll be holding some press conferences about the new organization in the near future. He said fans should expect a lot of TV advertising and other press. "We gonna build these young people up. We'll generate interest with newspapers, magazines, and television, and we'll cover these young people so the world will learn who's fighting," he said. "We'll hold the first press conference at the Orleans Arena, on site, and we'll be putting that together soon."
It is impossible to ignore all the great fights that unfolded under Steele's watch as a boxing referee. "I had a wonderful career, and I've done some of the major fights in history. I've refereed over 170 world title fights. Some of them went in the history books as some of the best world title fights ever," he said. "I've worked fights with Hagler, Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Ali, Mike Tyson even, and I done just about everybody."
Though it may be boxing that initially gave Steele his star status and name recognition, he's quickly finding a new passion for MMA and looking at both sports with the same important goal in mind. "Boxing has been good to me, and it's been good to my family. It's time for me to give back. I'm gonna give some back for boxing, but now is the day for MMA, and I can give back there as well as boxing," he said. "The major thing here is if it's MMA or boxing, the major thing to me is to give some exposure to these young kids. I just want to help these young people to come in and get off the streets and make a decent living."
He has designed Steele Cage Promotions to put the fighter first. "That's one thing that we do, we pay our fighters a decent salary for a decent day of work. We believe in letting a fighter go home with a decent paycheck. That's what we gonna do, we gonna give back to the fighters," he explained. "As long as they go in and give 100%, we gonna give them what they're due. They're gonna be paid to come, paid to fight, and paid to win."
Though it has been done before, Steele promises his fighters will get unique bonuses for coming away with a victory. "If you come and do a great job and win your fight, We'll give you extra. We'll give a special bonus, something boxing don't have. It's really great to have something to show the fighters you really appreciate them fighting hard, putting in all the hard work they do to be victorious," he said. "They're all gonna get paid to show up and paid to win. The winner will get a big bonus. Most of the time, you know, a fighter will say I'm gonna try to win this fight. If a guy goes in knowing I'm gonna get X amount of money to win, it's a good concept, and it's been happening around, but we gonna really take it to a new height. We gonna show these young fighters that if they put out 110 percent, they gonna make some decent money."
He also promised a place for females in his organization, though he is unsure if there will be any women's fight on the inaugural event card. "We have a couple of them already signed on with us," he said. "Maybe we won't have any on this first one, but maybe the next one."
Given a chance to offer some final thoughts Steele gave a gracious thanks to Fight News Unlimited for the interview. "We appreciate everything you have done," he said. Steele is deserving of the same level of thanks for all he's done for boxing over the years, all he'll contribute to the sport in the future, and all the championship fighters he'll help groom in the growing MMA scene.
TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT STEELE AND STEELE CAGE PROMOTIONS CHECK OUT THESE SITES:
STEELE'S HOME PAGE: http://www.steeleboxing.com/home.htm
STEELE'S PRO BOXING RECORD: http://www.boxrec.com/record33078.html
RICHARD STEELE FAN SITE:
STEELE CAGE PROMOTIONS:
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