Biggest ‘Little’ card in Reno
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Throughout the history of warfare there have been two undeniable rules: Never invade Russia or China. Both countries are too enormous to conquer and have swallowed up invading armies.
With two notable exceptions, the rule in Reno is not to try and sell out its largest boxing venues. Jack Johnson-James Jeffries had 20,000 paying customers flock to the “Fight of the Century” in a makeshift outdoors arena on July 4, 1910, and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Livingstone Bramble sold out Lawlor Events Center on Feb 16, 1985 with 11,758 fans and a live gate of $750,000.
But in spite of the best efforts of promoters like Forum Boxing, Top Rank, Goossen Tudor, Gary Shaw, George Chung and many others – including popular Reno middleweight/promoter Joey Gilbert – Lawlor, City Center Pavilion and Reno Events Center have yet to be filled to capacity.
Such is the challenge facing Terry and Tommy Lane, whose first event under the Let’s Get It On promotional banner – “Heavy Hands” – went off flawlessly Friday in an outdoor parking lot at the Eldorado Hotel and Casino.
Although the official tally won’t be available until later today, the 20-year-old Tommy Lane – four years younger than his brother Terry – said Tuesday that the event was a sellout.
The venue seated 1,600 partisan fans and Lane said that, although there were a small amount of empty seats, there were many people standing and watching the show, which was highlighted by Jesse Brinkley’s ninth-round stoppage of Dallas Vargas.
Lane, in his junior year at Hofstra where he majors in marketing, said there were probably 1,700 fans in attendance for his company’s maiden voyage.
“We could’ve put a deposit on Reno Events Center (which seats at least 3,500), but it wouldn’t have had the same feel,” said Tommy, who along with Terry took over Let’s Get It On from their father, former Washoe County judge and District Attorney Mills Lane, after he suffered a debilitating stroke on April 1, 2002. “It wouldn’t have been a success. We want to start slow and make sure we sell out.”
When the Lanes put on their second show – possibly on Oct. 13 in the Grand Exposition Ballroom in the Silver Legacy Resort and Casino – Lane said they hope to recapture the same apparently successful formula employed at the Eldorado.
“There’s such an exciting feel when you’re packed in together,” Lane said. “It makes it feel more exciting, more energized when you’re in a smaller area that is more enclosed.”
When it comes to venues, maybe bigger isn’t always better. Lawlor seats around 12,000, but one could almost hear the crickets chirp on Sept. 8, 2001, in spite of an excellent card, which featured Marco Antonio Barrera, Vassiliy Jirov and Fernando Montiel (each of whom defended his title) as well as an undercard that displayed Reno’s “Koncrete” Kelvin Davis, Dwayne Pope and former Olympians Kelson Pinto and Jose Navarro.
Similarly, the City Center Pavilion (which seats over 5,000) and Reno Events Center have proven to be difficult to fill. In facing Juan Astorga on May 12, Gilbert was only able to fill about half the seats at Reno Events Center.
There are several reasons “Heavy Hands” was a success, not the least of which was the presence of the popular Brinkley, of Yerington, who in Vargas faced a quality opponent who had a chance to win.
Another was the presence of several other local fighters, including both of the Lanes’ first signees – Derek and Tyler Hinkey, who hail from the McDermitt Indian reservation – along with Carson City lightweight Mike Peralta and Reno’s Jaime Rodriguez.
Perhaps another reason is that the Lanes recognize the nature of their market. Reno fans have traditionally favored action fighters like Mancini as opposed to pure boxers like Chris Byrd or the “Heavyweight Explosion” put on by Cedric Kushner Promotions.
In the Hinkeys – super middleweight Derek and heavyweight Tyler – the local fans got a look at what could be the area’s next generation. The 27-year-old Derek is 3-0 with 3 knockouts and the 24-year-old Tyler won his first professional fight by first-round technical knockout.
Both had solid amateur backgrounds – Derek had 133 bouts, Tyler 90 – and although both enter the ring to the same pulse-pounding beat of Native American drums, each brings a different dynamic to the ring.
Wearing an all-red outfit with his cap backward and replete with two eagle feathers, Derek is fast on his feet and with his hands, a natural performer with power and personality.
“Derek is something else,” Lane said. “He’s out of this world. He’s by far the nicest guy I’ve sat down with. He’s a nice, sincere guy, who is dedicated to his faith and beliefs.”
Tyler brings the excitement of being a heavy-handed heavyweight, whose fights can end with any given punch.
“Tyler will be a real handful in his division,” Lane said. “Like his brother, anyone can come up to him. He’s a genuine guy. We’re so lucky to have them choose us to sign with. We’ve been blessed with them.”
Lane said he and Terry are looking to keep their fighters active, with possible bouts in August and September in Idaho and Oklahoma.
The Lanes will also become involved in out-of-town co-promotions in addition to lining up fights locally that they’d want to pay to go see. There’s one fight in particular they’d like to help bring to Northern Nevada.
“If we can get Brinkley in with Gilbert, it could maybe be the biggest fight in Reno since 1910 with Johnson and Jeffries and Boom Boom’s fight (in 1985),” said Lane, who used to travel to shows with Mills, listening to country music on the way. “There’s never been anything like it – two local guys who don’t like each other, one weight class apart.”
Gilbert, now ranked No. 4 in the WBO, looks like- – if he keeps winning – he will get a title shot within the next year or so. He will probably go that route before fighting super middleweight Brinkley, who is hoping for a rematch with Joey Spina on the Lanes’ card in October (Brinkley lost the first meeting via 11th-round TKO).
If Don King and Bob Arum can get together when the price is right, maybe Gilbert and the Lanes and Brinkley can do business for the same reason.
In the meantime, the Lanes will try to replicate the formula they used in the first show and parlay it into successful local shows in the future.
“We plan on being here for the next 50 years,” Lane said.
If their first show is any indication, Tommy and Terry Lane are on the right path to bringing local boxing fans all of the excitement they can handle – while at the same time playing it smart.