The sigh of relief on his face was evident. One could actually feel it in each and every of his answers. As a businessman, Milos Vesely is maybe no stranger to strenuous dealings, but even he isn’t used to negotiating with a person that has earned as much as $ 800 million courtesy of his sport performances alone.
“The talks were very difficult, but I’m glad we’re over it,“ says the Qwert Boxing promoter in an exclusive interview to Profiboxing.cz.
The newly elected president of Czech Union of Boxing Professionals also revealed about his struggles during the last four weeks that eventually led him to his February 22 announcement of Floyd Mayweather’s visit to the BOX LIVE card in Prague, scheduled to take place on March 11. The announcement was maybe primarily intended for the Czech sports community, but considering the star power of the American boxing legend, it was also meant to catch the attention of his fans around the globe.
Who actually came up with the idea of having Floyd in Prague?
It was Benny Blank’s vision. He’s a great guy, outstanding boxing manager and promoter, but above all a person I share a great and sincere friendship with. I remember the moment very well. It happened on January 19, 2017, when I was on a trip from Prague to Brno, driving on the infamous D1 motorway. I got a call from Benny who told me about the possibility of taking Floyd over to Prague. He actually made the deal back in December in Miami, but the whole thing eventually clicked in January. I only had about 30 seconds to accept it, 25 of which I wasted talking to Mara (Marek Svajner, Vesely’s partner in Qwert Boxing stable). But in the end, I managed to respond just in time (laughs).
There have already been some exhibitions in the Czech Republic involving tennis stars like Pete Sampras and Maria Sharapova, with Roger Federer arriving in Prague last Monday as well. Do you see a parallel between these events and the upcoming visit of Floyd Mayweather?
Yes and no. The events you mentioned involved a sport that has a much bigger following in the Czech Republic than boxing has. Federer is without question a megastar, and you could clearly see it on this past Monday in Prague, where his appearance in Old Town Square had been watched by hundreds of fans. But Floyd’s visit is bound to have a much bigger impact on the local boxing scene than Federer’s appearance on the local tennis community might have.
In their fight, Floyd and Manny Pacquiao both broke the record for the highest yearly earnings among the athletes, with the American ruling this category no less than thrice. How much money (in Czech crowns) did his visit in the Czech Republic actually cost?
Our contract is very strict to not allow us to talk about these things, but since you’re an old friend of mine, I may consider revealing this to you at some point. It wasn’t a cheap deal, but on the other hand, the other cities intended to accommodate Floyd during his European tour had to pay even more.
You’ve already mentioned this, but how essential was the presence of boxing manager Benny Blank at the negotiations? He’s very active when it comes to establishing numerous worldwide contacts among the boxing community, and has actually met Floyd in person last year at the WBC annual convention…
Benny is a real professional who, much like Ulf Steinforth from the SES stable does, offers us his fair share of experience. All the contacts he gave us at the many European cards are priceless. He’s a classy guy who’s liked by people not only in Europe, but across the pond as well. It’s only him who we should thank for achieving this daring feat.
The actual dealings lasted for about three weeks. What was the most difficult part of it?
I and Mara are used to negotiating each and every detail of whatever contract you can imagine, but in this case, we had to conform to a very strict set of requirements of a sport megastar, or in other words, a trademark. The whole deal had to be approved by agents from Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and even the slightest trifle could have proved an obstacle. But in the end, we succeeded, mainly because we were used to work in a similar system. But this time, it had nothing to do with boxing.
How many times during these three weeks did you actually think the deal would eventually fall through?
Believe or not, but there were only two such occasions. They, just like us, are businessmen, so once the rules were set, things started to move forward. But I have to admit that sometimes, they were indeed pissing me off (laughs).
The Czech boxing fans still remember the visits of Mike Tyson, including his first, failed attempt that was originally orchestrated by two fraudsters Rey Karpf and Petr Havrda, and also the arrival of Sugar Ray Leonard. Both Tyson and Leonard stayed here for a reasonable amount of time and even conducted some training for fans that were keen to pay for it. Floyd Mayweather himself does this on many occasions when he travels around the world, so with that in mind, could you please reveal some of the details from his upcoming visit of Prague? Will the fans have the chance to meet him in person?
No, not at all. There won’t be any shows or circuses of that kind. Floyd will simply attend the BOX LIVE card as a guest, and then we’ll all have a great after party. No stupid accompanying programs. We’ll definitely do some sightseeing, maybe even a dinner, but most importantly, we’ll simply want Floyd to have a great time here and make him come back at some point in the future. So his lone athletic involvement during this visit will be purely private, as we’ve both agreed to do some mitt-work to prepare me for the upcoming season of Fistic Superleague of Boxing Managers (laughs).
What will be his involvement at the card? Will he present any trophies in the ring, or vice-versa, are you going to give him some trophies of his own?
We’ll give him the prize for The Best Boxer of the 21st Century, and of course, we’ll want him to present some trophies to the victors in the ring.
From what I saw in the promotional materials, Prague will be the only place where he’ll directly attend a boxing card. Was this an issue during the negotiations? Was there some requirement with regards to the combatants?
Yes, that’s true. The Swiss people were actually offering him even more money than us, but since he has plenty of money, he eventually opted for attending a boxing card, last but not least because he must’ve surely heard about the BOX LIVE show beforehand (laughs).
Floyd Mayweather is a busy man who won’t easily allow a casual fan to be in his presence. Can you reveal any details from the actual negotiations, how it eventually unfolded? Did you talk directly to him, or with his company, or with his longtime assistant and Mayweather Promotions chief Leonard Ellerbe?
We had dealings with each side. Mayweather has his agents worldwide, so we talked to everyone. But most of the decisions depended solely on him. Even the idea of recording a video with a message for the Czech boxing fans came from his own brain. As for us, we’re very pleased to be perhaps the first people on this planet to make him say: “Czech Republic.”
Looking towards your future boxing and business activities, such managerial success will definitely help your cause. As was already said in the previous question, Mayweather is now first and foremost a promoter who likes to scout for talents. Now that you have spoken to him and his people, do you envision any kind of future cooperation, or perhaps an easier time in your upcoming role of a boxing promoter? Of course, I don’t mean Stepan Horvath (one of the main combatants at the March 11 card in Prague) to sit next to Floyd in his plane the very next morning and fly over to America to fight for a world title…
Our primary goal was to make Floyd come here and to confirm our intentions of resurrecting the Czech boxing. And to also silence everyone who’s skeptical about our plans or even tries to spoil our game. How our cooperation eventually unfolds is a bonus for us. I don’t think there’s anything significant ahead of us in the near future as far as boxing promotion goes, but we’re already talking some training camps, at least for those fighters who are up to the task. So I’m sorry, Lukas (Konecny)… (laughs)
But you’re right that the fight between Stepan and Hermann could prove an interesting spectacle for Floyd. It can be viewed as a certain bonus from us towards him. Super Welterweight was his division of choice in his last years of active boxing, and according to Benny, there’s a chance of Stepan taking part in one of Floyd’s cards across the pond should he succeed in this one and capture the Floyd’s imagination.
You’re currently doing your own business, but at the same time have recently become the president of CUBP (Czech Union of Boxing Professionals). You and your colleague Marek Svajner both represent the WBO (one of the four major sanctioning bodies) in the Czech Republic, and also have great relationship with the WBC. Do you even have some time to sleep? Can one even keep up with all this work?
I admit it’s very difficult. Just to add to your words, apart from the WBO and WBC, we’re currently also in dealings with the prestigious European federation EBU to run an extensive boxing project, as we’re one of their members and, thanks to our efforts, have made an impression on their executives. Our cooperation with the WBC will still need some time, but the EBU has already promised us their maximum support with regards to the ranking of our boxers and also the prices of their respective belts.
We want the prestigious title fights to be fought here, in our country. Can you recollect the last time a title fight took place in Czech Republic and who exactly promoted it? This is what we want to change. Nowadays, a Czech boxer is considered abroad as an easy-to-get chunk of BoxRec points. That’s why we need to highlight the efforts of people like Stanislav Skoda, who has achieved big things with Martin Parlagi, the current mandatory challenger for the European champion in his weight division, or the people around Dan Vencl. I know very well how hard they all had to work to achieve this success!
My colleague Mara (Marek Svajner) is helping me a lot. He’s very calm and levelheaded – a total opposite of me. And of course, Luky (Lukas Konecny). He’s a really nice guy, the one that usually helps me with the boxing-related stuff and even sometimes does my own work. Some people from the local boxing scene may have their fair share of objections against him, but if not for him, professional boxing in Czech Republic would be long dead. He has my utmost respect, and we both plan to enforce further changes in Czech boxing.
You’ve been a part of the Czech boxing scene for only about a year. Looking back, did you expect all the aforementioned successes, and if so, what achievement are you most proud of?
To be honest, the biggest reason for our success was our own inexperience. We simply jumped into it and then looked in disbelief. But I’m proud and satisfied. The best two boxers here in the Czech Republic are both under our promotional banner, and we have also managed to bring here the belts of many prestigious sanctioning bodies. We’re setting new standards for our local boxing scene. We try to cooperate with everyone – sans some unfortunate individuals – to achieve a common goal. We’re truly satisfied, even though we didn’t expect it to go that far in the beginning.
Truthfully, nowadays I can’t even tell you why and how we exactly got into boxing, as you wouldn’t be able to finish this interview. So what am I most proud of? See, you’re asking “me”, but I’m telling “us”, because it’s a common effort, an effort of all of us. Now, I would rightfully say Floyd, but then again, his visit here will last only for a day and then he’ll again fly away to God knows where. But we’re here to stay, along with our underrated sport of boxing, but I believe we’ll soon get the desired attention and become a part of the local sports mainstream. Only then we’ll be really proud of what we had achieved.
What are your future plans? Of course, I’m not counting the upcoming Prague dinner with Floyd Mayweather and the subsequent after party that will conclude your BOX LIVE boxing card…
My answer is: the next BOX LIVE card! It will be in July in Pilsen… but that’s about as much as I’m allowed to tell you (laughs).
And what about making a good use of Floyd’s 40th birthday, which he celebrated this past Friday?
My own birthday was two months ago and I hardly even remember any celebrations going on, so we’re not planning anything special. Just to sit, chat and enjoy some good drinks. And hopefully, I can still bring that Stepan Horvath’s WBO European Super Welterweight title to that after party.