Lee and his idol Wayne McCullough were to co-headline the “Erin Go Brawl II” event at Madison Square Garden’s WaMu Theatre next Monday but both have been left stunned by Irish Ropes’ decision to scrap the card last Thursday.
Irish Ropes has since gone out of business — until the lawsuit by its former star charge John Duddy is resolved, according to company president Eddie McLoughlin.
“We’re very, very disappointed and upset,” Lee’s trainer-manager Emanuel Steward told the Echo on Sunday night from his Detroit home. “We’ve been training since the first of the year and passed up six fights for this.”
Lee, a 16-1 [13 KOs] middleweight title prospect, was to fight three-time world title challenger Antwun Echols [31-9-4, 27 KOs] over ten rounds.
In Las Vegas, McCullough, a former world bantamweight champion who was looking forward to resuming his 16-year career, said: “They can say the economy is bad, but people watch sports even during a depression. I’m very disappointed.”
McCullough [27-7, 18 KOs] was even more baffled that the cancellation came just a day after he’d signed the contract to fight Mexican super bantamweight Alex Becerra [19-7, 9 KOs] in the co-feature.
Announcing the cancellation in a press release last week, McLoughlin blamed the global financial crisis.
“This was a very difficult decision to make but ticket sales were way off compared to two years ago when the economy was much better here and back in Ireland,” he said. “We apologize for any inconveniences, especially to all of the boxers who worked so hard to prepare for their fights.”
In an interview with the Echo later, McLoughlin said they’d sold around a thousand tickets and were looking at a $250,000 loss when the decision to scuttle the show was made. Tickets ranged from $50 to $400.
Asked how many tickets they needed to sell to break even in the 5,600-capacity WaMu Theatre, McLoughlin estimated between 3,500 and 4,000.
Separately, both Steward and McCullough suggested that Irish Ropes were too quick to pull the trigger.
Steward pointed out for a blue-collar event like this most fans buy tickets on the day of the event and not in advance. He said he personally knew of groups of fans from around the country that had made arrangements to fly to New York to watch Lee fight.
Ditto McCullough who knew of fans from both his adopted hometown of Las Vegas and Ireland that had booked flights. The “Pocket Rocket” also spoke of interest from Setanta Sports to broadcast his bout with Becerra that would have helped make the promotional more financially viable.
Also scheduled to appear on “Erin Go Brawl II” were Jamie Power [light heavyweight] Simon O’Donnell [middleweight], Dean Byrne [lightweight], Danny McDermott [super featherweight], Damian Taggart [welterweight], Pat Hyland [featherweight] and Danny O’Connor [light welterweight].