Boxing is back in New York and with a Tuesday night fight series.
Triller is set to present monthly shows from Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City beginning Tuesday, August 3. Triller co-owner Ryan Kavanaugh informed BoxingScene.com on Thursday of the forthcoming ‘TrillerVerz’ series—a collaboration of boxing events and Verzuz battles immediately to follow—confirming news that was first reported by ESPN.
“We’re really a big network. It’s about continuing to build our customers as well as to continue to deliver what they want,” Kavanaugh told BoxingScene.com. “Pay-per-view is one way to make money but that is for big, big events.
“In the meantime, we need to build up our fighters and image. The idea is to have a series leading up to our big PPV events.”
The monthly series will air live on the Triller app as well as Fite TV, which Triller purchased this past April. The transaction came a little more than a month after Triller parent company Triller.net also acquired Verzuz, the livestreaming music battle franchise founded by Timbaland and Swizz Beatz who will oversee that portion of each TillerVerz event.
Top 10 heavyweight contender Michael Hunter II (19-1-1, 13KOs) will face Mike Wilson (21-1, 10KOs) in the main event of the inaugural show, which will mark the first in New York City since the pandemic. The repurposed bout was due to serve as the chief support of a planned June 19 PPV event that was canceled when lineal lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez Jr. (16-0, 12KOs) was forced to withdraw from his scheduled IBF mandatory title defense versus George Kambosos Jr. (19-0, 10KOs) after testing positive for coronavirus.
The developing series was in discussion from day one of the formation of Triller Fight Club, with Triller chief boxing officer Peter Kahn playing a significant role in bringing the series to light. Its launch now provides Hunter— a second-generation heavyweight and 2012 U.S. Olympian—with his own headlining act and without having to spend any more time than necessary on the sideline.
“Blessed to have [Triller] fully backing me,” stated Hunter, who is 7-0-1 (5KOs) since moving up to heavyweight following a loss to Oleksandr Usyk in their April 2017 WBO cruiserweight title fight.
The show will also feature Chris Algieri in the evening’s co-feature. Algieri (24-3, 9KOs)—a former WBO junior welterweight titlist based out of the Huntington section of Long Island—will end a two-plus year ring absence with his placement on the show versus an opponent to be named.
The monthly series will be promoted by Lou DiBella. The Brooklyn-bred Hall of Fame promoter has served an integral role in the New York boxing scene throughout the 21st century, helping build Brooklyn’s Barclays Center into a boxing hotspot along with enjoying a decades-long relationship with MSG both as a promoter and television executive at HBO.
DiBella has been forced to find a home for his deep stable of fighters in the absence of an output deal of his own
“Boxing back in New York City, the first show back since the pandemic,” DiBella noted to BoxingScene.com. “I think it’s cool that DiBella Entertainment will be involved. You have Michael Hunter, one of the best heavyweights in the world. Chris Algieri is on the show, a true New York guy, and there will be plenty of Broadway Boxing fighters appearing on these cards, bringing a lot of local flavor.”
Each card will contain two events—a full boxing card, immediately followed by Verzuz battles featuring some of the most prominent names in hip hop and R&B.
Hip hop superstars N.O.R.E. and Beanie Sigel will square off in the first battle of the series.
“As someone who is a hip-hop aficionado, I love the Verzuz stuff,” notes DiBella. “I watched every one of the battles through the pandemic. The melding of those battles with boxing, it’s really cool stuff.”
Of course, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
The intertwining of boxing and music isn’t always well-received, as noted in each of Triller Fight Club’s previous two PPV ventures. The November 2020 show topped by the exhibition between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. featured musical acts in between each of the four fights, a similar formula applied to the April 17 PPV show from Atlanta headlined by Jake Paul (3-0, 3KOs) in a first-round knockout of former mixed martial artist Ben Askren.
The new formula of one show following the other should go a long way toward alleviating those concerns, while still offering synergy between the two worlds.
“It’s… two events so to speak,” notes Kavanaugh. “Boxing first and then Verzuz. That is how we will try to cross over. But, if you are the boxing purist who doesn’t want to see the Verzuz, you can do that. If you just want to see the Verzuz and not the boxing beforehand, that is available too.
“What we are looking to achieve is to cross over these two audiences—the purists and the young audience, and hopefully get the two to start working together.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox