Interviewed by Todd “Jake” Jacobson Jake at Ringside
Jake: First, let me thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to be interviewed.
Andrew Stokes: My pleasure. I’m always happy to talk about boxing..
Jake: Now, here in the Carolinas most boxing fans know that you are Travis Simms’ brother-in-law and that I guess you could say that boxing is in your blood. I also understand that you did some boxing when you were in the Army. So, let me ask you how did you get started as a promoter?
Andrew Stokes: Well, let me clarify that a little. Actually, the boxing I did in the Army was just in a few smokers. You see, I always knew that I wanted to be a boxing promoter. I felt that to be a promoter first I had to “get a taste” in the ring. So, that’s what I did. I boxed in a few smokers and got a taste of it. But, I really wasn’t a fighter. My intention was always to be a promoter. My first boxing show was actually in 1999 in October or November. We put on a show at Fort Jackson. Travis (Simms) was on that card. It was a great show. And, since everything was free from the Army I actually made a little money on that show – by the way, that’s the worst thing that can happen to a promoter is to make money in his first show.
Jake: Why is that?
Andrew Stokes: Because it is actually so very difficult to make the numbers work as a promoter and if you make money in your first show it gives you a false sense of confidence, a false sense that being a successful promoter is easy. It’s not.
Jake: How many shows have you promoted so far as a promoter?
Andrew Stokes: Let me see. Actually, I think it’s been over fifty shows if you include the amateur shows and shows I co-promoted. (Editor’s note: Boxrec.com shows a history of 13 pro shows for Andrew Stokes going back as far as August 2004).
Jake: Have you promoted quite a few amateur shows? Are the amateur shows easier to do? What is the organizational body that is responsible for amateur shows?
Andrew Stokes: Oh, man, the amateur shows are just so much easier to do! First of all, all of the teams come to you, and then you just match them up before the fights. And, often you don’t have to pay the officials – that is, the officials will be volunteers. You maybe give them a sandwich break or something like that, but generally no pay. Plus, your sanctioning fees aren’t as high as for a pro card. And, it doesn’t have to be state regulated. Bottom line: it is just a lot less expensive.
Jake: Were your first shows amateur shows?
Andrew Stokes: No, actually my first show was a pro show, the one I mentioned at Fort Jackson.
Jake: You’ve been very active in putting on shows in South Carolina recently. You regularly put on shows at the Radisson in Columbia. In the month of July you had shows in both York and Hilton Head. What is your favorite venue for boxing in South Carolina right now?
Andrew Stokes: I love the Radisson (in Columbia). I love it because it is so intimate. It is just such a fantastic intimate venue for boxing. There’s not a bad seat in the house. We have about 30 – 35 VIP tables and the view from all of those tables is just fantastic. And, the acoustics there are excellent. We really rock that place with our DJ. When we put on a show at the Radisson, the place really rocks. You can feel the excitement. It’s a great venue.
Jake: One of your main fighters is Chris “the Irish Ghost” Fitzpatrick. Is his fan base starting to grow with his recent successes?
Andrew Stokes: Yes, Chris’ fan base is definitely starting to build. We had Chris participate in a couple of parades this summer and we gave out over a thousand flyers at one of those parades. His fan base is definitely starting to grow. Now, remember, just a couple of fights ago Chris fought a great fight but we also had Luis Collazo and Travis Simms on that card. Chris really didn’t have a chance to shine as much fighting under them. Now that he’s one of our headliners he’s really getting a chance to shine. And, boy is he coming through! I’ve been just so impressed by Chris.
Jake: Now what about Travis Simms? Will we have the opportunity to see him on one of your shows in the near future?
Andrew Stokes: That’s a definite possibility although I can’t say for sure right now. I know that Travis is working on a couple of things right now, but you never know. Remember, the whole idea in having him on the shows in the past was to keep him ready for the big fights, to keep away the ring rust. We actually had him on the card in the last show but the opponent pulled out. He was ready to fight that night. He’s a great fighter and is always ready to fight.
Jake: How’s his weight. It seems he was fighting a little heavy in some of your shows, maybe in the 160’s.
Andrew Stokes: Travis is in great shape, maybe training at 160 right now and can be ready to fight at championship fight weight of 154 or 155 on short notice.
Jake: Now, what about MMA? I understand your next Columbia show on November 21st will have at least one MMA bout now that MMA is legal in South Carolina?
Andrew Stokes: Actually, we may have as many as seven MMA fights on the card in Columbia. It will be a pro-am night. We’ll have a mixture of pro and amateur, boxing and MMA. We think it’s going to be a great show. Now, let me say this about MMA. I’m a boxing fan. I’m a boxing fan to the fullest. I will probably never do an MMA show without boxing. But, in order to stay competitive I think it is important to embrace MMA because it is so hot right now. Now, hopefully the MMA will afford me the opportunity to give these guys (the boxers) more bouts during the year, where I’m doing four or five shows during the year, maybe I’ll be able to double that, to maybe do eight or ten shows a year.
Jake: Now what about Gladney (Angel Gladney – female boxer)? Is she going to be fighting on the 21st? Also, what happened in that last fight? I’m sure you’ll agree that last fight was a very disappointing fight.
Andrew Stokes: Well, first let me say that the Commission withheld her opponent’s purse. Because she didn’t earn it. Listen, that’s one of the toughest things to do as a promoter, is to get people in here that can compete. Sometimes the trainers and managers will tell you, “she can do this, she can do that, and she’s a beast in the gym.” Ok, that’s the girl I want. And, then you bring them up here and they don’t perform. It’s always difficult to gauge female fighters with less than five fights. They’re definitely more unpredictable than male fighters. But, that last fight wasn’t Gladney’s fault. She’s a good fighter and she came to fight. We’re going to try to get her a real solid opponent for her for this next match.
Jake: Andrew, can you tell me what your goals are for Palmetto Boxing? Your short- term goals and your long-term goals?
Andrew Stokes: Make no mistake about it. I want to be the premier boxing promotions company in the southeast. My short-term and medium-term goals are to do shows all over South Carolina, to do a circuit. To do shows in Coumbia, in Charleston, and in the Greenville area. That will give me 10 – 12 shows a year.
Jake: Which market do you think is the best right now?
Andrew Stokes: The Columbia market is the one that we have developed the most right now but we’re working on developing the other markets as well. We’re very optimistic that the South Carolina market, that is, those three metro areas can handle more boxing and we plan to give it to them. As I said, my goal is to try to do 10 – 12 shows a year right here in South Carolina.
Jake: What about sports products merchandizing, t-shirts, hats, and other items?
Andrew Stokes: We’re just getting into that. As you know we sold t-shirts at our last show in Columbia. I’ve been told that the fans really liked the t-shirt. I’ve been lucky enough here recently to be working with a guy on the t-shirts where he’s giving me a good deal on the shirts and we’re giving him a sponsorship package, to give him some publicity as well. It’s a nice opportunity for us, as well as for him. We’re definitely going to be doing more with the merchandizing in the future.
Jake: And, what about your relationship with Billy Stannick? I had a nice chat with Billy and he sang your praises. It seems like you guys have a real nice positive relationship there?
Andrew Stokes: We’re best friends. We’re the odd couple. (Billy Stannick Sr. is white and over 60. Andrew Stokes is black and is much younger). But, we’re best friends. He’s been the patriarch here… he’s literally kept boxing going (in South Carolina) for the last thirty years, either with shows that he’s been directly involved in or in shows that he’s been indirectly involved in, either as a sponsor, or putting fighters on the card, or just by getting the word out. Plus, he has the Whiterock.com website and he has so many friends. He is instrumental in getting the word out. He’s really been the patriarch of boxing in South Carolina for the past thirty years.
Jake: Do you have your own website as well, or do you use Whiterock’s website exclusively.
Andrew Stokes: Actually, we have just started our own. We will continue to work with the Whiterock.com site – the two sites will be linked together and you can go back and forth between the sites — but we thought that it was important at this point to have a site that is identified with Palmetto Boxing as well. When you get a chance check it out. It is Palmettoboxing.com.
Jake: Sure, I’ll definitely do that. I look forward to seeing what you have there.
Jake: Now, let’s talk about matchmaking. Can you share with us your views on matchmaking? Do you enjoy matchmaking?
Andrew Stokes: I do enjoy the matchmaking part of it. I do enjoy it… because one of the things I’ve found out is you see a lot of small promoters, they come and they go, they come and they go. You see, there’s a formula for this thing, there’s a way to do promoting right. If you put on good shows, if you put on competitive fights, the people will come back. If you put on too many lopsided fights where people are getting blasted out, it’s not going to work. I’ve been to fights where the promoter has had 8 or 10 fights on the card and eight of them don’t last past the first round. People don’t come back to see stuff like that. You got to make these kids fight.
Jake: Now what about the opponent for Chris Fitzpatrick. Do you have someone lined up yet?
Andrew Stokes: We’re still working on that. I’m working really hard to find a good, tough fighter to face Chris. We definitely want that match-up to be a good one because it’s the headliner.
Jake: Can you tell me what are some of the frustrations that you have experienced as a promoter?
Andrew Stokes: I’d say getting sponsors, that is, getting sponsors to believe in your product, to get them out and to give you that financial support. Because, its tough to do this thing (promoting) without sponsors and their financial support. But, once I get them out to an event they come back, either as sponsors or as fans. Because once they’ve seen a show, they appreciate what I’m doing. And, I really appreciate that. And, the only other frustration is… that’s about it… it’s basically making sure that you have the money that it takes to continue to put on good boxing shows, because it does take money.
Jake: Now, for the last question. What about a televised fight, on ESPN or Showtime or something like that? What do you think it will take to get Palmetto to that level?
Andrew Stokes: We’re there. That is, we’re ready now. I’ve already promoted some of the best fighters in the world – Travis Simms and Luis Collazo. You see, my whole thing has been when I go to them I want to go to them with a good product; something that I know is going to sell. I already want to have the fan base there, the sponsors there. Then, whether they buy it or not, I still want to go on with the show. I want to be able to afford the show whether ESPN is there or not. If they jump on it, its gravy, if they don’t we’ve still got a show, you know.
Jake: Andrew thanks for the interview and good luck with your future promotions. I look forward to seeing your show on November 21st!
Andrew Stokes: It’s been a pleasure. And, thank you for your support. I hope the readers will find this of interest.
Editor’s Note: If you are interested in reading other stories about boxing and the “fight game” focusing primarily on the Carolinas, please visit JakeatRingside.com.