Prize fight missed opportunity for UABy Kyle Simpson | 06/11/2015 2:14pm
When the University of Alabama Athletic Department and President Judy Bonner resisted hosting Tuscaloosa native Deontay Wilder’s title defense fight, they likely saw it as a potential logistical nightmare without much potential profit. Scrambling to prepare Coleman Coliseum and the surrounding area for multiple fights and a full Showtime broadcast is not easy. With an athletic department that seemingly has more money than God, one night of boxing wouldn’t be worth messing up the profitable basketball and gymnastics camps that were already scheduled for the practice facilities in Coleman Coliseum. It makes sense from a financial standpoint.
What the University and President Bonner declined, however, was more than just the money. The attention and pride the event would have brought to Tuscaloosa is worth far more than a rental fee for the Coliseum. Tuscaloosa would be known for more than just Alabama athletics, at least for one night. The closing of music venues and restaurants on the Strip and elsewhere in Tuscaloosa is well documented. Had UA agreed to host this fight, Tuscaloosa would have once again been the place to be on Saturday, June 13th.
Tuscaloosa is a great town, but when most people think of it, they probably only think of Alabama football. As a resident of Tuscaloosa, I want it to be a city where things happen. We know we have more to offer than football, and I want the rest of the country to know too. Beyond just the desire to be on the map, though, the Deontay Wilder fight would have brought economic interest to our businesses, restaurants, and hotels. According to The Tuscaloosa News, Showtime’s production staff alone would have used at least 235 hotel nights during our badly underpopulated tourism off season. For one night (and for once, not a Saturday night in the fall) the country would have been focused on Tuscaloosa. Instead, this opportunity drifted to Birmingham, just like other bands, restaurants, and businesses have over the years.
Deontay Wilder, a hometown hero that is proud of Tuscaloosa and wanted to fight in the backyard where he grew up dreaming of boxing glory, deserved to defend his title in Coleman Coliseum. The citizens of Tuscaloosa and surrounding areas, too, deserved to showcase their homegrown hero on the world stage in the midst of their city. The city officials, the Tourism and Sports Commission and Wilder himself were all very excited about the prospect of holding the fight in Tuscaloosa. What better place could there be to host a title defense than Titletown? The University’s refusal to hold the event exposes a hesitance to put the city of Tuscaloosa in front of its own interests even when the drawbacks are extremely minor. The brusque and vague manner in which the University declined this fight, reportedly with a short response to the Tourism Commission and no direct response to Wilder’s team whatsoever, greatly concern me. The University grows as Tuscaloosa grows and vice-versa, so next time an opportunity like this presents itself, I hope the University makes the right decision.
Kyle Simpson is a junior majoring in biology. His column runs biweekly.