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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

What is Triller?

Triller is a video-sharing app akin to Tik Tok that has recently tried its hand at boxing promotion. When it first burst onto the boxing scene, it appeared a welcomed addition to fans and fighters alike. But, as Saturday's event featuring Cletus Seldin and Super Cat shows, its foray into the fight game is at a crossroads.

After promoting an exhibition match between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones last November, the company made headlines when it won a purse bid to promote a sanctioned fight between Teofimo Lopez and his mandatory challenger George Kambosos. They threw money at the fighters, a good thing for boxing. The fight was scheduled for June 19 and the estimable Jim Lampley was brought back from retirement to call the blow-by-blow action. Triller looked like the real deal.

Lopez contracted covid-19 the week of the fight and the promotion was postponed until August. And then to October 4. And then to October 16. And then Triller lost Lopez-Kambosos and its million dollar deposit. In the meantime, Triller promoted Oscar De La Hoya's comeback fight against Vitor Belfort. But, he also contracted covid-19 in the run-up and was replaced by the Real Deal, Evander Holyfield.

Holyfield, 58 years old, should not have been allowed to fight on September 11, 2021. Belfort, a 43 year old MMA fighter, dominated the retired champ in a match that lasted under three minutes. The presence of former President Donald Trump, who hosted the event with his son, was just another peculiarity of the circus.

Last Saturday's show was a bizarre mix of elements. The headliner on the boxing side was Cletus Seldin, who brought along his "Hamma Heads." Seldin describes himself as a throwback fighter. He is a link to an era when ethnic rivalries fueled the sport. He appeals to Long Islanders, Jews, and Long Island Jews.

The announcers, with the exception of respect-worthy boxer Gabe Rosado, were like a 58 year old Evander Holyfield entering a boxing ring with gloves wrapped around his hands, a total disaster. Ray Flores is a decent blow-by-blow announcer on Fox. He sometimes tightropes along the upper regions of his vocabulary and he can be a bit wordy, but he seems to know and enjoy boxing. His performance on Triller was just embarrassing.

His cursing was unprofessional and forced. At various times, he claimed he needed to "smoke a J" to calm down or grab a drink because it was all too exciting. And he practically begged the audience to believe we were watching four consecutive Hagler-Hearns reincarnations. An important point for new promotional companies: When your announcers have to constantly convince the audience how good your product is, maybe it's not that good. Let your product do the promoting.

Flores also made the unpardonable sin of chronicling the great history of Jewish boxers by recalling, "Dmitriy Salita, Yuri Foreman, and Max Baer." Much love to Dmitriy and Yuri, but if you asked them, they'd certainly start the conversation with Benny Leonard and Barney Ross. Baer's relationship to Judaism is, well, complicated.

Flores's partner, "Crimefaces," performed the age old routine of the huckster: say nothing forcefully enough that it sounds like something. In a thick Brooklyn accent, Crimefaces didn't add to the discussion in the least. The unofficial judge, Sean Wheelock, screams about how many judging trainings he's attended and then misses badly with his assessments. In a hard to believe score, he had Seldin winning the first four rounds and losing the fifth on Saturday night. The JBB disagreed with his scoring on four of those five rounds.

The announcing was theoretically designed to appeal to younger male viewers, the coveted 18-29 demographic. Awkward cursing, a Brooklyn accent, and a loud but incompetent unofficial judge is probably not the best strategy.

After boxing came a concert featuring 58 year old reggae star Super Cat and 52 year old hip hop emcee Wyclef Jean, because there's no better way to attract Long Island Jews or 18-29 year old males than Super Cat and Wyclef. The following evening's part of the two-night Triller bonanza featured a rap battle between legendary emcees Big Daddy Kane and KRS-ONE, who began their hip hop careers in the 1980s. And while Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone, good marketing sense, apparently, doesn't.

It all begs the question: What is Triller? And to whom does it appeal? The editor of The JBB is a Jew, a boxing aficionado, and a fan of those hip hop pioneers, but I finished watching Saturday night disgusted by the embarrassing announcers (again, except for Rosado, who was a bright light in the abyss). As a boxing promoter, it's safe to say, Triller has yet to figure it out.

"It looks so easy," Bob Arum, who has promoted fights for over fifty years, recently told Elie Seckbach. "You put up the money, you pay the fighters, it's a ring. It's not rocket science. And yet, unless you know what you're doing and you're very careful, you're going to blow your brains out."

Perhaps someone should take away Triller's gun before it's too late.

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