Downtown Los Angeles is home to a new team, and the sport is … boxing?

The Los Angeles Matadors are set to host their premier matches later this month at the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live. It’s a franchise of the newly formed World Series of Boxing.

The semiprofessional league was formed by New York sports marketing agency IMG and the International Association of Boxing, recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the world’s chief governing body for boxing.

Athletes competing in the league have amateur status and retain Olympic eligibility, but will be paid a salary and performance bonuses. In fact, champions of the various weight divisions will receive automatic Olympic bids.

“This is a different brand of boxing than what’s being offered by any other promoter,” said Jeff Benz, general manager of the Matadors, which is owned by the league. “World Series of Boxing represents an effort by the Olympic movement to take the sport back to its (amateur) roots.”

The league is based at the Lausanne, Switzerland, headquarters of the boxing association, and will feature 12 teams worldwide, including three in North America in addition to Los Angeles – Miami; Memphis, Tenn.; and Mexico City. The choice of cities reflects the heavy Latino fan base that boxing has in North America.

“The target demographic is the Hispanic boxing fan. These are the people who have demonstrated in Los Angeles that they come out for boxing,” Benz said.

Overseas, the other teams will be located in Europe and Asia, including in Beijing, Paris and Moscow. Each team will feature 12 to 16 athletes in five different weight classes. The championship matches are scheduled for the spring in Macau, the special administrative region of China that has become the world’s leading gaming center.

Locally, there will be six matches beginning Nov. 29 at L.A. Live’s Nokia Theatre and Club Nokia. Among the fighters is team captain and two-time Olympian Rau’Shee Warren, a bantamweight.

Tickets will start at $20 and hit $195 for ringside.

The league is negotiating for national sponsorships and television rights, while the franchises are responsible for ticket sales, marketing and local sponsorship deals. Benz said the team will make traditional media buys plus engage in grass-roots marketing, such as by visiting area boxing gyms. The league would like to sell the franchise to local buyers if the business model is shown to work.

“Los Angeles is the center of boxing in America. It generates the most significant athlete participation. And if you look at the number of top-level amateur and professional boxers in this market, it dwarfs everywhere else,” Benz said.

Beach Closure

A surprising group of investors got sucked into the bankruptcy of the Association of Volleyball Professionals beach league.

Shareholders include musician Quincy Jones, Oscar de la Hoya’s L.A. boxing promotion company Golden Boy Enterprises, basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, sports agent Leigh Steinberg and International Creative Management Chairman Jeffrey Berg, according to the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles.

Larger stakeholders with more than 400,000 shares include RJSM Partners, a New York investment firm that earlier this year had attempted to rescue the tour; NBC; Fox Sports Net; and MLB Advanced Media LP, an arm of Major League Baseball.

AVP filed for bankruptcy Oct. 29, listing just $184,000 in assets and nearly $5 million in debt. The league failed to finish its season this year, cancelling the final five tour events, including its premier Manhattan Beach Open. The league depended heavily upon sponsorship revenue, but was unable to generate enough income to keep the tour operational.

Creditors include tour sponsors such as German skin care product manufacturer Beiersdorf Inc., whose Nivea skin care product line was the tour’s 2010 title sponsor. The company has a claim for $1 million for sponsorship prepayments.

Other sponsors with claims include Gatorade, Johnsonville Sausages LLC, E. & J. Gallo Winery and John Paul Mitchell Systems.

The league’s other creditors include athletes, business service providers and TV production companies.

AVP was a public company until 2008, when founder Leonard Armato took the company private after a proposed sale to Roy Disney’s Shamrock Partners for $36.9 million was challenged by shareholders as undervalued. Armato left the company prior to the bankruptcy, and was not listed as a shareholder or creditor.

A meeting of creditors is scheduled for Dec. 9.

Home Run

The Dodger Stadium Express bus service from downtown was boarded by 122,273 fans this past season, a number that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority considers a success.

In previous seasons, there had been limited express bus service provided by the Dodgers to Chavez Ravine, but this past season the MTA received a $300,000 state grant to serve every home game. Because of the success of the program, the agency plans to seek funding for next year to continue the service.

Public transportation to the stadium has been a contentious issue despite the frustrating traffic jams in Chavez Ravine. The Dodgers contend that the buses should be funded by the city, Los Angeles County or some other public source.

Last season’s service was made possible through a grant of $300,000 awarded by the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee, an agency that seeks to reduce air pollution in the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Staff reporter David Nusbaum can be reached at or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 236.

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