By Tom Degun in Almaty

October 31 - Ivan Khodabakhsh, the chief operating officer of the World Series of Boxing (WSB), admitted that the new global boxing competition is a huge investment for everyone involved but claimed he is fully confident it will pay off.

The WSB gets underway today with an exhibition match here in Almaty that sees Kazakhstani-based franchise Astana Arlans host the Istanbulls of Turkey.

There are a total of 12 WSB franchises with four in Asia - Astana, Baku, Beijing and Incheon; four in Europe Istanbul, Milan, Moscow and Paris; and four in North America - Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami and Mexico City.

All the franchises have invested a huge amount into the WSB which has included handing over a non-refundable $75,000 (£50,000) deposit in an expensive transaction the doomed London franchise was not willing to make.

But Khodabakhsh is convinced the tournament will be a financially profitable and sustainable competition with all the franchises set to benefit.

Khodabakhsh told insidethegames: "Each franchise is independent and they have bought a license from the WSB to operate.

"The majority of the commercial rights are granted to the franchises to individually negotiate with local sponsors.

"The WSB retains only the title sponsorships and television rights [which are sold and managed centrally to ensure consistent TV coverage] with each franchise getting an equal share of proceeds from television rights sales.

"We have all put a lot into it but we are confident that the franchises, just from the first series, can be back on the balance sheet by recouping the money they invested.

"The franchises though, actually say they are not looking at getting an immediate return as they all want to invest heavily over the first few years for bigger rewards.

"We have already seen some fantastic commercial deals agreed in the WSB with Dolce & Gabbana signing as the title sponsor of the Milano Thunder and Equipe TV becoming media partner of Paris United [in a deal which sees the channel show all the franchises’ bouts live as well as produce a weekly reality TV documentary on the boxers].

"There are other things like Miami Gallos fighting at the American Airlines Arena and Los Angeles Matadors at the Nokia Theatre which is very good news.

"So we have a very exciting set up which we believe will be very successful and while the franchises and WSB know this is a huge investment, we know it will pay off and we hope it will quickly."

WSB is 75 per cent owned by International Boxing Association (AIBA) and 25 per cent by international sports marketing agency IMG and Khodabakhsh said both are keen to see the competition expand in the near future.

"There is so much opportunity for us to expand both in three continents where we have franchises and in new continents like South America and Africa," he said.

"That is something we believe we can do in the short-term too as we would be very interested in adding to the 12 franchises in the future."

Khodabakhsh added that while the big name draws at the tournament will undoubtedly be the likes of Kazakh' Beijing 2008 Olympic welterweight champion Bakhyt Sarsekbayev (pictured left), new stars will emerge.
"If you look at the Kazakhstan team, they have an Olympic gold medalist who is a national star and a big role model in the country," said Khodabakhsh.

"He will obviously be the huge draw for Astana Arlans and it will be the same for all the teams.

"All of them will have their own established star to attract the crowds in that area.

"But there is also a very big opportunity for boxers who are not very well known to become big stars through the WSB because it will give them the opportunity to compete on television and get known by people who see them in the media."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected] 

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