The late Joseph E. Robert, Jr. started Fight Night nearly 30 years ago as an opportunity to bring his friends and colleagues together for a fun night to support a great cause – improving the lives of at-risk children throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Since that first event in 1990, Fight Night has generated more than $65 million, fueling Fight For Children’s work to improve the lives of children throughout our region. Funds raised from Fight Night 2018 will support Fight For Children’s mission to foster the physical, social-emotional, and academic development of current and aspiring student athletes by supporting quality youth sports programming in high-need communities throughout Washington, DC.
This year’s event will have its usual share of luminaries not from just fight sports but from every area of the vibrant Capitol District sports and entertainment community. And like in previous years Hollywood and boxing will again mesh, with the great Flo Rida, along with two key pieces of the upcoming film “Creed II” will be in the house, fast rising director Steven Caple Jr., and fighter/actor Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu, who will be known forever forward as Viktor Drago when the film hits theaters just before Thanksgiving.
We wanted to find more about Fight Night in DC so we asked Keith Gordon, Fight For Children President and CEO to tell us more.
SportsMediaReport: Fight Night is a little bit of an outlier these days for promotions, how did it come about and how has it been sustained?
Keith Gordon: Fight Night started almost 30 years ago when the founder of Fight For Children, Joseph Robert, Jr. decided to bring his friends together for a fun night to raise money for a cause that he was passionate about- supporting children from at-risk communities throughout Washington, DC. Today, Fight Night continues to be an incredible success thanks to the support of thousands of Washington business, political and social leaders; who have all recognized the importance of continuing to support the mission of Fight For Children. While the event maintains many of the elements that made it unique decades ago, each year there is something new and exciting; keeping attendees coming back year after year.
SMR: How vital is the event in maintaining support for a community that can be challenged to raise funds?
KG: Fight Night is just as important today as it was almost 30 years ago. Funds raised this year will go to support Fight For Children’s six partners who work in DC’s highest-need areas, including Wards 5,7, and 8. Families in these areas often lack the resources and support that are critical to ensuring their children are socially and emotionally engaged, performing well in school and on a path to a successful future.
KG: We are very fortunate to have supporters who return to Fight Night year after year; and often become our biggest advocates, bringing their friends, families, and colleagues to experience the incredibly unique, fun and impactful evening. Each year, we seek opportunities to incorporate local and national guests to help elevate the evening and tell the Fight Night story.
SMR: Monumental Sports continues to play a role in the event, how valuable is that partnership given all the spaces they touch with media?
KG: Monumental has been a key Fight Night partner for more than 10 years; and we are honored to have Raul Fernandez, Vice Chairman and Owner, Monumental Sports and Entertainment serve as the Fight Night Chairman as well as Chairman of Fight For Children Board of Directors. Through their connections throughout the community, as well as their media presence in Washington and nationally, Monumental has provided us with a platform to reach a broader audience of sports and entertainment enthusiasts.
SMR: The event has shifted over the years from MMA to boxing and back, does either area have a more unique draw?
KG: We were thrilled to partner with the Professional Fighters League in 2017 to bring Mixed Martial Arts to Fight Night for the first time ever. Guests were able to experience world-class MMA fighting in a completely unique and up-close environment unlike any Fight Night in the past. This year, we’re going back to our roots with a return to Championship Boxing and the sport that our founder, Joe Robert credits with turning his life around. Both MMA and traditional boxing have proven to be crowd-pleasers over the years and provide a thrilling viewing experience for our guests.
SMR: Has there ever been a concern about promoting violence vs. other activities through the years?
KG: The sport of boxing has been instrumental in helping thousands of young people in Washington, DC and around the world develop confidence, build character and gain focus; helping them succeed in the ring, in school, and in life. Through partners such as the Alexandria Boxing Club, Fight For Children helps get kids off the streets and into the gym where they are able to develop these critical skills that will help them throughout their lives.
KG: We are honored to be working with MGM Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures on the CREED II integration this year, and bringing the buzz and excitement of Hollywood back to Fight Night. The support of the production companies, actors, and directors is immeasurable as it helps to provide additional media coverage of the evening and the important work of Fight For Children.
SMR: What was it like to have Michael B. Jordan at the event a few years ago, how did it come about? Excited to have this year’s cast?
KG: Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler were amazing additions to our star-studded line-up in 2016! In addition to walking the red carpet and driving media attention, we were honored to have them step into the ring and introduce the CREED trailer to our thousands of Fight Night guests. This year, we’re excited to welcome Florian Munteanu and Steven Caple, Jr. to Fight Night, where they will participate in the evening’s programming, walk the red carpet and interact with fans throughout the night. Incorporating Hollywood stars in an authentic way through a film such as CREED II, provides a connection with our guests, beneficiaries, and the media that we couldn’t replicate any other way.
SMR: What is your favorite memory of the event to date?
KG: My favorite memory to-date has to be getting in the ring and jamming out on the guitar with members of the Royal Machines! It was my Rockstar dreams coming to life!
SMR: Whats the message you want people to leave with?
KG: We want all Fight Night guests to leave knowing that the amazing and completely unique evening they just experienced was not only a lot of fun, but was also for a great cause. If we can help shed light on the challenges facing Washington, DC’s most underserved children, and raise funds to support these student-athletes, then we consider the evening to be a tremendous success!