Tuesday, March 21, 2023  |


Roc Nation amps up fan experience for first boxing promotion


Dusty Hernandez-Harrison and Tommy Rainone are fighting in Friday’s main event being promoted by Roc Nation Sports, but their welterweight bout probably won’t be the main attraction in the Theatre of New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Sitting at ringside will be Roc Nation Sports founder and music mogul Jay-Z, a Brooklyn-born Manhattan resident. The event will also feature a performance by rapper Fabolous, a Brooklyn native, and as well as the emceeing of Brooklyn-born radio personality and former rapper, Angie Martinez, known as “The Voice of New York.”

In addition to New York Knicks player Carmelo Anthony and singer Rihanna being in attendance, Hall of Fame ring announcer Michael Buffer will introduce the boxers, and blow-by-blow announcers, Gus Johnson and Rich Marotta, will call the fights.

Tureano Johnson will face Alex Theron in the middleweight co-feature of the initial show in a three-fight agreement with Fox Sports for a televised series called “throne boxing.”

“This is our first show, and there will be opportunities for many, many more shows. We sort of looked around at fights and at boxing, in general. If you’re at a boxing event, now, it really hasn’t changed a tremendous amount over the last however many decades,” said Roc Nation COO David Itskowitch, during a Monday conference call. “What we want to do is that we want to really amp up the fan experience at the event. We want to make the in-arena experience appealing to fans.

“We have Rihanna attending the fight, and Fabolous performing. There are going to be other bells and whistles at the fight that I haven’t even gotten into that are really going to make things more enjoyable for the fans and that are going to keep the fans engaged. Those are the things that we want to do. Yes, they’re coming in to see a fight, but they’re going to continue to be getting more than just the fights when they go to a fight. That’s our goal.”

Jay Z, for example, “will be at the weigh-in and at the fight,” said Itskowitch, “and I think that should say how important it is to him.”

“Jay is involved in every aspect of Roc Nation Sports, and in Roc Nation as a whole, so it certainly would not come as a surprise him being there. As a matter of fact, it might come as a surprise him not attending the fight,” said Roc Nation publicist Ron Berkowitz.

“I do think that it’s important for everyone who has not dealt with Roc Nation and Roc Nation Sports in general that they understand what kind of owner Jay Z actually is, and that he’s involved in every step of the way and in every decision.”

Roc Nation introduced itself to boxing in August when Itskowitch posted a winning bid of more than $1.9 million for the right to promote a bout between Matt Korobov and then-WBO middleweight titleholder Peter Quillin, who eventually pulled out of the fight.

Friday’s matchmaking, said Itskowitch, “was a mix of, obviously, fighters that we have relationships with and promoters that we have relationships with and making good fights.”

Hailing from Washington, D.C., Hernandez-Harrison (24-0, 13 knockouts) will be in his third fight at The Garden against Rainone (22-5-1, 4 KOs), a 34-year-old native New Yorker.

“It is about building a card that’s going to be appealing to the fans in New York,” said Itskowitch, “which is, obviously, an ethnic melting pot. So there were a variety of factors.”

Coming off a first-round knockout of Michael Clark in November, the 20-year-old Hernandez-Harrison once fought in The Garden’s main arena.

“Dusty is a big attraction in D.C., and he does draw fans to the Garden. He has a history of fighting at The Garden,” said Iskowitch. “I think that if you put him in a fight against a guy like Tommy Rainone, who is a New York guy who sells tickets himself and comes to fight and is tough as nails, then you’re going to have a good fight.”

Hernandez-Harrison agreed.

“I’m pretty honored. It’s just been great for me,” said Hernandez-Harrison. “My fans are really enjoying it and my friends. You’re going to have artists performing at the fight. It’s more than just a boxing event. Hopefully, with more events like this, they’ll attract new fans and new crowds. I think that this opens up a lot of opportunities for me outside of the ring. I’m only 20. The sky is the limit for me outside of the ring.

“I think that it can help to bring in more cross-over fans… All of my friends who are about my age are looking forward more to this one than any other one. They see the stuff about Roc Nation and Jay Z, and it’s probably a little more surreal for them than it is for me. It’s funny to them. They’re happy for me and they’re surprised and they think that it’s great.”


Itskowitch confirmed reports that Roc Nation has signed Hernandez-Harrison, who is the son of an Irish father and trainer, Buddy Harrison, and a Puerto Rican mother.


Johnson (17-1, 12 knockouts) will be after his fourth consecutive victory and his third straight stoppage win against Theran (17-1, 10 KOs).

Johnson, 30, last suffered defeat by disputed 10th-round technical knockout against Curtis Stevens in April but has reeled off a unanimous decision over previously undefeated Mike Gavronski in July, an 87-second knockout of Valerio Marte in November, and last months sixth round stoppage of Humberto Toledo.

Motivated by the loss to Stevens, a bout he thought was stopped prematurely, Johnson said he will enter the ring against Theran “with blood in my eyes.”

“My intention is to go in there with blood in my eyes and to make a dominant decision, you know? The ultimate goal is to not leave anything in the hands of the judges or to have the referee intervene. I will say it again, that I have blood in my eyes right now, and no longer will I ever relax inside of the ring. Ever again.”

“I’m going to go in there and be destructive, whether I use my technique or I’m just a bully. I’m going in there to just throw my hands and to get that guy out of the ring. You can be the judge as to whether I’m better or not. I just know that I’m coming in there to do my job, and that’s to knock my opponent out. It’s going to be a very, nasty, blood-shedding kind of fight.”


A southpaw, Theran bounced back from a third round knockout loss to Arif Magomedov in April with a sixth round stoppage of Jhonatan Ricar in October.

“I have very fast legs. You’ll be seeing a lot of movement in the ring. I don’t like to come with too much fight, right away, but I when I do move, it’s impressive and there will be a lot of action,” said Theran, 24, who was unimpressed with Johnson’s effort against Stevens.

“I did watch the fight, and I feel that Johnson does not have good technique, and he’s a slow mover, whereas I have a lot of quick movement and I’m ready for this fight.”

Besides, said Theran, “I beat him as an amateur in 2008.”

“I feel that he’s a fighter who is missing defense. I’ve studied his movement and his fights, and I’m very well prepared for this matchup,” said Theran. “I know that he’s going to come with a lot of punches in the beginning, and I’m ready to fight for 12 strong rounds. It’s going to be a very important and very entertaining fight.”