Demis Tonna: Promoting in a Small Nation
Prizeboxing Promotions, founded by Demis Tonna, is the biggest and most respected promotional company in Malta. With a huge local following, they also have a global outreach with foreign broadcasters showing their thrilling events.
Not surprising when you consider they have staged WBC World and Mediterranean title fights, and given a platform to exciting boxers such as World Champion Patricia Berghult; Christian ‘Coqqos’ Schembri; Scott Dixon; Malik Zinad; Steve Martin; Haithem Laamouz; Niclas Elfstedt and many more.
We ask Demis what it is like promoting events in a small nation and what can be done to improve matters.
BoxBets: Demis, you are well known within the Maltese boxing community having promoted the biggest shows on the island, but how did you first get involved with the sport?
Demis Tonna: I used to box my self as a child and have always had a love for the sport. when I had my first child and he was around 10 years old, I started taking him to boxing. It was something we could do as a father and son bond thing. After my son having a few bouts, I also got the bug back and started competing myself.
I moved to Malta in 2008 and had a few more bouts here. Boxing on the island wasn’t that regulated, so I thought it was time Malta was put on the ‘boxing map’ and I started helping out in the association to get things correct and also promoting boxing shows.
Prior to promoting your first event in Malta, what was the state of professional boxing in the country back then?
As I said above, it was a free for all set up. No EBU status, no medical checks, they were not even concerned about weight categories!
Since that first event until now, how has professional boxing changed in Malta? Is it a popular sport?
My first event was back in May 2012 and boxing as become the most watched sport live on the island. So I guess it’s very popular.
What do you feel needs to be done to help improve the quality of boxing in Malta and also to help raise its profile among the public?
There are many great coaches on the island, but there are also people who wake up one morning and say to themselves: “Today I will become a boxing coach and open up a gym”. This isn’t good for the local talent… I believe that some coaching courses within the association would help the boxing sector a lot. To raise the boxing profile among the public we need local sport’s governing bodies to help out. I think boxing should also be taught at school. It would definitely help children concentrate and boost ones self esteem.
You created Prizeboxing Promotions in 2012 – what have been some of your highlights and biggest moments since then?
There have been many highlights in Prizeboxing’s past. Bringing a WBC world title fight for the first time in Malta is one of them. I must admit that having local talent box each other is still my favorite. When Christian Schembri boxed Richard Vella over 10 rounds, that was amazing and I fight I will never forget! Also Prizeboxing Promotions played a part in assisting Steve Martin making his way to France to compete for the WBC Mediterranean title which is another achievement I will never forget.
What have been some of the biggest problems you have faced in that time? Does the size of Malta create difficulties when promoting?
I wouldn’t say the size of Malta. I always knew that the crowds would never be in the tens of thousands and we would always have small crowds compared with outside Malta, but the biggest problem is finding sponsors to help fund the events. We need more companies to help out the local athletes by sponsoring the event so we can give them a stage to show there talent.
What can fans expect when they watch a Prizeboxing Promotions event? What makes your shows different?
Prizeboxing Promotions has always given the fans quality boxing. We always have one or two main events and a jam packed undercard.
Who are the leading boxers in Malta that fans should keep an eye on?
Christian Schembri and Theon Camilleri, I would say at this moment in time.
Will we see the Prize Boxing Promotions operate in other countries or are you focusing solely on the Maltese market?
Never say never…
What are your plans for Prize Boxing in 2022?
All depends on the Covid-19 measures, but 2022 should be a good year for local boxing.
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