DT: So you’re back in boxing.
DT: A couple of years ago I started a boxing boot camp with business leaders. One of my groups happened to be my now four partners: Frankie Vassallo (president of Fusco Enterprises), George Beer (president of Delaware Valley Development Company), Kevin Wilson (president of Architecture Alliance), and John Sobieski (president of Sobieski Inc.). We had so much fun. They love boxing. They’re very competitive. And they wanted to do something unique. They all like working out. They all like to jog and lift weights. This was something different for them. I do a 12-week class. I’ve had a lot of different groups go through these classes, mostly business people. They absolutely fall in love. It works every part of the body, so it’s a great conditioning workout. George Beer, who is always forward thinking and always excited about new ideas, he’s been very successful in the business world. He said, Dave, it seems like you miss boxing. Wouldn’t it be neat if you got back in and we got behind you? In boxing, you have to have the financial support and also the business expertise behind you to really do well in this sport. George got us all together and that’s how it was launched. What a group of guys. The personalities. We’re all successful in the business world. The commitment we made since Day 1, we weren’t worried about the fighters while they are in the ring. We wanted to make sure that the boxers that we sign, that we play a part in improving their life outside the ring.
DT: How do you help them with their lives?
DT: Some of the neat things right up front that each partner committed to was financial literacy. One partner actually went out with a boxer grocery shopping and made sure he knew how to shop. They went to a clothing story and he taught him how to be fitted for clothes. It became very personal where you get to meet with these guys. They sit with the guys and find out what their needs are and how we can help them meet those needs.
DT: So it sounds like there are all kinds of ways you can help a young talent.
DT: Yes. For example, I really admire John Sobieski. He’s a very successful business guy. John had played semi-pro football. He’s into nutrition. He’s into weightlifting. He stays in great shape. He also realizes the importance of proper equipment. When we meet with these fighters, a lot of times their gloves, their hand wraps, their headgear, on average are two or three years old. That’s very dangerous because that’s how they’re making their living. In our sport, we call that faulty equipment. John went to the gym one day and sat with one of the boxers and John opened a catalog. And this catalog happened to be the most expensive: Title Equipment. And John had the boxer circle the equipment that he needed. It was about $400 worth of equipment. John didn’t think anything about it because it was a need to protect that boxer. It really showed me a lot about my partners. John didn’t know it, but that meant so much to me because I grew up in these gyms and I didn’t even have a fitted mouthpiece. George Beer works with Dr. Lyons, the dentist who has been a great partner. He fits mouthpieces for our boxers. It protects their teeth and their jaw. It goes well beyond what I’m used to in the sport of boxing. It means so much to us that the fighter is safe. Because after they leave that boxing gym, these fighters have children and families. We’ve got to make sure that they are protected and that we have their best interests at heart.
DT: How did the event wind up at the Wilmington Riverfront?
DT: We wanted to do something local. We were excited with our relationship with Dover Downs. We had our fighters fight in Atlantic City. What we were finding is we were all local guys who are really tied to the Delaware community and we started chatting about a strategy about bringing top-notch boxing to Delaware. And about that time I was talking to some friends tied in with the Wilmington mayor’s office. The mayor (Dennis Williams) truly had a passion to bring high-level entertainment to the Riverfront. Mike Purzycki met with us. We knew if we were moving toward having a fight at the Riverfront, that we need the city and the state behind us. At ringside on fight night, we had not only the mayor, the county executive, a number of state representatives, state leaders and city leaders, but with the support of the Riverfront Development Corporation and the Wilmington mayor’s office—which was the catalyst behind this whole thing—we were able to pull it off and we had a sellout night.
DT: It sounds like it was a first-class event.
DT: The feedback from the national media—some of the big outlets for boxing—said not only were the fights first-class, but out of seven fights, there were six decisions and only one knockout. So my brother, Nick, that night just had high ratings because matchmaking is a very complex art. And to put together seven fights and six of the fights went the distance, tells you a lot about how competitive the fights were. The ambiance … we tried to build an environment that was first-class. That when people, if they wanted to bring their wife and 10- or 12-year-old child, they could have a good night and when they leave there, they have had a good experience. That’s the feedback we received and were excited to hear that.
DT: You had to replace a fighter at the last minute, but you brought in a fighter who is a cop. You couldn’t have worked that any better could you?
DT: When I’m out speaking, I always say, ‘The Lord has a great sense of humor.’ We had a co-feature and one of the fighters had an injury. So Plan B was, I called my brother Nick. And I said, Nick, you’re not going to believe this, but Dennis (Hasson) has a rib injury. He said, What are you thinking? I had already thought of fighters who were at the top of my list. He and I both agreed. There were a couple fighters who were brought to our attention immediately, but outside the ring, I knew that our partners at Champs, would probably not support the boxers because the personal lives of these boxers were not good. We want role models to go into the ring. That’s our goal. We do our best with our fighters and fight cards. We want to have fighters who represent the community and us well as an organization. I said, What do you think about Frankie “the Freight Train” Filippone? We were dedicating the night to Delaware officers fallen in the line of duty and Frankie is a cop. And whoever thought that that city officer was going to be shot earlier in the week? Frankie is a such great role model. And of course he scores a win that night. So, through all of the chaos during those couple days, the good Lord turned it into a real positive.
DT: Why were you honoring fallen officers that night?
DT: This is the 21st year that I have volunteered to train the Delaware State Police and municipal police in Dover. I train the recruits on Monday nights. The night of the fight was also the 21st anniversary of the night that I fought James Toney for the middleweight world title that caused the U.S. Senate investigation into boxing. So that lucky No. 21, it was real special to me that the police be honored. I really wanted to build that night as a special night of how much we appreciate the men and women in uniform who make that sacrifice.
DT: So does the fact that you only represent boxers who are role models stem from what happened to you with the Toney fight?
DT: It’s really my DNA. I believe that’s a part of it. Frankie has been booked since he won the title. His trainer called me today and said Frankie is booked. He’s going into hospitals to visit children. And to me, that means more than him squaring up in a boxing ring. If the sport of boxing could be used as a tool for Frankie to go out in the community as a police officer in uniform in a hospital, in a Boys and Girls Club, I feel like Champs has played a small part in that. It supports exactly what we were thinking: that Frankie would be a good guy to represent us and also represent the community.
DT: I saw where Frankie visited the Wilmington officer (Patrolman Justin Wilkers) who was shot in the face earlier that week.
DT: That ended up generating such national exposure and visibility. To me, that was priceless. Frankie didn’t want anybody to know he was doing that. It just happened to be once the word got out, then it was covered. Frankie said he was like a brother to him, to let him know he was there for him. That’s the kind of guy he is.
DT: What’s next?
DT: We’re excited. We had Go Fight Live, which is popular within boxing circles, cover the fight, so it’s been online where people can order these fights. There is talk about potentially coming back to the Chase Center in May. If we can put a plan together, we would like to do a few a year at the Chase Center because it’s such a perfect venue. I’m hoping this generates some major artists who perform in Atlantic City and other places to call the Riverfront home. If we can work this out with a TV network, we would like to be back at the Chase Center in May. We’re under negotiations with a few networks to bring major television to the Chase Center. You’re the first media outlet to know.
DT: What was going through your mind the night of Champs at the Chase?
DT: I was reminiscing about my childhood. I’m looking out in the arena and I’m seeing faces like Joe Barbiesi, Ronnie Branch. You see some of the legends who really made the Delaware boxing scene what it was. You see all of these local faces. There’s legendary boxer Michael Spinks taking pictures with everybody. And I’m thinking, this is the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware. I was just grinning ear to ear. I thought, you know what? This is what it’s all about. Little kids coming up and taking pictures with Frankie. And Ray Robinson, after he won his title, he said, Coach, I don’t know if I was more tired from the fight or from taking so many pictures with all of the kids.
DT: Is the state big enough for Friday Night Fights at Dover Downs and your events?
DT: I would have to say that our biggest supporters for this fight, from the casino side, was Delaware Park and Dover Downs. Some people might want to call it the Delaware Way, but not only did Delaware Park step up and become the main sponsor of the event, but Dover Downs allowed us, a couple weeks before our fight, to put push cards on every seat in the arena for their fight at Dover Downs to market our fight. In return, when they called me, we did the same for them for their April fight. They put push cards on our seats. I really believe, listening to some of the commissioners and listening to some of the fans who came in from New York and Philadelphia and as far away as Canada, they were like, this is such a hot corridor on I-95. They said they usually go to Dover Downs. It shows you that Delaware is so centralized. We’re like one of the hottest boxing locations in the country because boxing in Baltimore and Washington has been popular for years and also boxing in Philadelphia and New York has been popular. We are dead center. For us to partner with Delaware Park, Dover Downs and other outlets like that, we all win. And I think that was our goal—that the best thing we can do is keep the money circulated in the state. And I think it’s really paid off. I think if we space our cards out … communication is key, so we’re not overlapping each other. It’s proven by the tickets we sold. It shows you that there are a lot of fans who don’t want to travel. They sent a message to us. That was our goal: Send us a message by being there and supporting this event if we’re going to do it again. And they spoke loud and clear. Not only did we sell out, we got 35 sponsors, which is a little more than we expected. They sent the message: Do it again.
DT: You look like you’re in pretty good shape these days. Are you thinking about getting back into the ring?
DT: It’s interesting. I really enjoy it. I do the boot camps. And a couple friends lost 20-30 pounds with me through my boot camp. I love it. But it seems so long ago. I don’t know where time goes, but it just flew by. My brother Nick and I were standing there watching a couple of the bouts, talking. I saw a couple older fighters on the card and I saw them struggle a little bit. And every time you get that little itch to put a pair of gloves on and spar with somebody … I remind myself, You remember that fighter on your card who was 40-some years old? Maybe not. I lived my dreams and I fought for my two titles. I did well and I left healthy. Now if I can play a part in these young people’s lives as a role model. The fighters come to me. They say, Dave, you can totally relate to us. You know what it feels like in the locker room. You know what it feels like to have to keep your weight down. I like being on the outside of the ring now and being that mentor. Not only in the ring, but also a mentor in their lives. All the guys that I talk to in this sport, I can lend some wisdom to them that otherwise no one’s there for them. So I can play a bigger part than lacing the gloves on. But do I miss it? Yeah. Do I want to get back in there? No way.
DT: I understand you also run a business related to public safety.
DT: I started working on this about 12 years ago. The sad commentary in America today and throughout the world, is the issues of school shootings, courthouse shootings, hospital shootings. About 12 years ago I started creating this software. It’s called Emergency Response Protocol. The whole idea was to look at making the job easier for responders and also facility managers. So we really developed this software out of need. Our software is actually the foundation for the fire police, paramedics, as well as facilities managers. We’re a portal format. We feed in cameras, alarms and other key information on the property so the responders and others have real-time access during emergency situations. This allows the responders to see an incident in real-time, if something is going on in the hallway, going on on the property, the roof—wherever the cameras are located, we can access them and then the responders have full-time access.
DT: It sounds like it can be used for anything from fighting fires to finding a shooter.
DT: That’s right. Also, with the keyless entries, which doors are open. So you’ll know which doors people enter into during a robbery. With our software now, we’re adding features so they can check inventory and service agreements. It’s a portal format where we feed everything important that the property owner would need. The property owner controls what information they want on the software. There are certain areas of the site that they shut off. They don’t have to give the outside access to responders. We’ve been mapping colleges, apartment complexes. What’s nice is we have the capability to monitor properties in real time with our programmers. So they can hire us from 9 at night until 2 in the morning to sit there and monitor their cameras. We can make real-time decisions: call in responders and call 911 when we see a situation happening.
DT: Sounds like a cool business to be in.
DT: We started about 12 years ago and launched our first copy in Sussex County at Lord Baltimore Elementary School. That’s when we brought the blueprint to life. My staff has military or police backgrounds or facility backgrounds. What we do is really unique and what’s we’re excited about is we took the expertise of responders themselves that we have relationships with, to tell us what they need when they arrive at a property. The facilities managers, we work with them on a regular basis. They tell us the key thing for them is exactly where all the shut-offs are located. If that facility’s manager is off work or out of town, they can have anybody on staff go in and they’ll know where all the information is on that property.
DT: Are you still doing TNT?
DT: That department has been pretty much on its own and we’re still doing a lot of training videos, a lot of videos to Web, that’s a big thing. The video department still stays very busy. I put a lot of my focus on the software. We have a couple guys, Mark and Dennis, who run the video department. It just sell itself because the agencies and the corporations and the nonprofits that we work for, every year or two, they call us back and need the video on their website, or post it on YouTube. We still do all of that. I’ve been very happy with the success we’ve had working on the surveillance side of the business.
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