Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Boxing promoter Lucien Chen dead at 88

Published:Friday | December 18, 2015 | 12:00 AMLeroy Brown
In this 1968 file photograph Sugar Ray Robinson, a former world middle and welterweight boxing champion, is seen being greeted by Governor General, Sir Clifford Campbell (left) at King's House. Looking on are boxing promoters Lucien Chen (third from left) and Eddie Lai (second left).
Lucien Chen
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The boxing fraternity worldwide is mourning the death of Jamaican boxing promoter and businessman Lucien Chen.

Chen died at age 88 in Miami, Florida, on Wednesday. He had been residing in the United States for several years.

The Jamaican was well known in boxing circles all over the world, and ruled the boxing landscape locally for decades. Boxing was not his only love, however, as he was an avid fan of horse racing and owned several horses. He was also a skilled bridge player and, at one time, was the head of Track Price Plus, a leading local book-making company.

He was innovative and did things in boxing that no other promoter would dare to try. He brought some of the biggest names in boxing here, and one recalls Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Beecham, and Simon Brown, who graced our shores at his invitation. He also worked with local boxing stars who made it to the top, and these included Bunny Grant, Percy Hayles and Richard Clarke, as well as well known world champions Michael McCallum and Trevor Berbick.

He was associated with Berbick in the negotiations for his world title fight with Mike Tyson, which earned for Berbick his biggest pay-day of US$2-million. Although he was not the promoter for the Sunshine Showdown between George Foreman and Joe Frazier, he played an important role in getting the fight to take place here in 1973, and was part of the group that put the card together.

successful promoter

His ring savvy and knowledge of boxing enabled him to be the most successful promoter to have graced these shores, and he will go down in history as the man who introduced Dinner/Boxing to Jamaica. Frustrated that he would hold massive shows in the National Stadium, National Arena and at Sabina Park and end up losing money at the gate, he took boxing to the controlled area of a hotel ballroom.

He would arrange an attractive televised boxing card, which would be preceded by cocktails and dinner, and for which all tickets were sold in advance. He was also able to garner attractive sponsorship packages that ensured that the event would make money. On many occasions, the proceeds were donated to charities. On at least two occasions, he donated the proceeds of his shows to needy boxers.

Before boxing, he was very successful in the insurance business, after which he moved into bookmaking when it became legal. He owned local bookmaking company Track Price Plus, with some colleagues, and this was an area in which he was very innovative.

His House of Chen Restaurant on Knutsford Boulevard was a showpiece, and was well patronised by sports people. He entertained many overseas boxers there, before and after their fights. His son, Lenny, who followed in his footsteps in both boxing and the bookmaking business, disclosed that Chen was ailing for some time and died peacefully. He has left a tremendous legacy in boxing and has set the bar high for those who will try to follow in his footsteps.