tampabay.com

Premium seats often first to go

Those who can afford them are eager to grab a spot up close.

By IZZY GOULD
Published October 2, 2005


TAMPA - These are the premium seats at Tarver-Jones III.

Close enough to hear the uncensored gabbing.

Visible enough for other fans to take cell phone pictures of celebrities.

Unshielded from the shower of boos or cheers in the St. Pete Times Forum.

Michael Jordan received the loudest applause as he made his way to his ringside seat perched well within the splash zone of a good uppercut. He sat next to Charles Oakley.

The cost for one of these precious floor seats in the first eight rows? Try $1,000.

Each of the roughly 300 chairs was sold in less than a week.

Just after 9 p.m., big names began to fill the seats.

Glen Johnson was here, front and center in the seventh row. A few seats down was fellow boxer David Tua who said he was "fortunate" to get tickets through his promoter.

"He had to work hard to get us tickets," Tua said. "I'm grateful and very privileged to be part of the occasion."

The seats are nothing more than folding chairs with some padding.

Most aren't purchased with comfort in mind.

"Everyone wants to be close," Roy Jones adviser Brad Jacobs said. "People want to be seen on television. They want to be up on the action. It's all relative, I guess. If you have money and the ability to afford it you'd much rather sit there than in Section 325."

Sitting two rows behind Johnson and Tua was Jones supporter David Jernigan, a fan from Pensacola. He said he paid $650 for his seat.

"My mom taught (Jones) at Clubs Middle School," Jernigan said.

And now he's helping to pay Jones' check. Jacobs said the money from those big-money seats goes directly to the fighters.

When ring announcer Mark Beiro called the start of the first undercard bout at 6:13 p.m., each one of the $1,000 seats was empty.

An hour later they began filling to see the first championship bout of the night. There's no guarantee how long the main even might last.

Who buys these tickets?

"A lot of local people," Jacobs said. "Doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs. Everyone from all walks of life who seemingly have an interest. ... Usually, in any boxing event, the highest tickets go first and the lowest tickets go, then everywhere in between. This event, everything went and kept going."

By 8:10 p.m., some of the premium $1,000 seats were filled, but no celebrity sightings at that point.

Barbara Charlebois, who works for Times Forum guest services, stood on the floor with the first eight rows in her view.

"They're saying the main bout won't start (until) 11 p.m.," Charlebois said. "It's early. ... But that's the most asked question, "How much are those seats.' I didn't know they were that high."

--Contact Izzy Gould at 352 521-6517 or igould@sptimes.com