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For glitz and giving, Fight Night a knockout

magical snap 20090311 1400 001 For glitz and giving, Fight Night a knockoutThis is just to remind everyone of Charice upcoming appearance in a prestigious and star-studded charity event in Phoenix, Arizona on March 28, 2009. 

Only one charity event in Phoenix is lavish enough for A-list celebrities to enter on a 100-foot red carpet lined with TV cameras and photographers.

Only one black-tie gala draws guests who pay $1,500 to $5,000 a ticket to mingle with stars such as Robin Williams and to listen to entertainers such as Jon Bon Jovi, Celine Dion and Faith Hill.

And only one features boxing legend Muhammad Ali.

Welcome to Celebrity Fight Night, arguably the biggest event of the social season and the largest one-night fundraiser in metro Phoenix. Taking on the persona of its honorary promoter, Ali, and founder, Jimmy Walker, it is a sprawling extravaganza that spends a lot of money to make a lot of money.

Over the years, Fight Night has raised more than $52 million, and it shares the wealth far beyond Ali’s cause, Parkinson’s disease research.

The Valley’s other formal events focus solely on one cause.

But since its inception, Fight Night, now in its 15th year, has been unique in how it allocates charity dollars, in how much it spends, and in how it affords guests the opportunity to rub shoulders with top entertainers and sports figures.

Records show Fight Night, on average, has donated 26 percent of its revenue to Parkinson’s and 41 percent to a variety of other charities tied to the performers, celebrities and organizers who are part of the event. The rest of the money, 33 percent, is used to put on the gala and for operating expenses.

As part of its business model, Fight Night makes large donations to entertainers in exchange for performing. The charities of athletes, many of whom have a relationship with Walker or who may sign memorabilia to be auctioned at Fight Night, also have received donations to their foundations.

“Fight Night is a whole different agenda. It’s like the Academy Awards for Phoenix in terms of bringing in stars,” said Sandy Magruder, who has attended Fight Night and organized other Valley galas.

The event, relatively young for a major charity, remains healthy and is growing despite a recession. This year’s event, next Saturday at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa, is expected to be sold out, with an anticipated attendance of 1,300. Jon Bon Jovi is the headliner. Special guests include Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and Olympian Michael Phelps.

“Celebrity Fight Night is hard to compare because we help so many other charities, and we will increase our expenses if it increases our return,” said Walker, who runs a boutique estate-planning and wealth-management firm that caters to those in the sports and entertainment business.

“Our objective is to increase the net and put on world-class entertainment for our guests.”

Comparing galas

Black-tie and gown events have been a part of Phoenix’s social fabric for at least a half-century.

The American Heart Association’s Heart Ball, founded in 1959 by the late Peggy Goldwater, wife of Arizona political icon Barry Goldwater, is one of the most well-known. Another is the American Cancer Society’s Jewel Ball, which has been in existence 48 years.

These galas are among the half-dozen or so formal events put on by Valley charities that offer a more traditional approach than Fight Night. First, the cost of their events as a percentage of total dollars raised is much less. And the money goes to a specific cause.

In 2007, the most recent records available, expenses for Fight Night were 34 percent, or $2 million of the nearly $6 million raised.

The biggest expense, or $566,511, went to Phoenix-based M Group Scenic Studios, which has a crew of up to 100 people set up the stage and which is responsible for lighting, sound, flowers, signage and banners. The next highest expense was $470,843, which went to JW Marriott for dinner, drinks, appetizers, engineering and roughly 350 room nights for guests and celebrities attending.

The Better Business Bureau recommends maximum total expenses for a charity should be 35 percent or less.

Beth McRae, 2009 Heart Ball chairwoman, said her organization keeps the gala’s overhead at less than 15 percent.

“That’s a criteria we use every year because our donors expect it,” McRae said. “The thing about something like a ball is you don’t want people to think you are putting it on for a bunch of friends and you are having a big party and spending a lot of money. That can seem frivolous.”

In November, McRae said the Heart Ball raised about $2.8 million and had expenses of $414,000, just less than 15 percent.

Although Fight Night spends heavily on its gala, the organization is relatively lean. It has roughly 100 volunteers and just two full-time staff members, with salaries of $101,656 and $57,000. Walker, since the charity began, has donated his time.

Star power

Even in the beginning, Fight Night was about star power.

Walker, who has been around professional athletes since forming a Phoenix Suns booster club in 1968, started Fight Night in 1994. He persuaded Charles Barkley, then a Suns star, to “fight” Michael Carbajal, a light-flyweight Olympic boxing silver medalist, with oversize gloves. The mock match drew a few hundred people and raised $100,000 for a handful of charities.

After a year off, Fight Night raised $150,000 in 1996. By then, Walker was hooked. It took off when he persuaded Ali, who had come to Phoenix for a medical exam, to join the charity.

Barrow Neurological Institute, home to the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, became the primary benefactor in 1997, when revenues jumped to $500,000. It was around that time Walker abandoned the fake boxing matches for top-flight entertainment.

Walker said the goal every year is to bring in roughly 60 recognizable celebrities. Walker said singer Reba McEntire is a favorite as she chats it up with guests. A few years ago, he said, actor Robin Williams played football with a roll of toilet paper in the men’s room and danced late into the night.

In silent and live auctions, some celebrities offer their time as prizes. High bidders have won lunch with businessman Donald Trump, golf with Arnold Palmer and a day with actor Kevin Costner.

Sean Currie, Fight Night’s executive director, said the charity does not pay appearance fees, but it does cover expenses such as air travel, hotel and ground transportation for the celebrities attending. Although performers receive donations to their charity or compensation, Currie said there is no such arrangement with professional athletes. Currie added that, although Fight Night records show contributions have been made to foundations of numerous athletes, most are done after the event at the request of that athlete’s charity.

“I always thought it was amazing the level of celebrities who have come that were willing to come for a contribution to their charity,” said Debbie Castaldo, who until Feb. 27 was director of philanthropic innovation for Barrow Neurological Foundation.

Some of Fight Night’s largest donations, including a $305,000 gift in 2006, have consistently gone to the foundation of David Foster, a multiple Grammy Award winner who coordinates Fight Night entertainment. Foster’s charity provides financial and emotional help to the families of kids needing organ transplants.

Fight Night also has made significant donations to the Phoenix Suns Charities and Childhelp USA, which have had connections to Fight Night board members.

Ali’s role

Ali is prominently featured on Fight Night’s Web site, marketing and promotions, with material saying the primary benefactor is Ali’s Parkinson Center at Barrow.

Though other charities collectively receive more money, Barrow and Ali’s wife said they have no problem with the arrangement. “Muhammad and I are fortunate to play a part in the phenomenal fundraising efforts of Celebrity Fight Night. We’re happy that significant dollars are being raised for many charities that benefit from Celebrity Fight Night’s tremendous efforts throughout the years,” Lonnie Ali, who speaks on behalf of her husband, said in a statement.

Fight Night’s records and tax filings make it clear that the charity donates to several causes.

But some who monitor charities question Fight Night’s business model. Michael Nilsen, a spokesman for the Association of Fundraising Professionals, said he found it “a little odd” that Fight Night would focus so much of its attention on Ali but collectively give more money to other charities.

“It’s definitely a different approach,” said Nilsen, whose Arlington, Va.-based organization has 30,000 members. “It seems there is an aspect of their mission they are not letting people know about.”

Fight Night’s future

Walker said Fight Night always has been about helping myriad causes.

The charity last year raised nearly $7.5 million, with about 21 percent of the gross, or $1.5 million, going to Barrow, according to the two organizations. Fight Night’s 2008 tax return is not finished, and it could not be determined how much was given to other charities or for expenses. And while other charities pass the torch to different organizers each year, the tradition of Fight Night depends on Ali and Walker.

Walker, 64, said he will keep doing the event as long as it’s raising money for charity. “I don’t have a five-year plan or a 10-year plan or a net-proceeds plan,” Walker said. “We just do it one year at a time.”

by: Craig Harris of Arizona Republic

Below is a related article of the above, a list of the guest performers in the 15th Annual Celebrity Fight Night:

Celebrity Fight Night XV with Jon Bon Jovi

Jon Bon Jovi headlines Celebrity Fight Night XV. The star-studded gala honors featured guest, Muhammad Ali. Honorees also include Kurt Warner, Michael Phelps and Stewart Rahr. Reba McEntire returns as emcee. Guests can participate in a silent auction and enjoy performances by Charice, Roy Firestone, Michael Johns, Lucia Micarelli, William Joseph and Ethan Bortnick. American Idol Winner Jordin Sparks performs at the after party. Proceeds benefit Celebrity Fight Night Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 1994 by Jimmy Walker to support the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, as well as numerous other charities. Call for times. Reservations required.

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Special thanks to jokjoken for reminding the chasters of this upcoming event.

8 Responses to “For glitz and giving, Fight Night a knockout”

  1. ricardo says:

    can’t wait to see another jaw dropping performance from our


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  2. rocskygolf says:


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  3. JonRes20 says:

    Try hearing charice singing No One (by Alicia Keys) on the radio (during interview). She will be singing this in her first hollywood movie.

    Charice – No One (A cappella) @ Magic 89.9 Good Times with Mo (1/12/09)

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  4. Max says:

    I understand David Foster’s girlfriend is Charice’s wardrobe advisor.

    Please, please, please dress our princess as a princess and not as a teeny bopper this time. If I recall correctly, she wore pants at the Oscar Night affairs attended by her. Let us see her dressed in a beautiful gown and appropriate hairdo. Let her be the princess she is.

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  5. elsa from spain says:

    Another WORLD-CLASS EVENT…Charice is really a world-class entertainer…where her Daddy Foster goes, she is there for sure will ROCK this event again. No one can beat Charice as of now among her contemporaries back in the Philippines…she is already a LEGEND AS WORLD CLASS ENTERTAINER at a young age and most of all to be included always in this type of event where the objective is to PUT UP WORLD CLASS ENTERTAINMENT FOR THEIR GUESTS. Charice is guaranteed 100% a big star of this planet as DF said and as an OFW, am here to give her my love and support.

    Always, am praying for good health to our dear Charice who is always on the GO. Buen dia por todos amigos aqui en charicemania. Hasta pronto.

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  6. marlyn says:

    i’m looking forward to that event ,there will be another charice performance to watch and i’m pretty sure it’s going to be another wow wer . for right now , i am watching her old videos over and over again , can’t get enough . CHARICE you knock ‘em all out !!!

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  7. rafanadal says:

    What a prestigious event “knock ‘em out the box kid”

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  1. [...] this high class affair and can be read in full at the source or in the following piece found at  Charicemania. For complete details about the charities this event benefits, click on the sources listed.  [...]

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