Pinnacle Bank Arena was close last year.
Very close to hosting Terence "Bud" Crawford's WBO junior welterweight title fight vs. John Molina Jr. in December 2016.
But like anything in life, it's all about timing.
"We were close at one point to having the fight here, it just didn't work out because of routing," said Charlie Schilling, PBA director of booking.
Schilling had just explained how there are a number of variables that factor into booking live events at the arena. Routing, spacing (not stacking up similar acts back-to-back), the last time a particular act appeared at the arena, ticket expectations and so on.
Even though that December fight ended up at CenturyLink Center Omaha in Crawford's hometown, the relationship between PBA, the Crawford camp and his promoter, Top Rank Boxing, didn't end there.
"But the tone was always the same: How do we figure out a way to make this happen?" Schilling said.
The long and short of it is, well, a Crawford fight at PBA is very much happening. Crawford (31-0, 22 KOs), the WBO and WBC junior welterweight champion, will fight IBF and WBA champion Julius Indongo (22-0, 11 KOs) in a unification bout on Aug. 19.
The winner will be the undisputed champion at 140 pounds. The fight will be only the fourth in the four-belt era in which all four major titles will be on the line in the same fight. The previous three all involved Bernard Hopkins middleweight title defenses. The Crawford-Indongo fight also will be the third fight to be shown live on ESPN, in a partnership between Top Rank and the network.
So how did the fight end up at Pinnacle Bank Arena when Crawford had fought almost exclusively in his hometown of Omaha for in-state fights? Well, timing.
Brad Jacobs, a Top Rank executive event producer, said part of what they do as a promotion company is look at potential venues that would be a good home for an athlete in his area. So obviously CenturyLink makes a lot of sense. But they also look to broaden the area of a boxer's fan demographic.
"We always said that if for any reason we couldn't go right in Bud's hometown of Omaha or when we felt it was a good opportunity to spread our wings a little bit, check other locations, that Lincoln would be next up on the agenda," Jacobs said.
Jacobs said that from the time Top Rank started promoting and staging events in Nebraska for Crawford, he's always said Omaha or Lincoln. CenturyLink is hosting a Lady Gaga concert Aug. 19, so the logical step was to go into Lincoln. And thanks to those previous conversations, PBA and Top Rank already had a working relationship built.
Crawford has shown an affinity for Lincoln and the Huskers, too. He was introduced during last season's Oregon game at Memorial Stadium and that same weekend Tim Miles had him address the Nebraska basketball team. Crawford even sported a mouthpiece with the red "N" during his last fight.
"Since the home-state kid has made headlines, we've been paying attention to his career and trying to align this building with potential," Schilling said.
Top Rank and ESPN visited in July for an advance meeting to spec out the building. Jacobs said it's comparable to any major arena in the country and Top Rank left impressed from the outside to the inside to the staff. Lincoln last hosted a professional boxing fight in 2011 at Pershing Center.
Early ticket returns for the Crawford fight are good. Top Rank CEO Bob Arum tweeted a month before the fight that 80 percent of the 10,000 tickets are sold.
— Bob Arum (@BobArum) July 19, 2017
Jacobs said boxing events sell well at the beginning and then closer to the actual fight, and he expects that with the final promotional activities and media coverage, those remaining tickets will go.
Which is exactly what PBA wants to see for its inaugural foray into boxing. Schilling emphasized that PBA was designed to be an entertainment destination for all of Nebraska and beyond. Given the historic implications of the fight, he thinks it could be one of those events people talk about for generations.
"So when you've got a hometown Nebraska kid, living in Nebraska, this is a really good option for him to extend his base in terms of following," Schilling said. "We think it's a great way to showcase the home-state kid to the entire state."
And the timing isn't half bad either.