Interview With Denby Grace, Producer Of “Don King Presents Prizefighter”

Those of you who have been reading this little blog of ours for any length of time know that we are some boxing video-game loving fools.¬† In fact Tim even broke down the history of boxing video-games in this excellent post¬†from back in February.¬† This Tuesday Don King Presents Prizefighter hits the stores and from all the hype that has been on display it’s going to be hit.¬† Ring Report recently spoke with Prizefighter’s producer Denby Grace of 2K Sports to get the scoop on the newest boxing game to hit the market.¬† Ring Report:¬† So tell me about Don King Presents Prizefighter.¬† Denby Grace:¬† Don King‚Äôs Prizefight is coming to [Xbox 360].¬† It launches next week, June 10th.¬† The game is a boxing game but one thing we really did is look into sort of the whole career mode and we really blended it out with a big sort of expansive story.¬† It‚Äôs sort of an immersive experience. RR:¬† How exactly is it story driven? DG:¬† The way we kind of do the story is, we kind of looked into ESPN‚Äôs sport documentaries and things like that and the way the story is told, it‚Äôs sort of a retrospective look at your career as a prizefighter.¬† Famous people from history, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes, Don King, they all talk about you as being this heavyweight champion of the world.¬† It‚Äôs been quoted as a ‚Äòmockumentary‚Äô, a fake documentary about your career.¬† As you progress though your career you chose what fights you want to take and what choices you want to make in the ring.¬† It‚Äôs kind of a real unique experience and it‚Äôs something that we really hope resonates with players and really inspires them to fight all these fights and get through their career so to speak.¬† RR:¬† So is this how you are going to differentiate your game from the EA Sports Fight Night Series? DG:¬†¬† Yeah absolutely, the career is something that we really worked at also we really looked into the mechanics and sort of the feel of the boxing as well.¬† Fight Night is sort of ‚Äúarcadey‚Äù and quite simple in its mechanics and easy to get really good at really quickly.¬† We spent a lot of time and depth in our mechanics.¬† The way you fight is really important and the strategies you use around the ring is a really big part of our game.¬† We really went after a sort of a really realistic product.¬† We wanted to get a lot of integrity from the boxing world with this product.¬† Obviously it‚Äôs a game fundamentally but at the same time we wanted to create a real deep experience that people can play with for a long, long time and have real fun with.¬† RR:¬† Regarding the boxing mechanics, what was it that you guys did to capture the nuances of a boxer‚Äôs movement? DG:¬† We have very close relations with Enzo Maccarinelli who is one of Enzo Calzaghe‚Äôs fighters and he came over and spent a few days in the motion capture studio.¬† We mo-captured him doing loads and loads of different stuff, we even did him working out and training like [skipping rope], all that sort of stuff and then doing various different movements around the ring and all the different combinations of punches.¬† We used Enzo‚Äôs bone structure for all the fighters.¬† As well as asking him to fight his way we get him to fight as a southpaw and in different styles using different stances.¬† Obviously it‚Äôs not naturally what he can do but he‚Äôs very aware of these different things.¬† We used Enzo for a lot of stuff and we had good interaction with some of the other boxers as well.¬† RR:¬† So why the decision to go with Don King?¬† DG:¬† We looked into several different options for the game.¬† The options were to get like a boxer an individual boxer to put their name to the game or we go with this super sort of well known guy.¬† Don is like, to many people outside of boxing he is known as one of the faces of boxing, so if you see his name you immediately think boxing.¬† Don brings a lot of experience to the table about promotions and people careers and stuff like that.¬† Also Don brings with him a stable of boxers as well.¬† He had ‚Äòins with a lot of the boxers and he was able to get us a lot of contacts.¬† He is really great in allowing us to sort of build up a massive number of licensed boxers that we have in the game.¬† We have 40 licensed boxers in the game to choose from the most I think right now in a boxing game.¬† 30 of those are actually fighting today and that‚Äôs a really cool thing. We have got Kelly Pavlik in the game, Joe Calzaghe, I already mentioned Enzo Maccarinelli, and Shannon Briggs but Don really helped bring that to the table as well as bringing his wealth of experience in promotions and showmanship.¬† RR:¬† Was King helpful in a hands on sort of way? DG:¬† With the career and story and career progression is sort of where Don lent his influence and really sort of inspired us.¬† He‚Äôs actually featured in the career and documentary in the game so he sort of molds the story as how a fighter goes from the streets of Atlantic City all the way to Vegas, the sort of hoops they might have to jump through to get those fights and to get to the level of a Mike Tyson or Evander Holyfield.¬† Yeah he was really good for that sort of stuff. RR:¬† Was there any concern in using Don King given his shady public perception? DG:¬† There is always something with anyone you sort of side with.¬† Yes we had received some negative feedback but at the same time the positives have clearly out weighed it.¬† I‚Äôm not going to comment on where 2K sits on what they think of Don King.¬† We just know on our game he has been a great, great influence and he has brought a lot to the table.¬† He‚Äôs a real character you know, like I said before he is the face of boxing.¬† Like it or not he is this great guy who is there and has been awesome to work with. RR:¬† Why the decision to go with such an expansive list of big name music? DG:¬† We looked at it and early on the idea was to look at like a hip-hop soundtrack that fits really well and other titles have done that as well but then we though the whole sort of feeling for the game, the look and feel, has sort of a 70s edge to it.¬† Then we started talking to Bootsy Collins about doing an exclusive track for us.¬† But then we found all these tracks that just fit really well with people‚Äôs walk in music and that fit in with other parts of the game as well and I think it really came together.¬† It‚Äôs a real sort of eclectic mix, I know initially we started with an idea to do a whole 70s funk thing but then we kind of filled in some other gaps and made sure there was something for everyone.¬† It‚Äôs really cool when you unlock some new music and you get to change your walk-in theme or hear ‚ÄúEye of the Tiger‚Äù on the radio in the gym when you‚Äôre working out.¬† We just really think there is something for everyone and I think it has worked out really well.¬† RR:¬† So Venom Games is the developer of the game right? DG:¬† Absolutely, Venom Games they are based over in Newcastle in the UK.¬† The previously did Rocky and Rock Legends for Ubisoft.¬† The important part is the Rocky part when we looked at a developer for a boxing game we wanted something that would bring some heritage to the table, who knew what they were doing and put out good fight games in the past and Venom really brings that.¬† RR:¬† Being based in the UK must have made it easy to get in touch with the Calzaghe camp. DG:¬† Absolutely, as you can tell I am based out in the UK and we are all big Calzaghe fans and we were please to see him beat B-Hop the other day.¬† I though he was rather lucky to be honest I thought he was rather lucky.¬† RR:¬† Are you a fan of boxing? DG:¬† Venom, the lead designer and junior head, are really big fans.¬† Me personally, and the executive producer at 2K we are big fans of boxing.¬† I‚Äôve been following it for years and years.¬† Any fight that‚Äôs on TV I catch and I follow it intently.¬† I‚Äôm more into following a few local fighters from my hometown in the UK.¬† Sitting in my office now I can see a heavy bag in the corner and stuff like that.¬† I‚Äôve got some focus mitts and gloves.¬† We really get into it, you go to the developer and they got a ring set up just to look at everything, all the equipment and they try out moves.¬† [Enzo Maccarinelli] has been involved and [Joe Calzaghe] has been involved quite a lot we are really big fans and you will see that from the documentary with these legendary fighters.¬† For the boxing fans it‚Äôs a real good package there.¬† When you complete some of the challenges in the career you unlock historic fights like the Larry Holmes ‚Äì Ken Norton fight in ‚Äô78 so you can watch a 15 minute highlight of that fight and we have the Eubank ‚Äì Benn fight.¬† We just think that the whole title has got more integrity, is more immersive, more realistic then maybe boxing games in the past.¬† RR:¬† Which fighters are featured in the game? DG:¬† All the characters that appear in the game are playable.¬† I already mentioned that we have thirty actual fighters that fight today, Pavlik, Mayorga, Steve Cunningham, Chad Dawson, Enzo Maccarinelli, Andre Berto, Nate Campbell, Joel Casamayor and then we have these ten classic fighters.¬† As you progress through your career your trainer will be like you need to fight the next fight as Larry Holmes did against Ken Norton.¬† Then you fight as Larry and try to beat Ken Norton and you do this whole ‚ÄòWayne‚Äôs World‚Äô thing were you go back to this 80s sort of style arena and fight this fight.¬† Then when you do that you unlock the fighters to play online or against your buddies.¬† And that is what we did with our classic fighters, we have Joe Louis, Max Baer, James Braddock, Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, we have a good mix.¬† It‚Äôs our way of trying to teach people about these classic fights that happened in history.¬† RR:¬† What platforms will Prizefighter be released on?¬† DG:¬† The game is coming out June 10th for Xbox 360 and then we are looking at a fall release for Wii and Nintendo DS.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.