Fight Night might knock out the typical D.C. event mold – it’s not entirely 100% PC – but it works. It is the main event on Washington D.C. full card of power philanthropy events and it’s the signature fundraiser for Fight For Children, an independent non-profit organization committed to improving education in D.C. schools. It’s also one heck of a great night out.
Twenty years ago Joe E Robert Jr. had a vision to help children in the need. His philosophy was simple: “Kids can’t fight for their own cause so we are going to fight on their behalf.” Each year Fight Night brings together 2,000 heavyweights of business and government, entertainment and community service, as well as legends from the boxing and sports world, for an evening of fun, auctions, and live professional boxing.
This year, legendary boxers Gerry Cooney, Buster Douglas, Joe Frazier, Roy Jones Jr., Jake LaMotta, Sugar Ray Leonard, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, Ken Norton, Aaron Pryor, Earnie Shavers and Ernie Terrell were the champions who stepped into the ring for Fight For Children’s 20th Annual Fight Night at the Hilton Washington.
It was a special night for Joe E Robert Jr. Chairman and CEO of J.E. Robert Companies, and Chairman of Fight For Children. He was able to sit back and soak in the fruits of his labor these past 20 years; he got to pass the baton of Fight Night Chairmanship to his son; he received video well-wishes and congratulations from Colin Powell, Oprah, Quincy Jones, Lionel Richie, and others; and, importantly, he was able to stand up and tell a packed house about the $500,000 donation Fight Night received that night from Yousef Al Otaiba, the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States.
Robert Jr. referred to Al Otaiba as the “Rockstar of the ambassador world.” We agree. In September, under Al Otaiba’s watch, the UAE, presented the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. with a gift of US$150 million to fund the establishment of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, named after Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founder and former president.
Otaiba wasn’t the only heavyweight in the room. Other captains of business, media, entertainment and diplomacy included: Russ Ramsey, Mark Ein, Michael Saylor, Raul Fernandez, Mitchell, Josh, and Steven Rales, Neil Cohen, Kenneth Brian “Babyface” Edmonds, Jermaine Dupri, Brit Hume, Wolf Blitzer, Bret Baier, Howard Fineman, Jack Davies, Ray Mahmood, John Mason, Mayor Adrian Fenty, Don Peebles, Rick Kay, George Vradenburg, Chris Tavlarides, Afghanistan Amb. Said Tayeb Jawad and Jim Kimsey with his son Mark.
After a rocking performance by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and the Fight Night Parade of Boxing Legends, the elder Robert was visibly moved as he stood in the ring and passed the Fight Night torch to son Joseph (Joe) Robert III, ushering in a new era at Fight Night. Since 2002, Joe has served as a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps and recently served a tour of duty in Iraq. As a Reconnaissance Marine (the Special Operations Capable Forces of the United States Marine Corps), he has advanced training in leadership, communication, and combat life saving skills. He has received numerous awards from the military, including a Certification of Commendation, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, and a Global War on Terror Service Medal.
A number of Marines and servicemen and women were in attendance. One of the highlights of the evening had a very patriotic tinge to it, particularly with the tragedy at Fort hood still on everyone’s mind – Al Checchi bid over $60,000 for an American flag that recently flew over Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan’s Helmand provenience.
Rounding out the presentations, Robert joked that his son Joe had been working with Fight Night since the beginning – 20 years ago, as a 10-year old, the then “little Joe” helped select the bevy of beautiful table hostesses who help create Fight Night’s mystique. “I laid out all the photos in front of him and said pick the prettiest ones. He did a great job, and has been doing it every year since,” joked Robert.
Ah, yes, the models. Once again Darlene Howell, owner of model and casting company, Howell Management, filled the smoky Hilton ballroom with gorgeous, sophisticated (and good humored) ladies in evening gowns. Other important contributions came from the Redskins Cheerleaders, Grey Goose, Svedka vodka and Ravenswood wine.
Once again, Washington Life, a sponsor of the evening, puffed our cigars, imbibed a bit too much, cut into to our thick steaks, fumbled over small talk with lovely ladies (who were kind enough to humor us) and reveled in meeting boxing legend and standing ringside watching professional boxers go toe to toe. And once again we left for the after-party at the Ritz Carlton for the collision with the ladies from Knock Out Abuse inspired by Joe E Robert Jr. What a precedent this upstanding and generous gentleman has set for giving over the past 20 years.
That inspiration and responsibility is squarely in the hands of his more than capable successor, his son Joe Robert III. At the end of the evening, I caught up with Joe III, I asked him how he felt about the night. He responded saying, “I’m in awe of the entire evening. It has gone so well. The video for my dad was fantastic. It certainty touched my heart. It’s the 20th anniversary, and we couldn’t have expected anything better. I hope to continue it another 20 years.” I followed up saying, “You have big shoes to fill, Joe” As if on cue, having heard that one too many times already, he quickly counter punched, saying with a smile, “Luckily we have the same shoe size.”