A Baton Rouge Metro Councilman has been advertising a star-studded celebrity boxing match to raise money for St. Jude Hospital, with some of Louisiana’s biggest political names said to be squaring up in the ring.

The event’s marquee matchup? A brawl between Gov. Jeff Landry, whose stone-faced portrait was plastered on UFC-style fliers hawking the event this week, and an unnamed “celebrity opponent” set to be chosen by an online poll open to the public.

Though Louisiana’s politics are famously volatile, there’s no recent precedent for a governor engaging in fisticuffs with a fellow politician for sport. But the prospect of Landry entering the ring died Monday when his staff said he would not participate.

“That’s not the information that I have,” Councilman Cleve Dunn Jr., who organized the event, said when asked about Landry not participating. “That’s not what they told me.”

A few other politicians who appeared in the ads said they hadn’t heard about the fight until after the posters hit social media.

The “Red Stick Rivalry” will move forward on April 6 with a slate of matches between professional boxers. It will also feature Verge Ausberry, Executive Deputy Director of Athletics at LSU, and Roman Banks Southern University’s athletic director, both schools confirmed.

State Rep. Lauren Ventrella, R-Baton Rouge, and metro councilwoman Jen Racca are said to be participating, though neither responded to multiple phone and text messages about the event.

Posters splashed across social media — and an official press release distributed Thursday by the East Baton Rouge City-Parish government — had teased Landry’s fight as the main attraction. The public was asked to pick his opponent from an online poll that laid out several options: Baton Rouge state Sen. Cleo Fields, perennial Democratic political candidate Gary Chambers, state Senate President Cameron Henry, 18th Judicial District Attorney Tony Clayton, State Rep. Edmond Jordan or United States Congressman Garret Graves.

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Several of those officials told reporters they had not heard from Dunn about the event before the ads started circulating.

“I thought it was just craziness, and I wrote it off,” said Clayton, a Democrat whose district encompasses Baton Rouge-area parishes west of the Mississippi River. “(Dunn) never talked to me.”

Asked if he would have fought Landry if given the chance, Clayton said “absolutely not.”

“Why do I want something punching on me for? Plus, I like Jeff Landry,” Clayton said, adding that he voted for the Republican governor. “I don’t want to punch Jeff Landry. He’s my friend.”

Dunn saw Landry at the popular Baton Rouge steakhouse Stab’s recently, the councilman said, and broached the possibility of him participating in the brawl there. Landry seemed enthusiastic.

"I walk into Stab's the other night and guess who's there talking with his wife: Gov. Landry,” Dunn said in an interview last week. “I tell him I've been talking to Cleo for about three weeks about doing [the match], and his eyes lit up."

Fields said Monday that while the event had a “great mission” and that he’d support St. Jude, he does “not plan on getting in the boxing ring with anybody,” including Landry.

Dunn said Landry seemed “excited” when originally approached about boxing Fields. He provided text messages from Gov. Landry’s scheduler from Saturday asking to find an alternative event date.

Dunn planned on approaching Landry and the poll’s winner this week to see if both parties were still interested so they could attend a press conference and weigh-in scheduled for Friday.

“People are voting every day, and whoever wins we are going to ask to match up with him,” Dunn said last week. “They both have to agree.”

Reached by a reporter Friday, though, a spokesperson for Graves, the Republican congressman whose political career is under threat from newly drawn congressional maps supported by Landry, said it was the first the congressman had learned of the plan for him to box the governor.

Henry, the Senate president, did not return texts and a call about the event.

The fights are set for Saturday at the Baton Rouge Community College Gymnasium, confirmed Kizzy Payton, a spokesperson for BRCC. Tickets are priced from $50 up to $200, with a portion of the proceeds going toward St. Jude Hospital, which focuses on childhood diseases, and the family of Ja’Leah Jones, the daughter of Dunn's legislative assistant who is at the hospital with brain tumors.

The fights boast big-name sponsors including the injury lawyer Gordon McKernan and Hancock-Whitney Bank. Eight professional fighters are set to clash in four separate matches, including Louisianans Kam’Ron Hills, Keithlan Franklin, Victor Pradis and Caleb George. George and Pradis promoted the event on social media last week.

Though it would be new for Louisiana, politicos in other states have dabbled in sport fighting to raise money or awareness for certain causes. Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2015 fought former world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield in a charity brawl. Though Holyfield “took a tumble on the mat” at one point, Romney threw in the towel in the second round, CNN reported at the time.

Email Lara Nicholson at lnicholson@theadvocate.com or follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter, @LaraNicholson_.

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