Jan 3

Professional bull riding coming to Infinite Energy Arena


By: Jon Gallo

Published: December 28, 2017

The world’s top 35 bull riders will meet in Duluth this spring as part of the Professional Bull Riders’ 25th Anniversary Tour.

The self-proclaimed “Toughest Sport on Dirt” will come to Infinite Energy Arena on March 10 and 11 for the Duluth Invitational, which was last held in 2016.

The riders looking to stay on top of the 1,500-pound ferocious bovines are the biggest stars in the sport, with no one shining more brightly right now than Jess Lockwood.

Lockwood, a 20-year-old Montana native, became the youngest PBR world champion this past November in Las Vegas, taking home $1 million for winning the title, which boosted his 2017 earnings to more than $1.5 million. But he also earned what he coveted most: the championship belt buckle, valued at $10,000.

“The million is just icing on the cake. This buckle is what means the most,” Lockwood told reporters after he won. “The money will go away. This buckle is going to be with me forever. I don’t even know how to put it. There are no words.”

The championship was a sweet reward for Lockwood, who fought through an array of injuries, including four broken ribs, a punctured lung and a lacerated kidney to finish atop the field.

“A lot of grit went into this,” Lockwood told reporters. “I got pretty banged up this year. You got to cowboy up each and every weekend and make the most of every bull.”

Lockwood is now focused on defending his title, but it won’t be easy. When the 2018 season kicks off with an event in New York City’s Madison Square Garden during the first week of January, several past PBR world champions, including Silvano Alves (2014, 2012, 2011), J.B. Mauney (2013, 2015) and Guilherme Marchi (2008), will be looking to knock him off his pedestal. Ryan Dirteater, Derek Kolbaba and Gage Gay, who should contend for the title this year, are also expected to compete in the Duluth Invitational.

All 35 riders will compete in Round 1 on March 10 and in Round 2 the next day. Their rides come down to eight seconds. That’s how long a rider must stay on the bull without his hand relinquishing the rope on the bull’s back, his other hand contacting the bull or falling to earn points.

Four judges rate the rider’s performance on a scale of 1-25 but also score the bull on the same scale, depending on how difficult he made life for the person hanging on for dear life.

The judges’ scores for the rider and bull are combined before being halved to produce a final score, with a perfect mark being 100.

At the conclusion of the second round, the 15 riders with the highest two-day totals will compete immediately in the finals. They’ll seek to claim a share of the $140,000 total purse and valuable PBR world standings points, which count toward the overall $1 million 2018 PBR World Championship title. The PBR Finals will be held in Las Vegas on Nov. 7 through 11.

Since PBR’s birth in 1992 when 20 riders pooled together $20,000 to start a league, the circuit has transformed from being a niche sport rooted in America’s heartland and southwest to a global force. This year’s tour includes stops from coast to coast — from New York City’s Madison Square Garden to Arlington’s AT&T Stadium to Anaheim’s Honda Center — but the sport’s reach extends well beyond the U.S.

Every week, the PBR’s Built Ford Tough Series is televised by CBS and other networks to more than 500 million homes in 50 countries. The televised Premier Series, the PBR Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour (RVT), the PBR Touring Pro Division (TPD) and the PBR’s international circuits in Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico have paid more than $170 million in earnings to its athletes. Thirty riders having become millionaires, led by Mauney, who is the top-earning athlete in Western sports history with more than $7 million in career earnings.