With the city on a buzz: 2018 kicks off for Philadelphia fight fans
It is clear to anyone who follows sports that the city of Philadelphia has one true passion that will never be surpassed: The Philadelphia Eagles. After last Sunday’s victory to advance to their third Super Bowl, the “City of Brotherly Love” has been intoxicated with a buzz that super-exceeds all of the alcohol that was consumed before, during and after the NFC Championship victory. Although the citiy’s rabid sports fan base, which, at times, has earned the city nicknames like “Neg-Adelphia” (in regard to the fans less-than-positive outlook on how things will transpire), with the Eagles’ victory, a sense of optimism and the aforementioned buzz have swept the city. It’s an optimistic feeling that may have also provided a silver lining, regarding the future of boxing in the region.
Tonight the boxing schedule for the city gets underway with an intriguing event from the Sugar House Casino, as The Real Deal Boxing will make its live boxing debut in the Philadelphia market. Before we dive into this initial event, as well as the following events that have made the first quarter of 2018 a loaded one for live boxing in the city, it’s important to understand that, coming into 2018, the boxing landscape in the city has been going through an evolution, much in the way the industry has been evolving, as a whole, around the world.
Hall of Fame promoter J Russell Peltz is no longer running a full-time schedule of shows. While Peltz is still somewhat active, having run quarterly events the past couple of years, with no shows currently on the books for 2018, he will lend his hand as a matchmaker for a few of the upcoming local shows.
As a result, several of the other promotional outfits have begun staking their claims as the new kings of the city and region. This was evident on December 1, of last year, when two shows took place at the same time, a rare situation in the city, with Sugar House Casino and the 2300 Arena hosting shows by Hard Hitting Promotions and King’ Promotions, respectively. Both shows played to sold-out, turn-away crowds, both with entertaining fights featuring local talent.
In the past and again recently there has been some skepticism regarding just how much Philadelphia is still a fight town. The days of sold-out shows during the 1970s and early-’80s, at the Spectrum and Civic Center (both arenas no longer stand), are clearly a thing of the past. Once those shows, which would have crowds of 12,000-to-15,000 fans, became no longer viable, thanks in part to the rise of Atlantic City Casinos (along with the doors closing at the Blue Horizon, which during the ’90s hosted televised fights on cable outlets such as ESPN and the USA Network) Philadelphia has since been viewed as a fight town of the past.
Bernard Fernandez addressed some of these issues in his most recent piece “Hopkins vs. Reid: The Philly feud that never got settled in the ring.” Fernandez detailed why a fight, 20 years ago, between IBF middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins and Olympic gold medalist David Reid never came to fruition in Philadelphia.
What’s ironic is that while Atlantic City casino gambling played a role in the dwindling live crowds in Philadelphia (especially during the ’80s), Atlantic City has now fallen on hard times and no longer hosts large live boxing events. This is now due, in part, to the legalization of casino gambling inside of the city limits and the surrounding Philadelphia region.
With all of these “Neg-Adelphia” reasons for doom and gloom to reign supreme over the city and its future with live boxing, one thing has indeed remained the same, regarding Philadelphia and its status as an elite fight town: Talent. If not for talent, there would be no reason for the current state of optimism. Philadelphia has – and always will be – a region full of talent. After all isn’t that what any good live show is in need of in order to be successful?
On any given day, and at any given time, you can walk into one of the dozens of gyms in the region and find yourself watching top-tier talent practicing their craft, both on the amateur and professional levels. What is clear is there is a void in the city and, although the landscape of the sport, from an economic standpoint, is clearly different from the last golden era, an opportunity has formed for these local promotional companies to possibly restore some of the luster that made Philadelphia a premier fight town in the first place.
The Real Deal Boxing (former undisputed heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield’s company) has signed two young prospects from the Philadelphia area, Steven Ortiz and Poindexter Knight. As mentioned earlier, along with signing them, The Real Deal Boxing is promoting the first show of 2018 at the 1,000-plus seat ballroom at the Sugar House. It seems that an investment in growing the prospects as local attractions is on their radar, something that many of the top-tier promotional companies got away from when signing top talent from the amateur ranks out of the Philadelphia region. It was a lot easier for these companies to transport this talent to their other higher-profile shows at venues in the larger boxing markets, cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Recently Top Rank proved that the method of promoting a local talent into a local franchise has its benefits, in helping to produce a possible transcendent champion. Current pound-for-pound denizen, and undefeated two-division champion Terence Crawford proved this with his fan base in Omaha, Nebraska. While Omaha is a far cry from a sports hub, with major sports franchises with which to compete like Philadelphia. Smaller promotional companies in the region like Hard Hitting Promotions, King’s Promotions and Rising Star (based in Atlantic City) have had success by having their shows also feature most of the local talent from the Philadelphia, South Jersey and Reading/Lehigh Valley areas.
Each of these promotional companies have their own relationships with companies or management that would be considered the “major labels” (Premier Boxing Champions, Top Rank, Golden Boy Promotions, etc.) of the sport. So while they continue to put on shows at 1,000-to-3,000-seat venues that promote the local talent pool on their rise up the ranks, a chance for cross-promotions, in the future, in which each of these fighters nurtured local fan bases come together for a large event at one of the larger venues, remains not only possible but probable, so long as politics based off affiliations doesn’t get in the way. Now cue the local boxing fan base and business types’ “Neg-Adelphia” attitudes as to why it will never happen.
The following is the current local schedule for the Philadelphia region:
January 26: Sugar House Casino (The Real Deal Boxing)
Real Deal Showcase Series I: Steve Ortiz, Poindexter Knight and Jaron “Boots” Ennis (Philadelphia’s No. 1 prospect)
February 10: 2300 Arena (Hard Hitting Promotions)
Fight Night: Hank Lundy vs. DeMarcus Corley
February 13: Sands Casino, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (King’s Promotions)
Frank DeAlba vs. Carlos Padilla
Kermit Cintron vs. George Sosa
February 24: Showboat Hotel, Atlantic City (Rising Star Promotions)
Boardwalk Boxing: Thomas LaManna vs. Gabriel Bracero
March 9: Parx Casino, Bensalem Pennsylvania (Joe Hand Promotions)
Xcite Fight Night: Featuring Jerome Conquest