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Open Scoring in Boxing: Yes or No? Part Two of a TSS Survey

Ted Sares

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48 noted

(PART TWO: M-W): We asked 48 noted boxing buffs how they felt about open scoring. Specifically we asked, “Are you in favor of open scoring whereby the scores of the judges would be revealed after each round or at one or more intervals during the fight? If so, why? If not, why not?”

The respondents are listed alphabetically. Part One (A-L) ran yesterday (Tuesday, Oct. 2). Here’s the concluding segment. A hearty thanks to all that took the time to share their thoughts.

ADEYINKA MAKINDEU.K. barrister, writer and contributor to the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Boxing. Open scoring would detract from the drama of what the final decision will be should the fight endure to the allocated distance. So entertainment wise, it is not of particular value. Neither is its value enhanced in so far as the notion that it might improve the quality of judging. After all, the idea surely is not to put pressure on a judge whose scoring appears off base to a section of the crowd, or to substitute judges mid-fight for “getting things wrong.” This is a non-issue. Instead the focus should be on determining the professional competence of judges as well as their integrity.

JOHN McKALE–prominent boxing judge: No, 100% not in favor.  The mind through the eyes of each judge should not be compromised by anything, including what the other judges may be determining.

PAUL MAGNO–author, writer and boxing official in Mexico: I don’t like open scoring. It does absolutely nothing to help the integrity of judging, but it ruins some key elements of intrigue and suspense when it comes to the fight and the announcing of a winner. If boxing is serious about judging reform, then they need to do the only thing that matters– overhaul the entire incestuous system and create more of a separation between the promoters and the selection of officials.

SCOOP MALINOWSKI—boxing writer, author, “Mr. Biofile”: Open scoring is just another system that can be corrupted and surely will be corrupted. I’d rather see former pro boxers and champions in the role as judges, but they can be corrupted too.

LARRY MERCHANT—HBO boxing commentator emeritus; 2009 IBHOF inductee: I’m opposed to open scoring because  I witnessed a couple of such experiments that fell flat. Either the winning fighter, knowing the score, coasted through the late rounds and/or the losing fighter failed to respond, accepting defeat. The drama of uncertainty works best in prize fighting.

ROBERT MLADINICHformer NYPD police detective, author and boxing writer: I am not in favor of open scoring because awaiting a close decision is much of the fun of a good, close fight. Unfortunately the judges often get it wrong, which ruins the entire experience. That does not justify the open scoring. There should just be better judges.

HARRY OTTY—author, historian, part-time boxing coach: Absolutely in favor of ‘open scoring.’ How many close fights may have had a different result if the corner that felt they were ahead knew, without doubt, that they were actually behind with a couple of rounds left in the fight? I have coached amateur boxers for over 30 years and the closed scoring sucks – corruption is also rife. The best period we had was when the computer scoring (a button-push for each punch landed – not an ideal set up) was revealed at the end of each round. If you lost the first of three you at least had the option to alter tactics. Boxers/coaches who can adapt to what is happening as a result of the known score would also be proving their skill/superiority in the ring. TACTICS! From an open and transparent perspective it may have the side effect of making all judges (promoters/governing bodies) more accountable.

MARY ANN LURIE OWEN–boxing photojournalist extraordinaire:  In 12-round title fights, scores should be announced after the 4th and 8th rounds.

JOE PASQUALE – prominent judge and recent NJ Boxing Hall of Fame inductee: As a fan, my thoughts are that this is the one sport that holds the suspense of the outcome until the third judge’s score is read by the ring announcer. Also, I have worked a few of these score progressions announced throughout the fight. The fighter with the big lead going into the later rounds just stopped engaging and coasted the last few rounds, taking the edge off a good fight with the possibility of a stoppage going into that tough 12th round.

DAVID PAYNE—U.K. boxing writer: I’m not in favor. Open scoring impacts intent of fighters and crowd reaction impacts officials.

J. RUSSELL PELTZ—venerable Philadelphia boxing promoter and 2004 IBHOF inductee: Terrible idea. A boxer with a big lead avoids contact down the stretch. Takes away suspense. Better solution is to get better judges.

ADAM POLLACK–author, publisher, and boxing official: There are pros and cons. The pro is it would allow the fighter who was behind to make adjustments and potentially fight harder, because it would make him realize that what he was doing was not as effective in the judges’ minds as he thought it was. On the other hand, it can allow one fighter to coast if he realizes he is well ahead, which can cause fights to become boring, and it eliminates the drama. When neither knows whether or not they are ahead, they fight harder, fearing the unknown. But what boxing really should do is stop using incompetent judges, and bring back the 15-round championship fight. Open scoring simply shows the fighters and the world how terrible the judging is as it is happening. It doesn’t change the fact of bad judging.

BRIAN POWERS–former fighter: Show them so the fighter knows and can turn it up if he’s behind.

JACQUIE RICHARDSON–Executive Director, Retired Boxers Foundation: I fail to see what difference that would make. Good judges will be good judges and bad judges will remain bad judges. The only positive outcome would be if the corners know, and the boxers come out and make adjustments to more convincingly win rounds. Another positive thing would be to see if the judges know what ring generalship is and the real difference between power shots and pity-pats.

CLIFF ROLD—boxing writer; founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board: I’m not in favor of open scoring of any kind/time. I think it changes the approach of fighters and those with leads have an impetus to disengage. That’s bad for the entertainment factor. The second Bell-Mormeck fight at cruiserweight soured me on it. It went from eight rounds of all-out war to a chase scene.

FREDERICK ROMANO–former ESPN researcher and author:  My general feeling is I don’t believe it is necessary. It cuts both ways. Knowing a fight is dead even going into the last round could lead to some supreme efforts. It also might result in over-caution. However, I would like to hear from the fighters themselves as to whether they are in favor of it. Would they find it beneficial from a strategic standpoint? If they do, maybe we need to depart from tradition. I think what might be more important is that we improve the quality of judging. With quality judging the need for open scoring is mitigated. Also, using five judges for championship bouts might be helpful to reduce the potential impact of corruption and would overcome even two poor scorecards, saving some bouts from the wrong result.

DANA ROSENBLATT–former world middleweight champion; inspirational speaker: I am not in favor of open scoring. Although potential corruption is shrouded in part by allowing scoring to be done in a way that no one knows until the fight is over, I am not in favor of it. Instead, how about mandating that judges for all boxing matches are selected exclusively by the state boxing commissions of the states where the matches take place and not the promoters? I think this would make a difference.

LEE SAMUELS–veteran Top Rank publicist: We wouldn’t change it. There is always suspense how a fight is being scored. And in today’s world of Twitter, the top ringside writers tweet how they are scoring – that is good enough for me and for the fans who are watching.

TED SARES–TSS writer: In general, I dislike the concept but I’d be willing to see how allowing the scores to be read at the end of three rounds in ten-round fights and at the end of four in 12-round fights would work out—on a six-month trial basis.

ICEMAN JOHN SCULLY—former boxer, trainer, commentator, he’s done it all: There is no way open scoring should be allowed. It would kill all the potential for great drama in the sport of boxing. If it were implemented, it would backfire catastrophically.

MICHAEL SILVER–author, historian: I think it warrants an experiment for several months and in all fights to see how open scoring affects the fighters, corner men and fans in the arena. Mixed feelings about it but worth a try and then evaluate.

ALLAN SWYER–documentary filmmaker, writer, and producer of the acclaimed El Boxeo:Remember Oscar dancing away rounds because he knew he was far ahead in points? We’ll see far more of that kind of behavior with open scoring. My answer is a resounding NO!

DONALD L. TRELLA–prominent boxing judge: I am not a proponent of open scoring. I think part of the excitement that is generated by boxing is the announcement of the winner at the end of the fight. Everyone is on edge and anxious to hear the scores. There are also many ways a fighter can use open scoring to their advantage and diminish the action. For example, if a fighter is way ahead after seven rounds and has a shutout going, what’s the benefit of mixing it up the rest of the way? The fighter in the lead could just dance and stay out of the fray for the remaining five rounds leading to a very boring bout. Another example might be where a fighter is injured by an accidental foul. After four rounds are completed and he knows he’s ahead, he may say he can’t continue due to the injury and win the fight knowing what the score is after 4 rounds. What if a judge realizes he is wide compared to the other judges, does he start to score rounds differently to bring his or her scoring more in line with the other two judges? Very little upside… lots of down side. I actually could go on and on with a lot of examples.

GARY “DIGITAL” WILLIAMSthe voice of “Boxing on the Beltway”: I am totally against open scoring.  This takes the excitement of wondering what the final judge’s score will be.  Back in April of 1999, there was the Triple Jeopardy card in DC where they tried three types of open scoring — announcing the score after four rounds, after six rounds and after every round.  Mark Johnson’s bout was the one tried after every round.  After the bout, Mark told me that he knew after about eight rounds that he was well ahead on points so he just coasted to the win. Fans did not get a chance to see his true greatness. Open scoring just does not work on any level.

BEAU WILLIFORD–former trainer and the glue of boxing in Cajun Country:  I favor open scoring either way. I think open scoring would provide better boxing matches!

PETER WOOD–former fighter, writer,author: I’m all for the transparency of open scoring, but it wouldn’t work the way we would like. A boxing match’s emotionally-charged environment can be dangerous—and VERY dangerous to a judge who doesn’t score a round like the crowd wants it to be scored. The masses are asses and judges would be too easily influenced and swayed for their own safety

OBSERVATIONS:

Those opposed to Open Scoring overwhelmed those for it by a margin of 40-9. Jim Lampley said he was against it because it kills suspense for fans, places fighters at risk if they fall behind and then take risks not warranted by their abilities, while conversely encouraging a leading fighter to take fewer risks — and risk is at the heart of the sport. Larry Merchant added that he had witnessed a couple of such experiments that fell flat. Either the winning fighter, knowing the score, coasted through the late rounds and/or the losing fighter failed to respond, accepting defeat. The drama of uncertainty works best in prize fighting. J. Russell Peltz, in common with several other respondents, said a better solution is to get better judges. Another frequently-heard comment was pinpointed colorfully by Peter Wood: “A boxing match’s emotionally-charged environment can be dangerous—and VERY dangerous to a judge who doesn’t score a round like the crowd wants it to be scored.” And Steve Farhood summed things up nicely by stating, “..it places undue pressure on the judges and eliminates one of the most dramatic moments in boxing–when the ring announcer reads the final scores in a close fight.”

Some of those in favor, such as Bill Caplan and Mary Ann Owen, favored the WBC plan of open scoring during intervals, rather than after every round. And others thought there would be value in trying it for a trial period.

Ted Sares is one of the oldest active power lifters and is the oldest Strongman competitor in the United States. He recently won the Maine State Championship in his class. He is a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame.

 Photo: Julio Cesar Chavez and Pernell Whitaker battle to a controversial draw in San Antonio.

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The Avila Perspective, Chap. 35: Bam Bam Rios, Heavyweights and More

David A. Avila

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They don’t make fighters like “Bam Bam” Brandon Rios every day you know. But there was a time when it was as common as a Helms Bakery truck arriving in the morning.

He talks like a snarling character out of a Mickey Spillane novel and looks like a guy who eats nuts and bolts for breakfast, not Wheaties.

And when you put on a pair of mitts on his fists look out.

Rios (35-4-1, 26 KOs) won his last bout and now takes on another Mexican veteran Humberto Soto (68-9-2) in a welterweight battle of tough guys at Tijuana, Mexico. Its home turf for Soto and the match will be streamed on DAZN.

Time can be a sonofagun and even the toughest get taken down a notch or two. Since losing the WBO welterweight world title to Timothy Bradley in 2015, the road has been covered with spiked strips for the Garden City, Kansas native who now lives in Oxnard, Calif.

Before a win two months ago, he was stopped by former welterweight and super lightweight world champion Danny Garcia in the ninth round a year ago in February. It always seems to be the ninth round when things happen or not for Rios. When he lost to Bradley the end also took place in the ninth.

But that’s OK for Rios. When your family grows up working in the slaughter houses in temperatures not fit for human beings, that kind of labor hardens a person’s grit to not quit. No matter what other normal people might do, it’s not an option for Rios. And that’s the way he’s always fought.

“Anything can happen though, at the end of the day it’s not about who has what, it’s about me and him in the ring,” said Rios, 32.

Just last November the Oxnard-based fighter, who trains in Riverside with Robert Garcia, engaged in a Mexican war with Ramon Alvarez. He’s the older brother of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and he traded cannon blows with Rios until the pivotal ninth round when the back and forth battle was finally stopped by referee Tom Taylor. It was the kind of fight you might have seen in the 1940s; a kind of Tony Zale vs Rocky Graziano war of attrition that Rios was groomed for since a child in the Kansas gyms.

Like we mentioned before, they don’t make fighters like Rios any more.

When he crosses the Mexican border on Saturday in Tijuana, don’t expect him to feel out of place. He’s been there many times and his family comes from Mexico.

“Even though Soto will be in his own country, I have a lot of Mexican fans, my dad was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and LA is just a couple hours away so I hope to see my fans there supporting me,” said Rios.

This time he has Soto in front of him, a former world champion who lives in Tijuana and can recite word for word the book on dirty fighting. He’s not shy about elbowing and hitting below the belt or butting you with his head. He knows every dark trick known to prizefighters. When he fought John Molina Jr. a while back he feigned getting hit below the belt after that fighter dropped him with a legal body shot. Soto’s act was so convincing the referee deducted a point though he never actually saw the blow, unless he has X-ray vision. Soto is as wily as they come. And don’t expect the referee to keep the fight legal. I’ve seen battles in Tijuana where a veteran fighter was actually hitting another guy’s kneecaps and thighs. True story.

Rios will have his hands full. He’s run into these types of fighters before. Remember Argentina’s Diego Chaves? That fighter was ultimately disqualified for elbows and intentional head butts.

“Soto is a veteran, he’s 30 years old. he knows some tricks, he’s a former three-time world champion, so we’ve got to be ready for whatever he brings,” said Rios. “That’s why I’m working so hard to correct the mistakes.”

It’s Rios style of fighting that seems to attract those kind of fights. It’s not for the squeamish. But if you prefer Rios “two for two” style of bang it out in the boxing ring, then, this is for you. His three wars with Mike Alvarado were brutal and beautiful at the same time.

DAZN signed up Rios for this reason.

Also, East L.A.’s Seniesa Estrada defends the WBC Silver light flyweight title she recently won against Venezuela’s Yenifer Leon on the co-main event at Auditorio Municipal. DAZN will stream the fight.

Estrada (15-0, 5 KOs) meets hard-hitting Leon (9-1, 6 KOs) in a female bout set for 10 rounds. Estrada has stretched three consecutive opponents. She will be fighting in the hometown of interim WBC light flyweight titlist Kenia Enriquez. It should make for an interesting development.

Heavyweights

In a move that caught the boxing world by surprise, giant heavyweight Tyson Fury signed a multi-year contract with Top Rank and ESPN. Frank Warren remains his co-promoter with Queensberry Promotions.

The contract requires a minimum of two Fury fights in the US a year. His fights will still be shown in the United Kingdom by BT Sport. Fury has the lineal heavyweight championship title because he beat Wladimir Klitschko the previous lineal champion.

Most of the boxing world anticipated a Fury rematch with WBC champion Deontay Wilder especially after their torrid – for a heavyweight match – fight that took place this past December at the Staples Center and ended in a split draw. Fans of both were eager to see a rematch and rumors were flying like one of those shotgun machine saucers.

Now, Fury has ESPN, Wilder has Showtime and Anthony Joshua is with DAZN. Basically each has a bargaining position now.

Joshua was in New York City recently to pump up his IBO, WBA, WBO and IBF title defense against Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller at Madison Square Garden on June 1, 2019. DAZN will stream that heavyweight world title event.

What’s next for Wilder the WBC titlist?

If anything it puts the heavyweight scenario to the forefront for hard core boxing fans. For casual fans it dilutes it.

More UK- Super Middleweights

London, England will be ground zero on Saturday afternoon as British super middleweights James DeGale (25-2-1, 15 KOs) and Chris Eubank Jr. (27-2, 21 KOs) battle for the vacant IBO world title. Showtime will televise.

These Brits have no love for each other.

Eubank, 29, is the former IBO super middleweight titlist and wants it back. He was beaten by George Groves a year ago who gives everyone trouble. The son of hard-hitting Chris Eubank Sr. depends heavily on those heavy hands and it gets him into trouble.

DeGale, 33, is a gritty southpaw and former IBF super middleweight titlist who doesn’t punch like Eubank but has that something, something that keeps him in every fight. He surprisingly knocked out Mexico’s Marco Periban who was known for having a rock solid chin. You just never know who can knock out who? But in this fight, we do know they don’t like each other.

“If I’m honest, if his surname was Smith, you wouldn’t know who he was. He’s riding off his dad’s name,” said DeGale. “There are levels in boxing and I’m on a level above him. Come fight night, it’s going to be a schooling. Eubank Jr is gonna get schooled. I’ve dubbed this a ‘retirement’ fight. When he loses, he’s finished, he’s done. This will be his last fight.”

Eubank has heard it all before.

“He knows I’m a livewire and that I’m dangerous; he knows being ill-prepared is dangerous for his health. I don’t think he’s going to put himself in that position,” said Eubank.

On the same fight card shown by Showtime, heavyweight Joe Joyce meets Bermane Stiverne.

Joyce (7-0, 7 KOs) looks like the real deal. Known as the “Juggernaut,” the London heavyweight blew out Joe Hanks at Staples Center on the undercard of the Wilder-Fury match. I expected Hanks and his heavy hands to give Joyce pause, especially if he connected. Well, Hanks connected but then Joyce connected and blew out Hank’s candle. It was impressive.

Stiverne (25-3-1), the former WBC heavyweight world titlist, hasn’t been too impressive lately. In his last fight with Wilder he was blown out in less than one round. He didn’t look like he wanted to be there. Joyce is a serious heavyweight contender and at age 33 knows he doesn’t have much time to prove his worth. Expect an execution.

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James DeGale vs. Chris Eubank Jr is the Quintessential Crossroads Fight   

Arne K. Lang

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DeGale vs Eubank

After winning back his IBF 168-pound world title in his rematch with Caleb Truax, James “Chunky” DeGale surrendered the belt rather than honor his mandatory against Jose Uzcategui. This was a smart business decision. More lucrative opportunities awaited him on the domestic front.

There’s no meaningful title at stake when DeGale (25-2-1, 15 KOs) meets Chris Eubank Jr. (25-2, 21 KOs) in a 12-round contest at London’s 02 Arena on Saturday, but this is an important match in the careers of both men as the loser, notes Eubank in a nice metaphor, “will be left in no-man’s land.” A fight between DeGale and Uzcategui (or Uzcategui’s conqueror Caleb Plant) wouldn’t have attracted nearly as much buzz.

The winner may go on to fight Liverpool’s undefeated Callum Smith, the WBA 168-pound champion, or Hatfield’s undefeated Billy Joe Saunders who is expected to breeze past Germany’s little known Shefat Isufi in his first go at 168 on April 13 at Wembley with the vacant WBO title at stake. And don’t rule out George Groves, 30, notwithstanding the fact that Groves announced his retirement late last month. Retirements in boxing are notoriously frangible.

DeGale was rooting for Groves to upend Callum Smith when they met on Sept. 28 at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. There’s no love lost between DeGale and Eubank, whose social media squabbles date back several years, but DeGale felt a greater enmity toward Groves, a former amateur teammate and rival. Groves nipped DeGale in a terrific fight back in 2011 – Chunky disputed the decision – and it has always grated on him that Groves would go on to rake in substantially more loot as their careers moved forward.

Chris Eubank Jr. would also welcome a rematch with “Saint George” who outpointed him before a packed house at the Manchester Arena in February of last year. And while there was no disputing this decision, Eubank is certain the result would have been different if not for an accidental clash of heads in the third round that left him with blurred vision in his right eye.

Eubank appeared on the Groves-Smith card in Saudi Arabia. He was fed a soft touch in Ireland’s J.J. McDonaugh who could not continue after the third round. Two days later, DeGale, who is advised by Al Haymon, had his potboiler. He stopped no-hoper Fidel Munoz in the third round of a fight buried on a show in Ontario, CA. It was important for him to take out Munoz early as each of his six previous fights had gone to the scorecards.

If the odds hold up, Eubank (whose career has been less impacted by injuries) will go to post a small favorite, this despite the fact that Chunky is a former Olympic gold medalist and two-time world title holder and Eubank has come up short in his two biggest fights, losing to Groves and the aforementioned Billy Joe Saunders who was awarded a split decision when they met in November of 2014. Eubank started slow in that fight and it cost him. Saunders is a southpaw, as is DeGale.

James DeGale doesn’t have a fan-friendly style, but based on the odds this should be a competitive and entertaining fight. And it is pinned to an interesting undercard.

Selby-Douglas

The chief supporting bout is a 12-round affair pitting Lee Selby (26-2, 9 KOs) against Omar Douglas (19-2, 13 KOs). Selby is a former IBF featherweight champion who came a cropper in his fifth defense, losing a split decision to Josh Warrington. This will be his first fight at 130 pounds. Douglas, from Wilmington, Delaware, was a five time Pennsylvania Golden Gloves champion. He has won two straight after suffering back-to-back defeats to Javier Fortuna and Edner Cherry.

Selby, whose younger brother Andrew is rated #1 at flyweight by the WBC, aspires to become the first fighter from Wales to win world titles in two weight divisions. If he gets past Douglas, he may secure a date with WBA title-holder Andrew Cancio, boxing’s newest Cinderella Man.

Joyce-Stiverne

More compelling than the Selby-Douglas match is the contest between heavyweights Joe Joyce (7-0) and Bermane Stiverne (25-3-1).

As a pro, Joyce has answered the bell for only 19 rounds, but the 33-year-old Englishman, who is of Scotch-Irish and Nigerian descent, is far more experienced than his record suggests. He was 12-1 in the World Series of Boxing where all bouts are scheduled for five rounds. His lone defeat came at the hands of Oleksandr Usyk. In his final amateur fight he lost a controversial split decision to Tony Yoka in the gold medal round of the 2016 Olympics.

Joyce has been training in Big Bear, California, under the tutelage of Abel Sanchez. Customarily carrying about 260 pounds on his six-foot-six frame, he should have little difficulty turning away Stiverne who is now 40 years old and has had only one fight in the last 39 months. But Stiverne briefly held the WBC version of the world heavyweight title and that makes him far and away Joe Joyce’s most notable opponent to this date and theoretically a good measuring rod as to whether Joyce can stay on the fast track or perhaps needs to slow down his mad rush to a world title fight.

Joyce vs. Stiverne and Selby vs. Douglas will appear on the TV portion of the DeGale-Eubank card. The fights will air live on Showtime in the U.S. (the telecast begins at 3:45 p.m. ET) and on ITV Box Office in the UK.

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Don’t Be Blue! The Met Philly is a Great Fight Town’s New (Yet Old) Boxing Venue

Bernard Fernandez

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boxing Met Philly

Bernard Hopkins, the renowned former middleweight and light heavyweight champion from Philadelphia, once explained his compulsion for adding layers to his boxing legacy by noting that “history is forever.”

Well, sometimes it is. But history, while seldom if ever completely vanishing, can fade with the passage of time. Which is not to say adjustments to what once was can’t be made; in a remarkable trade-off, one chapter in the regal boxing history of B-Hop’s hometown is permanently slamming shut while another just a few blocks away on North Broad Street is about to be rewritten for a new generation and possibly succeeding ones. It is as if Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of physics – “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” – is being played out in real life.

Goodbye forever, iconic fight club Blue Horizon. Hello, Metropolitan Opera House, or as it is now known, The Met Philadelphia, again pristine and gorgeous after a $56 million transformation over the past 18 months. The first of what is being promised as regularly scheduled boxing events at The Met takes place this Saturday night with an 11-bout card, the headliner an eight-rounder pitting undefeated local prospects Jeremy Cuevas (11-0, 8 KOs) against Steven Ortiz (9-0, 3 KOs), for the vacant Pennsylvania lightweight championship. It is a nostalgic nod toward the neighborhood turf wars that once fed the city’s reputation as an incubator of hard-as-nails fighters who made their bones by slugging it out with one another.

Other matchups of interest have Samuel Teah (15-2-1, 7 KOs), of Northeast Philly by way of his native Liberia, going against Tre’Sean Wiggins (10-4-1, 6 KOs), of Johnstown, Pa., in an eight-rounder for the vacant Pennsylvania junior welterweight belt; welterweight Malik Hawkins (13-0, 9 KOs), of Baltimore, swapping punches with Gledwin Ortiz (6-2, 5 KOs), of the Bronx, N.Y., in an eight-rounder, and junior welter Branden Pizarro (13-1, 6 KOs), of the Juniata Park section of Philly, taking on Zack Ramsey (8-5, 4 KOs), of Springfield, Mass., in a six-rounder.

“The place is definitely beautiful. Breathtaking,” Cuevas, 23, a North Philadelphia native now residing in South Philly, said after a tour of The Met on Tuesday. “Who wouldn’t want to fight in such a beautiful venue in his hometown? I’ve always wanted to be involved in something like this, and now I’m here. It really hasn’t sunk in yet. But I have to win. Do that and what’s already a special occasion becomes a little more so.

“The hype is astounding, as it should be. I have a chance to help bring it all back to Philly, and to do it in style.”

Manny Rivera, president of Philadelphia-based Hard Hitting Promotions, is excited about the prospect of a long and mutually beneficial partnership with Live Nation Philadelphia, a company whose primary business is concert promotion and whose list of recording artists is topped by popular Philly rapper Meek Mill. Although Saturday’s fight card is the launch of The Met Philly’s reincarnation as a boxing venue, the facility, which first opened in 1908 and hosted boxing events from 1934 to 1954, has been operational since Dec. 3, when 77-year-old folk-rock legend Bob Dylan prophetically ushered in a new yet somehow familiar era by performing many of his hits that dated back to the 1960s, as did the majority of his audience.

Maybe what goes around really does come back around again, if someone with the will and the finances is determined to make it so.

Rivera said Hard Hitting Promotions expects to stage six fight cards at The Met in 2019, the next on a yet-unspecified date in April, “and go on from there,” adding layers onto the next-phase legacy of an again-grand facility that had fallen into disrepair and might have been marked for demolition were it not been for the intervention of Geoff Gordon, regional president of Live Nation Philadelphia, who saw the potential of the crumbling old palace and was willing to back his vision of a glorious future with a massive financial infusion.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for boxing and we have a wonderful spot to watch competitive boxing on North Broad Street,” Gordon said of the restored, multi-purpose Met, whose 858 North Broad Street address is just five blocks below the site once occupied by the Blue Horizon at the 1314-16 North Broad. But the Blue Horizon (as it had been known since 1961, so dubbed by fight promoter and then-owner Jimmy Toppi), which was constructed in 1865, hadn’t staged a fight card since June 4,  2010,  when featherweight Coy Evans scored a six-round unanimous decision over Barbaro Zepeda in the main event. Almost immediately thereafter, Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspection again cited the Blue for electrical code violations, among other things, and co-owners Vernoca Michael and Carol Ray, unable to pay for necessary repairs and mounting tax bills, were obliged to shutter the building until the debt rose to a point where they had no alternative but to sell.

Historical preservationists – hey, it’s Philadelphia, where tens of thousands of tourists come annually to check out Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and other 18th-century monuments to a significant period in America’s past – argued that it was imperative to prevent the Blue Horizon from decaying to the point where it might be unsalvageable. Boxing aficionados were also at the forefront of the ultimately failed crusade, noting that The Ring magazine had declared the 1,346-seat Blue as the very best place in the world to watch boxing, while an article in Sports Illustrated contended it was the “last great boxing venue in the country.” But those tributes were ultimately negated by pragmatic politicians who argued that while the Blue was indeed historic, it wasn’t “historic enough” for another governmental bailout after the facility had received a $1 million grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as well as a $1 million low-cost loan from the Delaware River Port Authority.

Although Michael and Ray, African-American women who had quit their jobs and gone $500,000 into debt to purchase the building, used the funds to make several cosmetic touch-ups, Michael complained that the Blue was “in continual need of repair” and they would require another $5 million in grants or private contributions to make enough renovations to bring it up to code. The people controlling the purse strings in Philly and Harrisburg said thanks but no thanks, which is why the Marriott hotel chain is sinking more than $25 million into the former Blue Horizon site, which is being transformed into a 140-room micro-hotel as part of the chain’s new Moxy brand, which a press release promises will “bring a lifestyle experience to a new level.”

Maybe that indeed will be the case, but you have to wonder if the ghosts of Bennie Briscoe, Matthew Saad Muhammad and other beloved and departed Philly fighters who learned to ply their brutal trade at the Blue will wander the corridors of the Moxy like restless spirits on an endless flight.

The Met Philadelphia – at least in its original incarnation – is in its own way just as rich in boxing history as the Blue Horizon. Built in 1908 by Oscar Hammerstein, it started out as the home of the Philadelphia Opera Company. Toppi, who later owned the Blue Horizon, began staging regular fight cards there in the 1930s, during which time the Cuban great, Kid Gavilan (a record eight appearances), Lew Jenkins, Percy Bassett and George Costner were among the headliners. And, unlike the “not historic enough” (at least in some people’s estimation) Blue, The Met has been certified by the Philadelphia Historic Commission by its listing on both the Pennsylvania State and National Registers of Historic Places.

Perhaps of most significance to fight fans, The Met’s configuration for boxing should make for a rewarding viewing experience. With a seating capacity of 4,000 or so for concerts, 800 floor seats will be removed on boxing nights for placement of the ring, which will be surrounded on three sides by curved rows of seats, all of which will offer splendid sight lines, with additional seating on the elevated stage. Rivera said he anticipates a turnout of 2,500 to 3,000 spectators.

“This building is like the Blue Horizon 5.0,” gushed Rivera, who points out that, unlike the Blue, The Met offers patrons multiple and modern concession stands and rest rooms.

All that remains is for The Met to live up to its obvious potential as a fight site that fans will want to keep returning to, which has not been the case with several one-and-done venues that were tried out as replacement or augmentary alternatives to the Blue.  Other Philly boxing sites that were more than suitable for the purpose and for a time found their niche were allowed to slip away for whatever reason, victims by turn of progress or abandonment.

So say goodbye not only to the Blue, but to Sesquicentennial/Municipal Stadium, site of the first Jack Dempsey-Gene Tunney heavyweight title bout on Sept. 23, 1926, which drew a crowd of 120,757, and Rocky Marciano’s dethronement of heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott on Sept. 23, 1952 (attendance: 40,379), and to the Spectrum, home to so many well-attended fights in the 1970s, which was demolished from Nov. 2010 to May 2011. Say goodbye also to Convention Hall, the Pennsylvania Hall at the Civic Center (demolished in 2005), the Cambria (affectionately known as the “Bucket of Blood,” closed in 1963); the Arena in West Philly, the Hotel Philadelphia in Center City, the Alhambra, Olympia, Broadway Athletic Club and National Athletic Club (all in South Philly) and Eli’s Pier 34 along the Delaware River waterfront. Less-entrenched in Philly’s boxing culture, in some cases still standing but seldom if ever still utilized as boxing venues, are Poor Henry’s Brewery in Northern Liberties, the National Guard Armory in Northeast Philly, Woodhaven Centre, Felton Supper Club, Wagner’s Ballroom and the University of the Arts.

It should be pointed out that The Met is not and will not be the sole destination for boxing in Philadelphia moving forward. There is the Liacouras Center on the Temple University campus, which on March 15  will be  the site for an IBF junior lightweight defense by champion Tevin Farmer (28-4-1, 6 KOs), of North Philly, against Ireland’s Jono Carroll (16-0-1, 3 KOs), as well as a women’s lightweight unification matchup of IBF/WBA ruler Katie Taylor (12-0, 5 KOs) of Ireland and WBO titlist Rose Volante (14-0, 8 KOs)) of Brazil. Fifteen days later at the 2300 Arena in South Philly, the converted warehouse (capacity: 2,000) which has undergone a number of name changes (among them Viking Hall and the New Alhambra), it’ll be WBC light heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk (16-0, 13 KOs), of Ukraine, defending his belt against Doudou Ngumbu (38-8, 14 KOs), of Congo. There also are periodic cards at the SugarHouse Casino, with a nice but small room that can accommodate maybe 1,100 fans.

Hall of Fame promoter J Russell Peltz, who has been staging fight cards in Philadelphia since 1969, is still going strong at 72 and he welcomes the addition of The Met as a local outlet for boxing and hustling promoters, such as Rivera, to provide the sort of competition that can only make for an improved overall product. He got a peek inside The Met during its restoration and said it represents a long step toward a Philly pugilistic rebirth, but it will take more than spiffy new digs to bring the glory days all the way back.

“It’s all good if the fights are good,” said Peltz, who is co-promoting the two world championship cards in March. “If the fights aren’t good, the site won’t matter quite as much. It all depends on the quality of the fights.”

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