What are the top 10 boxing matches held in Atlantic City?
Atlantic City once rivaled - and maybe even surpassed - Las Vegas as the unofficial "Boxing Capital of the World." Starting in the 1980s, the resort hosted some of the best fighters and fights in the sport. Thrilling brawls and stunning knockouts were earned at Boardwalk Hall and casino showrooms.
Dave Weinberg breaks down his 10 most memorable fights held in Atlantic City over the last 30 years.
Atlantic City used to be a “Ghost” town.
Busloads of fans would make the trek from Youngstown, Ohio, to watch former middleweight boxing champion and favorite son Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik in action at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.
The stately arena was the site of his most memorable fights. Pavilk won the middleweight title there with a thrilling victory over Jermain Taylor in 2007. He was nearly knocked out in the first round but withstood Taylor’s onslaught and rallied for a seventh-round TKO.
Pavlik made three more appearances at Boardwalk Hall, including epic bouts against Bernard Hopkins in 2008 and Sergio Martinez in 2010 before he retired in 2012.
After the Martinez fight, Pavlik was never the same fighter.
And Atlantic City was never the same fight town.
Boardwalk Hall’s main arena hasn’t hosted a fight in five years, since light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev defeated Hopkins on Nov. 8, 2014, and there is nothing on the horizon.
A year ago, it appeared as if boxing was finally poised to make a comeback as a major attraction in Atlantic City.
Main Events Promotions brought Kovalev-Eleider Alvarez I to Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City on Aug. 4. A fun, outdoor weigh-in on the Boardwalk preceded a terrific fight. A capacity crowd of 5,642 saw Alvarez upset Kovalev with a seventh-round knockout.
Two weeks later, Top Rank had a card at Ocean Casino Resort.
HBO boxing analyst Jim Lampley devoted a segment of his “Fight Game” program to the resurgence of boxing in Atlantic City.
It never happened.
The Kovalev-Alvarez rematch, which seemed like a logical fight for Atlantic City, was held Feb. 2 in the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facility in Frisco, Texas. The only signficant bout in town in the last nine months was the Claressa Shields-Christina Hammer women’s middleweight unification fight at Boardwalk Hall’s Adrian Phillips Ballroom on April 13.
Mainly, it’s been left to Millville’s Rising Star Promotions to keep boxing alive in town with its cards at Showboat Atlantic City. Another one is scheduled for July 20 featuring Millville junior-middleweight Thomas LaManna (27-2-1, 9 KOs).
Otherwise, it’s been a steady (live) stream of disappointment and frustration for those of us holding out hope that boxing can still make a comeback on the Boardwalk.
Fights that used to come to Boardwalk Hall are now held at Madison Square Garden and the Barclay’s Center in New York. World Boxing Council heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder scored a crushing, first-round knockout over Dominic Breazeale at the Barclay’s Center on May 18. On Saturday night, Anthony Joshua will put his International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organization heavyweight belts on the line against Andy Ruiz Jr. at the Garden.
There’s been talk of a Wilder-Joshua fight and/or a Wilder-Tyson Fury rematch in the coming months. How about holding at least one of them in Boardwalk Hall? Virtually all of the top heavyweights back in the day fought there, including George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and of course, Mike Tyson.
As of now, the next big event scheduled for the venue is a Celine Dion concert Feb. 22, 2020.
Or, as I’ve mentioned before, how about having a fight in an outdoor arena on the beach? I would consider bringing in one of the bands from the upcoming Warped Tour to serve as an opening act.
Glassjaw would be a perfect fit.
Pavlik will come back to town next month for a guest appearance during the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame’s third annual induction ceremonies, which will include a boxing show at Ocean promoted by Golden Boy.
Under Ray McCline’s guidance, the ACBHOF has done a tremendous job of honoring the fighters, trainers, managers, promoters and others who helped make Atlantic City a great boxing town for decades.
Unless there’s a turnaround, however, the organization is going to run out of worthy candidates in about a decade.
When it comes to big-time boxing, Atlantic City is now a ghost town.
David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Press.