Atlantic City casino executive Don Marrandino is tired of seeing boxing’s biggest fights just on TV.
Marrandino, Eastern Division president for Caesars Entertainment Corp., viewed Timothy Bradley’s controversial victory over Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas last Saturday night on closed circuit from Caesars Atlantic City.
He wants to watch the next major bout in person from a ringside seat at Atlantic City’s Bader Field.
“Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had some really good fights here in the last few years,” Marrandino said Tuesday in a phone interview. “But Vegas always one-ups us when it comes to the megafights. If and when another big fight comes along, I want to see if we can have it here.”
Bader Field, which is hosting a pair of outdoor concerts this month, would be the only location in town large enough to host a major fight such as a Bradley-Pacquiao rematch or perhaps even the Floyd Mayweather-Pacquiao showdown that boxing fans have been wanting for the last five years.
Boardwalk Hall is no longer big enough to host such a fight. The stately arena once held more than 20,000 for boxing — 21,785 fans saw Mike Tyson knock out Michael Spinks in 91 seconds on June 27, 1988 — but the capacity was reduced to around 12,500 when the venue underwent a $90 million renovation in 1998.
Since the arena reopened in 2002, the largest number of fans to watch a fight at Boardwalk Hall was the 12,763 that watched Carlos Baldomir’s victory over the late Arturo Gatti on July 22, 2006. Conversely, the announced attendance for Bradley-Pacquaio last Saturday was 14,206.
Bader Field, a 142-acre former municipal airport, hosted an estimated 72,000 fans during the three-day Dave Matthews Band Caravan last summer. Phish is playing there this weekend, followed by Orion Music + More featuring Metallica on June 23 and 24. Organizers canceled two more concerts scheduled for September.
“Boardwalk Hall is too small to compete for a megafight,” Marrandino said. “Bader Field has the potential to draw a lot more fans. I think we could get 25,000 to 30,000 people for a fight.”
Because it’s an outdoor venue, however, boxing could only be held there at certain times of the year, such as between April and October.
That would take Atlantic City out of the running for the Bradley-Pacquiao rematch, which is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 24.
“November wouldn’t be possible,” Marrandino said. “I went to an outdoor fight in Vegas once in November and it was freezing, so you can imagine how cold it would be here. But this is something I definitely want to explore.”
Another problem is finding a fight big enough to attract a huge crowd. Aside from Mayweather and Pacquaio, boxing doesn’t have a lot of superstars, especially in the heavyweight division. Brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko are popular in Europe but rarely fight outside of Germany.
Middleweight champion Sergio Martinez is considered among the top five fighters in the world regardless of weight class but hasn’t been able to develop a strong following. His three fights in Atlantic City against Kelly Pavlik, Paul Williams and Darren Barker, respectively, all drew less than 7,000 to Boardwalk Hall.
Marrandino and Caesars Entertainment consultant Ken Condon, who has booked almost all of the fights held at Boardwalk Hall since the late 1990s, couldn’t pull off a megafight alone. In order to compete with Las Vegas, they would need cooperation from the other casino properties in Atlantic City via ticket purchases for their customers.
“I’m not sure in the last 10 years we’ve ever really competed with Las Vegas for fights, even during Arturo Gatti’s heyday,” Condon said Tuesday in a phone interview. “Arturo was a North Jersey fighter who was tailor-made to fight in Atlantic City.
“If we’re going to go after a megafight, we’ll absolutely need the cooperation of the other casinos.”
Punchlines: Marrandino and Condon were hoping to land one of the year’s most-anticipated fights between super-middleweight champion Andre Ward and light-heavyweight champ Chad Dawson. Boardwalk Hall was considered a leading contender to host the bout Sept. 8, but the fight will instead be held in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, Calif.
“Ken Condon and Don Marrandino were very aggressive and presented an attractive offer,” Dan Goossen, Ward’s promoter, said in a phone interview Monday night. “One of the deciding factors was Andre’s desire to fight in his hometown.”
Ward and Dawson both fought at Boardwalk Hall recently. Ward (25-0, 13 KOs), the WBA and WBC super-middlweight champion, won Showtime’s Super Six tournament with a 12-round, unanimous decision over Carl Froch last Dec. 17. Dawson (31-1, 17 KOs) won the WBC light-heavyweight title with a 12-round, majority decision over Bernard Hopkins on April 28.
“We very much want to fight in Atlantic City again,” Gary Shaw, Dawson’s promoter, said in a phone interview Monday night. “But it just made more economic sense to have this one in Oakland.”
In other news, Atlantic City bantamweight Qa'id Muhammad (7-0, 6 KOs) will be sidelined for at least a month after suffering a fractured right hand while sparring, according to his father/trainer Abdur Rahim Muhammed.
Atlantic City light-heavyweight Lavarn Harvell (10-0, 5 KOs) and Atlantic City welterweight Anthony Young (4-0, 2 KOs) will be fighting Wednesday night at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark.
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