ATLANTIC CITY - Revel Casino-Hotel helped make Atlantic City a boxing town again this week.
Rowdy fans of British middleweight contender Darren Barker, who faced Australian IBF champion Daniel Geale in Saturday's main event on HBO's Boxing After Dark, filled the Ocean Ballroom for Friday's weigh-in and serenaded the crowd with a loud, off-key rendition of "Walking In a Barker Wonderland."
Late Saturday afternoon, the casino floor, bars and restaurants at the sprawling property were jammed with fans waiting to watching Geale-Barker, as well as the co-feature pitting IBF super-bantamweight Jhonatan Romero, of Colombia, against Spain's Kiko Martinez.
That's just the way Revel entertainment consultant Bernie Dillon envisioned the scene when he teamed with promoter Gary Shaw to bring the first professional boxing event to 4,500-seat Ovation Hall.
"Just walking around the building, you can feel a different vibe, a different buzz," Dillon said Saturday evening. "There's nothing like a big fight."
Revel, which opened last year, initially focused on staging mixed martial arts events at its 4,500-seat Ovation Hall. The UFC became the first combative sport to hold a show on June 22, 2012. Las Vegas-based World Series of Fighting is back for its second card on Sept. 15 on NBC Sports Network. Chicago-based Bellator returns for its second show on Nov. 14 on Spike TV.
UFC president Dana White hinted in an earlier interview that his organization may return to Atlantic City in 2014. If it does, Dillon wants it at Revel.
"If they want to come back, we'd love to have them back here," he said.
Shaw, who is a former member of the New Jersey Athletic Control Board commission, definitely wants to be back.
Saturday's card was initially slated to be held at Turning Stone Casino, in Verona, N.Y. He changed venues when Dillon called a few months ago in search of a card to jump-start the boxing program at Revel.
"I was walking around here this weekend, and I ran into so many people I know, it made me feel like I was looking at my picture from my high school yearbook," Shaw said Saturday. "I was born and raised in New Jersey, so it made sense for me to bring a big-time fight here, especially to a beautiful property like this.
"I even got a Revel player's card and unfortunately I've already used it. But this is a beautiful hotel and a great arena to put on a fight. I think this is good for boxing, good for New Jersey and good for Atlantic City. I'd love to come back."
If Dillon has his way, Saturday's fights will not be the only boxing card held at Ovation Hall.
Dillon, 57, intends on making the sport a major part of the property's entertainment menu.
"I hope this is the first of many, many times we're hosting boxing," Dillon said. "I've always been a huge boxing fan, and I'd love to do more events here. We're trying to bring more gamblers here and boxing appeals to that demographic. It's a perfect fit."
Boxing returns to Atlantic City next Saturday, when Philadelphia promoter Russell Peltz stages another card at Bally's Atlantic City. Philadelphia super-featherweight contender Teon Kennedy (18-2-2, 7 KOs) will face Joselito Collado (13-2, 3 KOs) in the 10-round main event. Egg Harbor Township junior-middleweight DeCarlo Perez (10-2-1, 4 KOs) will be shooting for his fifth straight victory against Jamar Freeman (9-1-2, 5 KOs), of Wilson, N.C., in an eight-rounder. Millville junior-middleweight Ismael Garcia (5-0, 2 KOs) is also scheduled to be on the undercard.
On Friday, Atlantic City supermiddleweight Antowyan Aikins (7-0, 1 KO) will fight in a four-rounder on the Amir Mansour-Maurice Harris undercard at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware. Mansour (18-0, 14 KOs), a former wrestler at Penns Grove High School, took up boxing after serving eight and a half years in prison on drug-related charges. Harris (25-17-2, 11 KOs) has been a pro fighter for 20 years.
Somers Point middleweight Patrick Majewski (21-1, 13 KOs) will challenge Danish contender Patrick Nielson (19-0, 9 KOs) for the WBA Intercontinental title on Sept. 7 at Arena Nord in Frederikshavn, Denmark.
Atlantic City welterweight Anthony Young (8-0, 4 KOs) is scheduled to fight on Sept. 13 in Newark. Young, a former football player for St. Joseph of Hammonton, just finished three weeks of sparring with Philadelphia junior-welterweight Danny Garcia to help Garcia prepare for his unification fight with fellow champion Lucas Matthysse in Las Vegas on Sept. 14.