ATLANTIC CITY - During his tenure working for the Trump Organization back in the 1980s, Ventnor native Bernie Dillon had a big role in helping to bring Mike Tyson vs. Michael Spinks and other huge boxing events to town.
Now the 57-year-old is intent on making boxing a part of the entertainment menu at Revel Casino Hotel.
One of his first moves upon being named a consultant for the Boardwalk resort was to sign a pair of world title fights for Revel's Ovation Hall on Aug. 17. IBF middleweight champion Daniel Geale (29-1, 15 KOs), of Australia, will defend his belt against British contender Darren Barker (25-1, 16 KOs). IBF super-bantamweight champ Jonatan Romero (23-0, 12 KOs), of Colombia, will face Japanese contender Hidenori Otake (19-1-2, 9 KOs).
That card, which will be broadcast on HBO's Boxing After Dark series, will be the first boxing event held at Revel. The resort, which opened last year, has hosted three mixed martial arts cards featuring fighters from the UFC, World Series of Fighting and Bellator.
"It's the perfect time of year to make this our first foray into boxing," Dillon said Tuesday at Revel. "Having it in the middle of summer is a good opportunity to bring in people that maybe have never been to the property before and having it on HBO will expose us to people who may have never seen the property."
The doubleheader, which is being promoted by Gary Shaw, was originally scheduled to take place at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, N.Y.
The site changed when Dillon called Shaw.
"I always thought the (Geale-Barker) fight belonged in Atlantic City, but I couldn't get a venue for it," Shaw said Tuesday in a phone interview. "I was driving one day last week and Bernie called me from out of the blue and asked if I'd be interested in bringing the fights to Revel. I've known Bernie since the days when he first started in the casino business and we've always had a good relationship.
"He asked me how much the fights were and I gave him a number. He called me back the next day and said we had a deal. It's like the stars were aligned.
"I think it's great that Revel is getting involved in boxing. Don't get me wrong. I love (Caesars Entertainment consultant) Ken Condon. But Ken needs some competition."
But there won't be a rivalry.
Dillon's plan is to stage three or four fights a year at Revel and hopefully join forces with Condon to help make Atlantic City a major player in the sport again.
"Ken has kept the torch lit all these years and I'm hoping we can collectively make boxing even bigger here," Dillon said. "I'm not going to compete with Ken, but I want to work with him. I'm focused on getting the right fights for the right purse for our 4,500-seat arena. Boxing still brings in big players and fights will also help our player development division bring in those customers. Hopefully, we will be buying seats for each other's fights."
Condon, who politely declined to comment Thursday, has been almost solely responsible for keeping big-time boxing alive at Boardwalk Hall. Other than the Bernard Hopkins-Antonio Tarver fight there in 2006, which Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa hosted, all of the fights in the legendary arena in the last 15 years were signed by Condon and former Caesars Entertainment president Don Marrandino.
Dillon, who worked for the UFC for three years, also plans on bringing more MMA events to Revel. The World Series of Fighting is scheduled to return in September and Bellator could also be back in the fall.
But boxing holds a special place in his heart.
The 1974 Mainland Regional High School graduate got his start in the casino industry as a staff assistant at Caesars in 1979. A year later, while working in the marketing department, he helped orchestrate his first boxing event at Boardwalk Hall's Adrian Phillips Ballroom.
"It was a card with Greg Page, Gerry Cooney and Pinklon Thomas that was billed as a 'Night of the Young Heavyweights,' " Dillon said with a smile. "It was on this new network called HBO."
Upon moving to Trump Plaza in 1984, he supervised Donald Trump's foray into boxing and other big events. In one 13-month span in 1987-88, Dillon was ringside for Cooney-Spinks, Tyson-Biggs, Tyson-Holmes and Tyson-Spinks. He also brought some major fights to Trump Taj Mahal before leaving the local casino industry in 1990 to form his own promotional company.
He spent the last 10 years as senior vice-president of entertainment for Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., before accepting a job with Revel earlier this month. He always had a home in the area, however. His sons, Nicholas and Alexander, rowed for Holy Spirit High School and St. Augustine Prep, respectively. Nicholas just finished his rowing career at La Salle University and Alexander just completed his freshman year on the Boston University crew team.
"I was supposed to develop the Hard Rock property here in Atlantic City," Dillon said. "That didn't work out, but I was still looking for an opportunity to work here again. Atlantic City and Atlantic County will also be home for me. That will never change."
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