Boxing and mixed martial arts fans will have plenty of opportunities to take in their favorite sports in Atlantic City over the next two months.
The upcoming Sergey Kovalev-Eleider Alvarez fight at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City on Aug. 4 is the first of nine professional combative sports events that have reserved dates with the New Jersey Athletic Control Board in August and September.
Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) will defend his World Boxing Organization light-heavyweight championship against Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs) at the Hard Rock Live Etess Arena. The fight, which will be televised on HBO, is the first big boxing event to be held in Atlantic City since Kovalev beat Bernard Hopkins at Boardwalk Hall on Nov. 8, 2014.
There is actually another world title fight in the show. The co-feature will pit World Boxing Association light-heavyweight champ Dmitri Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs) against Isaac Chilemba (25-5-2, 10 KOs).
“It feels right for me whenever we end up in Atlantic City,” Main Events President Kathy Duva said Wednesday in a conference call. “Atlantic City is where (Main Events) began, where we (promoted) so many terrific fights. We’ve been away for four years and we’re really happy to be back and to see the city on an upswing.”
Two weeks later, on Aug. 18, Las Vegas-based Top Rank Promotions will be back in town for the first time in five years with an ESPN boxing card at Ocean Resort Casino.
World-ranked heavyweight Bryant Jennings (23-2, 13 KOs) will take on Alexander Dimitrenko (41-3, 26 KOs) in the main event at Ocean’s Ovation Hall. Local bantamweight Christian Carto (15-0, 11 KOs) and world-ranked welterweight Thomas LaManna (25-2-1, 9 KOs) will be on the undercard.
“This should be a terrific show,” Top Rank Vice-President of Operations Carl Moretti said last month in a phone interview. “And it won’t be our last show at Ocean Resort. If all goes well like we anticipate it will, we want to have a bunch of fights there.”
Three weeks after his bout, LaManna will turn to the promotional side of the sport. He will be teaming with his mother, Rising Star Promotions President Debbie LaManna, to stage a card at Showboat Atlantic City Hotel on Sept. 8. The card will be announced at a later date.
Six MMA shows are scheduled in August and September, starting with the new Professional Fighters League’s Atlantic City debut at Ocean Resort on Aug. 16. The PFL, formerly the World Series of Fighting, features 12 fighters in each of six weight classes competing in a regular-season and playoff format that will culminate in a $10-million championship round prize pool on New Year’s Eve at a site to be determined. The regular season ends with a card at Ocean on Aug. 30.
Hard Rock will host two MMA shows.
Former UFC site coordinator and current Alliance MMA executive Burt Watson is scheduled to stage an Alliance event at Etess Arena on Aug. 25. The new MMA Pro League, which features teams of fighters from various states, will make its debut there Sept. 15.
MMA Pro League was developed by veteran MMA promoter Hani Darwish and former HBO executive Mark Taffet. Its shows will be broadcast on FloSports.
“Launching our first series of live fight events at the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City will create an atmosphere of excitement second to none,” Taffet said in a statement last month. “Our head coaches will fill their teams with great young talent who fans will connect with immediately.”
The first card will pit New Jersey against Pennsylvania.
Former UFC fighter Dan Miller, brother of UFC fighter Jim Miller, will be New Jersey’s coach. Pennsylvania will be coached by Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion and former Bellator fighter Daniel Gracie.
One day earlier, Houston-based Legacy Fighting Alliance will make its Atlantic City debut at Golden Nugget Atlantic City on Sept. 14. LFA is one of the country’s top regional MMA organizations. Its shows are broadcast on AXIS TV.
The schedule closes out with Lou Neglia’s Ring of Combat’s card at Tropicana Atlantic City on Sept. 21. ROC 65 will mark the latest in the organization’s long streak of events on the Boardwalk. Sixty of the cards have been held in Atlantic City.