A.C. Left Out of Boxing’s Resurgence
Atlantic City apparently will not be a part of boxing's recent resurgence.
According to boxingscene.com, Showtime announced Wednesday that it will be showing eight events between Aug. 1 and Dec. 12, including the highly anticipated junior-lightweight bout between Geonta Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) and Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs) on Oct. 24. All eight cards will be held at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
In addition, ESPN will be airing the Elieder Alvarez (25-1, 132 KOs)-Joe Smith (25-3, 20 KOs) light-heavyweight title elimination fight on Aug. 22. A week later, WBC super-lightweight champion Jose Ramirez (25-0, 17 KOs) will defend against Viktor Postol (31-2, 12 KOs). Both cards will be held at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
Fans will not be permitted at any of those fights as part of the ongoing fight to halt the spread of Covid-19.
"The boxing world has a unique opportunity to lead sports and set the standard for the return of events," Atlantic City-based ringside physician Dr. Nina Radcliffe said last week during a virtual presentation at the World Boxing Association's 99th Convention. "We've already seen how fights have taken place in Dominican Republic and Las Vegas and it's our responsibility to continue holding the highest standards so we can continue with the sport of boxing. The world is watching and we need to lead."
Meanwhile, Atlantic City's boxing and mixed martial arts rings and cages remain empty.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced Monday that he was signing an executive order to allow contact drills and practices for "high risk" sports such as football and rugby, but all workouts and events must be held at outdoor venues and must continue to abide by the health and safety protocols established by the state.
Boxing and MMA were not mentioned.
Larry Hazzard, commissioner of the New Jersey Athletic Control Board, said last month that the organization has developed protocols and rules to be implemented for boxing and MMA events, but has yet to get the go-ahead from the governor's office.
"We've been studying and developing plans for months with our officials and our medical personnel," Hazzard said last month. "We're just waiting for the governor to give us permission to start back."
There hasn't been a boxing show in Atlantic City since March 7, when local super-middleweight Gabriel Pham beat Glassboro's Derrick Webster at Bally's Atlantic City.
Both Showtime and ESPN were in town for major fights earlier this year. Women's boxing standout Claressa Shields posted a convincing victory over Ivana Habzin at Ocean Casino Resort on Showtime on Jan. 10. The next day, Top Rank promoted a terrific fight on ESPN that featured Smith earn a win over Jesse Hart at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
The last MMA card in A.C. was Ring of Combat 71 on Feb. 21 at Tropicana Atlantic City. ROC is hoping to hold an event at the Trop in September.
Vineland-based Cage Fury Fighting Championships is returning to the cage for the first time this year with back-to-back shows on Aug. 12-13. Instead of holding them at Hard Rock, however, those cards will take place at Philadelphia's 2300 Arena with no fans in attendance.
Eight of the nine Atlantic City casino properties - Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa will reopen Sunday - have been open since early July after closing on March 16, but allow only 25 percent capacity with no indoor dining and have yet to host any entertainment or sports events.
With no fans allowed, the various amenities - dining, drinking, even gambling - are not quite as important as the pre-pandemic days. It's time for the state to bring the fights back to the boardwalk.