Boxing enjoyed modest success in Atlantic City in 2023.

The resort town was host for nine cards at three different venues – Bally’s Atlantic City (2), Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall (3), and Showboat Hotel (4) – which marked the busiest year for boxing in the area since it had 10 cards in 2018.

The year also featured a world championship fight for the third straight year in town. IBF welterweight champ Jaron Ennis (31-0, 28 KOs) defended his title with a 10th-round TKO over Venezuela’s Roiman Villa (26-2, 24 KOs) at Boardwalk Hall’s Adrian Phillips Ballroom last July 8.

Boxing is getting off to a strong start in 2024 with back-to-back cards this weekend.

The action starts Friday at Showboat, where promoter Marvin Shuler is bringing a seven-bout card. In the main event, Philadelphia middleweight Julian Williams (28-4-1, 16 KOs) will take on Argentina’s Gustavo David Vittori (29-15-1, 12 KOs) in an eight-rounder.  The card also features a rare women’s fight that will pit Las Vegas super-featherweight Joana Nwamerue (5-0, 2 KOs) against Pittsburgh’s Colleen Davis (3-0-1, 1 KO).

On Saturday, co-promoters Joe Frazier, Jr. and Mis Downing will celebrate the 80th birthday of the late Joe Frazier with a show at Boardwalk Hall’s Ballroom.  In the 10-round main event, Sicklerville bantamweight Dylan Price (16-0, 10 KOs) will face Gilberto Mendoza (20-17-4, 10 KOs), of Modesto, California.

The card will also feature local prospect Francisco Rodriguez (3-0, 3 KOs), of Pleasantville.  Rodriguez, a Pleasantville High School graduate, will meet Darus Somieari (0-3), of Roanoke, Virginia, in a four-rounder.

Another local standout, St. Augustine Prep graduate Christian Carto (20-1, 13 KOs), will resume his career after a two-year layoff Friday night at LIVE Casino in Philadelphia. Carto will take on Ardin Diale (35-18-4, 17 KOs) from the Philippines in an eight-round, bantamweight fight.

Before the first punch is thrown in 2024, however, let’s highlight the fights, fighters and other people who helped make 2023 such a great year for boxing.

Fight of the Year: Ennis vs. Villa, July 8, Boardwalk Hall. Ennis showed why he’s considered one of the country’s top fighters with a 10th-round TKO, but Villa was far from a pushover during an action-packed fight. (Runnerup: Justin Figueroa vs. Jeff Lentz, Boardwalk Hall, July 22, 2023).

Local Fighter of the Year: Thomas LaManna (37-5-1, 16 KOs). The Millville middleweight went 3-0 with two KO’s on the year, including a third-round KO over Argentina’s Juan Manuel Witt (33-3-2, 25 KOs) on July 22. LaManna is currently ranked fourth by the WBA.

Local Prospect of the Year: Justin Figueroa (7-0, 6 KOs). Figueroa, an Atlantic City native and Holy Spirit High School graduate, went 5-0 with four KO’s on the year at super-welterweight. (Runners-up: Somers Point lightweight Miguel Garcia, Pleasantville bantamweight Francisco Rodriguez).

Trainer of the Year: Arnold Robbins. Robbins, who was inducted into the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame in 2023, worked the corners for both Figueroa and Garcia. He is Figueroa’s co-trainer with John Gibbons.

Manager of the Year: Jim Kurtz. Kurtz, a Buena Vista Township resident and Holy Spirit graduate, first gained acclaim while guiding the comeback of former WBA heavyweight champion Bruce Seldon and later oversaw the career of Seldon’s son, Isiah Seldon. Now Kurtz and DKO Boxing partner David Dubinsky have started branching out. They work with six fighters – junior-lightweights Edward Vazquez (15-2) and William Foster (16-1), super-middleweight Elvis Figueroa (13-0), bantamweight Felix Parrilla (9-0), junor-welterweight Jeffrey Torres (12-2) and middleweight Isiah Wise (11-3-2) - who are a combined 76-8-2.

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