Boxing promoter Larry Goldberg is returning to his roots with a card at Tropicana Atlantic City Saturday night.  The 1996 Atlantic City High School graduate grew up in Margate.  While he now lives in New York, there are still sand in his shoes and salt air in his lungs.

Goldberg’s grandfather, Martin, once ran a business selling beach items on the iconic boardwalk while rolling chairs went past. His father, David, himself a 1967 Atlantic City High grad, started Atlantic City Linen Supply in the mid-1980’s.

He also has ties to the Tropicana, having worked there as a beverage server and bus boy during his high school days.

“This is home,” Goldberg said. “That’s why this show means so much to me.”

Saturday’s Boxing Insiders Promotions show marks the first boxing card at the Tropicana in seven years, since St. Augustine Prep graduate Christian Carto appeared there on June 30, 2017.

The Trop was once a staple of the Atlantic City club boxing scene. In the mid-1980’s, promoters Don Elbaum and the late Teddy Menas ran “Tuesday Night Fights” in the Showroom. From 1982 to 1986, they hosted an incredible 196 cards there.

The Trop’s boxing background also included a very successful run under Diane Fischer’s Dee Lee Promotions. Fischer, who once owned a beauty salon at the Trop, staged the area’s first all-women’s boxing card there in 1997, as well as a number of other top shows.

Promotion Photo courtesy of Boxing Insider Promotions/Larry Goldberg
Promotion Photo courtesy of Boxing Insider Promotions/Larry Goldberg

New York’s Joe DeGuardia brought cards featuring former light-heavyweight and cruiserweight world champion Virgil Hill and former heavyweight contender David Tua to the Trop in 2006 and 2010, respectively.

It’s a good bet Larry Goldberg was there for at least some of those shows, as well as others up and down the boardwalk that showcased up-and-coming prospects over the years.

While mega-fights such as Mike Tyson-Michael Spinks, George Foreman-Evander Holyfield, and Arturo Gatti-Floyd Mayweather at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall established Atlantic City as a rival to Las Vegas as a boxing hotbed, some of the smaller cards and venues were every bit as exciting.

The Trop was among several casinos that held boxing events, along with Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s, Playboy, Resorts, the Sands, and Trump Castle, Plaza and Taj Mahal.

“My father was a gambler,” Larry Goldberg said. “And when he went to the casinos, he’d let me and some of my buddies go watch the fights.”

It was the smaller shows that drew his interest more than the championship bouts. He was enthralled by the atmosphere and electricity, where fans sat (and mostly stood) close to the ring in casino ballrooms and cheered as two fighters swapped punches.

“It was drilled into me early that it doesn’t necessarily matter who is fighting as long as it’s a good fight,” Goldberg said. “People want to see competitive fights.”

It doesn’t hurt the box office if at least one of those fighters is local, however.

Antowyan Aikens, Shamone Alvarez, John Brown, the late Leavander Johnson, Patrick Majewski, Chuck Mussachio, DeCarlo Perez, Bruce Seldon, Isiah Seldon (Bruce’s son), Kevin Watts, and Darroll Wilson were just a few of the dozens of fighters who trained at local gyms such as the Atlantic City PAL and Pleasantville Rec Center and drew large crowds to their bouts.

No one had a larger and more loyal fan base than Mussachio, a Wildwood High School graduate who was both popular and talented.

Before his bouts, he would don a black fedora and head toward the ring with his father/trainer Al Mussachio while Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly With Me” blared.

The current crop of popular local fighters features Atlantic City’s Justin Figueroa and Millville’s Thomas LaManna. Both do a masterful job of promoting their upcoming fights on social media platforms.

LaManna (37-5-1, 16 KOs), who is also president of Rising Star Promotions, is fighting for the WBA gold middleweight belt on June 8 at Bally’s Atlantic City against Juan Carlos Abreu (26-7-1, 24 KOs) of the Dominican Republic.

Figueroa, a former football player and wrestler at Holy Spirit High and a former member of the Atlantic City Beach Patrol, is on Saturday’s card.

“It’s America’s Playground, but we don’t play boxing,” Figueroa said on Facebook.

Figueroa (8-0, 6 KOs) is taking on Venezuela’s Antoni Armas (13- 7, 8 KOs) in a six-round bout. Figueroa is back in town after fighting twice in other locales.

In his last outing, he scored a unanimous decision over Christian Aguirre (8-10, 4 KOs) in San Antonio, Texas.

Most of the fans at the Trop will no doubt be sporting t-shirts with “Justin Time” emblazoned across the fronts.

“I wanted my first show in Atlantic City to be with an Atlantic City kid,” said Goldberg, whose first nine cards were at Sony Hall in New York City. “Justin was my first, second, and third choice to fight on Saturday. He’s from Atlantic City and I’m from Atlantic City. There was no way I was doing this without him.”

Atlantic City has experienced a minor resurgence in boxing in recent years. The resort was host to nine shows in 2023, the most since there were 10 in 2018.

This year is off to a strong start. Saturday’s card is the fourth of nine scheduled shows in the first six months of 2024, thanks in large part to promoters such as Rising Star, Hard Hitting Promotions (Manny Rivera), Mis Downing and Marvin Shuler.

Goldberg hopes to help keep the comeback going in his hometown.

“I’m very hopeful that we’ll be able to do a few shows a year in Atlantic City,” he said. “Being a promoter in my hometown would mean a lot to me.”

Notes: Figueroa-Armas is among nine fights scheduled Saturday. In the co-main event, Manalapan Township super-bantamweight John Leonardo (10-1-1, 4 KOs) will meet Florida’s Frank Gonzalez (12-5, 6 KOs) in an eight-rounder.

Tickets are priced from $60 to $200 and are available through Ticketmaster and the Tropicana. Portions of ticket sales will go to the Atlantic City PAL.

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Gallery Credit: Heather DeLuca

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