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Boxing Returns to Falls on Friday
by Dave Staba
Boxing Returns to Falls on Friday
From mob ties to overexposure to the incredible toll it takes on many of its participants, the death of boxing has been forewarned and diagnosed for decades.
And yet, here it is again, blooming into a staple of the basic-cable television schedule, including a CBS Sports Network broadcast emanating live from Niagara Falls on Friday night. The promotion at Seneca Niagara Casino features eight scheduled bouts, starting at 8pm. Undefeated Dennis Hogan (21 wins, no losses and one draw) meets veteran Kenny Abril of Rochester (14-7-1, six knockouts) in a 10-rounder for something called the World Boxing Association/North American Boxing Association USA Super Welterweight title in the main event.
The proliferation of sanctioning organizations, weight divisions and title belts has been another long-running problem, but that’s another column entirely.
While the long-awaited meeting between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao on May 2 (which grossed $410 million between the live gate and pay-per-view sales) felt a little like boxing’s last hurrah, with no likely successors ready to step in with the name recognition or selling power to create such a super-fight, the sport has been enjoying something of a rebirth on free television. With traditional networks CBS, NBC and Fox spinning off sports-only channels to compete with ABC’s athletic sibling, ESPN, programmers find themselves with hundreds of hours to fill every week, without excessive resources to do so.
In television’s early days, fight nights were staples of weekly schedules. The limited technology of the time easily captured and conveyed the action in a small ring on an even smaller, black-and-white screen. And without helmets, hats, or even shirts, combatants like Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson and Carmen Basilio quickly became household names and faces.
The growth of screens and steady increase in picture definition makes modern viewing almost painful in its vividness, but regardless of format, watching at home is a completely different experience than seeing it live.
The spectacle of seeing two men (or increasingly, women) who should have no real beef with each other trying to punch each other in the face as hard as they can has no real equivalent in sport. The unfiltered sound of punches landing, the instant enemies exhaling and grunting as they throw and receive them delivers a primal appeal that does not necessarily bear up well to intellectual scrutiny or conscience.
Then there’s the crowd. Celebrities of varying levels, depending on the fight’s magnitude, mix with wannabe high-rollers and the fan bases of participants to create a decidedly retro atmosphere. It’s easy to imagine yourself at Sunnyside Garden in Queens in 1950, though with fewer fedoras and without the haze of cigar smoke hanging over the ring.
Friday’s card at Seneca Niagara Casino also features heavyweight Excell Holmes of Buffalo. After a stellar amateur career, Holmes turned pro with two wins and a draw, but has since lost five straight. He has a chance to reverse course in a hurry when he faces unbeaten prospect Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, who has weighed in at more than 270 pounds for each of his three wins in 2015 to run his professional record to 13-0-1 with 10 knockouts.
Two area fighters—lightweight Daniel DeJesus of Buffalo and Rochester 130-pounder Hashuan Sambolin—are also scheduled to make their professional debuts.
The night’s most accomplished participant is Tony Luis of Cornwall, Ont., who lost a tight 12-round decision to Derry Matthews for the interim WBA lightweight title in Liverpool, England in April. Luis returns in an eight-rounder against Edward Valdez.
Tickets for “Championship Boxing on CBS Sports Network” are priced at $35 and $45, and ringside seating is $75 and can be purchased with a major credit card by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000, online at Ticketmaster.com or through the Seneca Niagara Casino Box Office: (716) 501-2444.
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