Local pugilism aficionados hope the return of professional boxing to Louisville, the hometown of Muhammad Ali, will have far-reaching benefits ranging from a flurry of economic activity to more disciplined teens.
“Evander’s Tribute to Ali” will begin at 7 p.m. June 24 at Freedom Hall and feature professional fighters, a local pro and local amateurs. The matchups were announced Friday. The event is promoted by former heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Sports & Entertainment. Part of the event will be shown live on CBS.
The 10-round headline fight for the vacant WBC Continental Americas title will pit heavyweight contender Derric Rossy against Puerto Rican Olympian Carlos Negron. The 6-foot-3-inch Rossy, 36, has a record of 31 wins and 12 losses, with 15 knockouts, while the 6-foot-6-inch Negron, 29, has 19 wins and one loss, also with 15 knockouts.
Freedom Hall holds a special place in the hearts of boxing fans: The late Louisville native Muhammad Ali, who died last year, fought his first professional fight there in 1960.
David Tandy, a local boxing fan and former city councilman, said the return of pro boxing to Louisville, which last hosted a professional fight in 2004, fills him with excitement.
Much like Slugger moving baseball bat manufacturing back to Louisville, the event at Freedom Hall on June 24 “returns the city to its roots,” he said.
It also reflects a growing national interest in championship boxing, thanks to superstars such as the now retired Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, Kazakhstani powerhouse Gennady Gennadyevich “GGG” Golovkin and Mexican hero Canelo Alvarez, the latter two of whom will meet in a long-anticipated matchup on Sept. 16.
“There’s been a yearning in the U.S. for a return to boxing,” Tandy said.
That’s true especially in Louisville, which saw the world converge upon Ali’s hometown last year after his death, said James Dixon, a coach at Louisville’s TKO Boxing.
The city now boasts nine boxing gyms, and with local fighters seeing some successes and getting national exposure, excitement is building, he said.
“There’s just been a buzz,” Dixon said.
“Evander’s Tribute to Ali” also will include bouts of two nationally ranked TKO amateur fighters, 110-pounder Isaiah McKissick, 17, and 152-pounder Trevis Burgos, 19.
The event also will play an important role for Dixon personally, as his son, Carlos, 20, a lightweight, will make his pro debut that day. The younger Dixon, a former nationally ranked amateur and three-time regional Golden Gloves champion, was signed by Holyfield’s company when it announced the event in mid-May.
The elder Dixon and Tandy, who serves on the TKO board, also said the return of pro boxing could inspire more kids to take up the sport, which would have benefits ranging from reducing the obesity epidemic to lowering crime.
Boxing, like many sports, imparts valuable lessons for youth and teenagers, Tandy said, including the importance of hard work, dedication and overcoming adversity: in literally getting back up after getting knocked down.
“The lesson is in the journey,” Tandy said.
“I truly believe it’s going to make a major difference,” he said.
Tandy, an attorney with Bingham Greenebaum Doll, said that if the event proved successful and fighting returns to Louisville on a regular basis, it could benefit the city’s economy through increased tourism dollars. It may even bring additional entrepreneurs to the city who previously may not have considered Louisville as a good place to start a business, he said.
Tickets for the event range from $41 to $105 and are available at Ticketmaster, the Kentucky Exposition Center ticket office or 800-745-3000.