As the first boxing card in 31 years at renovated Nassau Coliseum was winding down Saturday night, one thing was abundantly clear to promoter Lou DiBella about the experience.
“ ‘Ethnic’ works here,” DiBella said.
The atmosphere at the event, which attracted 7,492 fans, was at its loudest and most vibrant during the match between Polish heavyweights Adam Kownacki and Artur Szpilka that kicked off the three bouts shown on the Premier Boxing Champions on Fox TV national telecast. Kownacki lives on Long Island and trains in Bellmore, and a roaring section of the crowd clad in the red and white colors of the Polish flag wildly cheered his fourth-round TKO of Szpilka.
The next TV bout matched Long Beach light heavyweight Seanie Monaghan, who sold hundreds of tickets to a group of fans who chanted his name, against Marcus Browne, who drew a more modest contingent of supporters from his native Staten Island. The main event of the TV card matched former world champions Omar Figueroa Jr. and Robert Guerrero, who figured to draw Hispanic supporters to boost the TV ratings even though they had no connection to Long Island and probably didn’t do much for attendance in the building.
All three bouts were action fights that ended in technical knockouts with Browne stopping Monaghan in the second round, Kownacki stopping Szpilka in the fourth, and Figueroa scoring five knockdowns on his way to a third-round stoppage of Guerrero.
“They were all sort of sensational knockouts,” DiBella said. “I think everyone in here was entertained. As I’ve been saying, this is the entertainment business, and that’s our job is to entertain people.
“Whenever you do anything for the first time — there’s a new building, it’s sponsored by NYCB, it’s got a new brand — it’s a process. The people here were really good to work with. I think Brett [Yormark, CEO of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, which operates the Coliseum] is dedicated toward building this as a great site for boxing. I feel just as strongly about it.”
The rebranding of the Coliseum is going to take some getting used to for fans of all sports and even for concertgoers. The official moniker is NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum. It’s modeled on the same concept as L.A. Live, an entertainment complex that surrounds Staples Center in Los Angeles.
But just as that construction process is in the early stages, so is the development of a boxing program that is expected to become a fixture of the entertainment calendar. While the UFC card scheduled for Saturday is chock full of homegrown Long Island fighters, DiBella suggested the boxing program can import fighters and relocate them to Long Island to train and build a local following.
“I think they will identify with the Island,” DiBella said, “and we can build something here.”
It’s fair to expect three or four major boxing cards per year, DiBella said, but the Coliseum also can accommodate smaller regional shows featuring what he called “Long Island-centric” talent.
As a Brooklyn native who is a longtime Long Island resident with his promotion business based in Sea Cliff, DiBella added: “This is my backyard, so I want to see boxing work here. I think anybody that came tonight is going to come back.
“I think we had major-league sports and entertainment here tonight. It’s a beautiful building for boxing. I think there are a lot of reasons for optimism.”