If you rebuild it, will they come? That’s the question that will begin to be answered when boxing returns to renovated Nassau Coliseum for the first time in 31 years with a Premier Boxing Champions card that will be televised Saturday night by Fox Sports and that features a heavy helping of local talent.
The promoter for the event is Lou DiBella, who not only is the pre-eminent boxing promoter in the New York City area but also is a Long Islander whose business is based in Sea Cliff, where he lives. DiBella is the boxing promoter for Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, which operates Barclays Center and NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
Brett Yormark, who is chief executive officer of BSE, previously suggested boxing can be a “franchise sport” at the Coliseum, and DiBella agrees the market is ripe for development. “Brett and the Barclays Center and now Nassau Coliseum have a real dedication to a regularity of boxing,” DiBella told Newsday Tuesday. “Brett is a real boxing fan and there’s a concept to have boxing as a regular programming component of the buildings.”
DiBella also has a strong relationship with PBC founder Al Haymon, who supports many of the fighters who appear on cards at Barclays, and DiBella suggested there likely will be more PBC cards in the Coliseum’s future. “I know how to market it in my own city and where I live on Long Island,” DiBella said. “This is where I am from. It’s not something that should be surprising.”
Speaking of Saturday’s show, DiBella added, “I think it’s a good card, and I think the people who come out will start to build something.”
The original plan was for the first boxing card to take place April 29 and feature WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson against a Long Island fighter. Negotiations broke down with the camp of Joe Smith Jr., and though Long Beach native Sean Monaghan signed to fight Stevenson, it fell through when Stevenson chose to stage a doubleheader with fellow Canadian Jean Pascal in Montreal.
DiBella then put together a card topped by welterweights Omar Figueroa (26-0-1, 18 KOs) and Robert Guerrero (33-5-1, 18 KOs), which should help drive TV ratings on Fox in what is expected to be a brawl. But the local highlight is the “Battle of the Islands” between Monaghan (28-0, 17 KOs) and Marcus Browne (19-0, 14 KOs) of Staten Island.
“Marcus is the physical specimen and the younger guy,” DiBella said. “Seanie always has been underestimated, but he’s never lost and has a chin of steel. This is his chance of a lifetime, a must-win kind of fight for him. It’s hugely significant for Marcus, too, in terms of visibility and beating another local guy.”
The card also includes Polish heavyweights Artur Szpilka (20-2, 15 KOs) against Adam Kownacki (15-0, 12 KOs), who trains in Bellmore. Freeport’s Patrick Day (13-2-1, 6 KOs) faces a tough super welterweight bout against undefeated Eric Walker (15-0, 8 KOs), and Lindenhurst’s Alicia Napoleon (7-1, 5 KOs, Lindenhurst) battles Mary McGee (23-3, 12 KOs) for the vacant IBF women’s junior middleweight title.
Journeyman Tommy Rainone (26-7-1, 6 KOs) of Rockville Center also is on the card after contacting DiBella the moment he heard boxing was returning to the Coliseum. “The local Long Island fighters have sold a lot of tickets,” said DiBella, who expects a good crowd but not a sellout.
“Even Tommy Rainone, who is a lunchbox kind of guy, Tommy has a following. It tells me boxing long-term will work well at the Nassau Coliseum, but you have to bring good fights and you also have to develop local talent.”
DiBella said he’s in talks with a local businessman, who wants to invest in top boxers, who might relocate to train on Long Island. That might help fuel boxing’s future at Nassau Coliseum. For now, it’s enough to know boxing is back, and if Monaghan were to upset Browne, the Coliseum might get a world title fight.
“If Seanie can win that fight, there’s a main event that’s going to be very big down the line for him at Nassau Coliseum,” DiBella said. “If Marcus wins the fight, his next step is a world title fight. It’s a significant fight in the light heavyweight division. I’m happy for Seanie. He’s earned this opportunity.”