You might that think that economically depressed Motown is no town to host a major boxing event.
Evidently, Big Gary Shaw and Don King, the Oddfellas co-promoters behind the Devon Alexander-Timothy Bradley junior welterweight unification bout set for Jan. 29 don’t share the widespread pessimism about the Greater Detroit market.
Obviously, had a Las Vegas or Atlantic City casino-hotel stepped forward with an enticing bid, the stimulating matchup between the undefeated St. Louis boxer and the unbeaten fighter from the Palm Springs area would have been held within the ring-a-ding sound of slot machines.
Alexander, age 23, owns a 21-0, 13 knockouts pro record and is known as “Alexander The Great” while “Desert Storm” Bradley, age 27, is also perfect at 26-0 with 11 KOs to his credit. The WBC and WBO 140 pound belts will be on the line.
Instead, Shaw confirmed to me moments ago, press conferences are being planned for Detroit on Tuesday and New York City on Wednesday with the site being the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich.
The huge stadium will be set up for a 15,000 seating capacity.
“We wanted a neutral site,” Shaw said, “so we did not want St. Louis. But, more importantly, King and I felt it was vital to go to a market with a big African American population and so we looked at Atlanta and Detroit. I was talking to people at Georgia Tech as the Atlanta location.
“We just agreed that the Detroit area was a natural for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the area’s very rich boxing history,” Shaw said. “I think you have to reach back maybe as far as Thomas Hearns (from Detroit) and Sugar Ray Leonard to find such a significant bout in the lower weight classes between two black American boxers. You had Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield and George Foreman-Michael Moorer but those were heavyweight fights.”
See detailed feature story penned by my old friend/colleague in TV sports, Bryan Burwell, about Alexander.
Alexander manager-trainer and ex-St. Louis cop Kevin Cunningham publicly griped about the site not being firmed up the other day but Shaw said there was really no behind the scenes dispute between he and King.
“You had a lot of smoke, a lot of noise but I feel we picked the right venue for this key fight.”
HBO will televise the fight which might produce a new candidate for the Manny Pacquiao Sweepstakes.
I neglected to ask Shaw but I’m sure he and King will seek some participation in the promotion from some of the area casinos.
FACTS ABOUT THE SILVERDOME (COURTESY, WIKIPEDIA):
The Silverdome (formerly the Pontiac Silverdome) is a domed stadium, located in the city of Pontiac, Michigan, which sits on 127 acres (51 ha).
It hosted the Detroit Lions of the NFL from 1975–2001, the Detroit Pistons of the NBA from 1978–1988, the Michigan Panthers of the USFL from 1983–1984, the college football Cherry Bowl in 1984 and 1985 and Motor City Bowl from 1997 until 2001, the MHSAA football state finals from 1976–2004, and four first-round games during the 1994 FIFA World Cup. It was the second-largest stadium in the NFL during this time, after FedEx Field which opened in 1997.
For the World Cup games, a natural grass surface capable of growing inside the dome was developed and installed by a team from Michigan State University. This grass surface was laid upon wooden pallets atop the artificial turf that is usually used. It was the first time that World Cup games were played indoors.
The Silverdome also hosted the 1979 NBA All-Star Game, Super Bowl XVI on January 24, 1982, and the 1988 and 1991 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament Midwest Regionals.
On March 29, 1987, the World Wrestling Federation’s WrestleMania III established for the record attendance of 93,173, the largest recorded attendance for a live indoor sporting event in North America. The record stood until February 14, 2010 when the 2010 NBA All-Star Game broke the indoor sporting event record with an attendance of 108,713 at Cowboys Stadium.
On September 18, 1987, Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass there.