When Bryant Jennings faces off against Alexander Dimitrenko on ESPN on Saturday night at the Ocean Resort Casino, it will be the second time this month that a major boxing card takes place in Atlantic City.
Two weeks ago, Eleider Alvarez stunned the boxing world when he stopped Sergey Kovalev while trailing on the cards in the main event of HBO World Championship Boxing, promoted by Main Events, right down the road from the Ocean at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Though regional promoters come through Atlantic City often, these two fights ended a nearly four-year gap of big-time boxing in Atlantic City, when Kovalev dominated Bernard Hopkins in November 2014.
The Hard Rock and Ocean are reboots of failed casinos that are synonymous with the economic plunge of the area. Once the Trump Taj Mahal, it was re-launched for $500 million as the Hard Rock. The Ocean comes from the ashes of the Revel Casino, a casino that cost $2.4 billion to launch yet flopped after just two years.
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But there’s reason for optimism if you’re a boxing fan on the East Coast. The Alvarez knockout of Kovalev sold out the Ocean, and the suspense that filtered through every punch that night was palpable, even to viewers watching at home.
Jim Lampley was calling the action that night, and he doesn’t expect it to be the last time HBO goes there.
“I thought Atlantic City was dead as a venue,” Lampley told Sporting News over the phone.
“I did not think we were gonna be back there for legitimate excitement again. The weekend we just had with Kovalev and Alvarez was an eye-opener. It was exciting. The crowd was on fire. Kathy (Duva, of Main Events) sold out at 4:30 pm that afternoon. And they saw an upset in a terrific fight. I walked out of there basically saying to a couple of people and people in my family that Atlantic City is back. We can expect to be going back there again because that was a successful night.
“Whether because sports betting is legal or fans enjoy connecting back to that aura and the memories they had. It didn’t die with Kovalev over Hopkins. That was a clear revival two weeks ago with Kovalev against Alvarez and I fully expect I’ll be back in Atlantic City.”
With Top Rank and ESPN’s deal being renewed early for seven years, now calling for 54 live dates a year, the fights gotta happen somewhere.
The Ocean Casino is owned by Bruce Deifik, a longtime friend of Arum.
“When I bought this property my thought process was that I bring professional sports back to Atlantic City in a very big way,” Deifik told Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports. “I believe Atlantic City is the home of boxing in the United States. I’m a 30-year Las Vegas guy. I’m very respectful of the great fights they have had. But Atlantic City is the root of that. I want to have major championship boxing here.”
Arum is already looking ahead to bringing boxing back to the area later this year.
“I’m very thrilled to be here,” Arum told Joseph Santoliquito of RingTV. Between Ocean Resorts and Hard Rock, I think boxing will have a renaissance in Atlantic City. I would like to get in one more show into A.C. by the end of the year, possibly in October or November. There is definitely a chance we can get a big-time fight in Atlantic City. The Hard Rock experience was a good one for Main Events, even though the result was bad in Kovalev losing.”
If there’s something the sport could always use more of, it’s boxing hotbeds. The buzz is back in Atlantic City.
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