By Jason Pribila: The City of Philadelphia returned to the national spotlight on Saturday Night as Main Events and Peltz Boxing launched the first of their four scheduled “Fight Night Live” events on the new NBC Sports Network. Despite injuries, a new main event, and bad weather; the show delivered. For me, it was great to see Philadelphia’s Asylum Arena be re-introduced to fight fans.
“The Arena” is the final building of a row of warehouses that also features clothing outlet Forman Mills. Fans gather outside and wait for the bay door to open. They walk up a ramp and enter a room with a ring assembled in the middle of the floor. Folding chairs surround the ring, but most fans first visit the concession areas for a hot dog and an adult beverage. The crowd is as active and lively for the first fight as they are for the main event.
Bout sheets are surveyed, not for glossy records; but rather to see what gym or section of the city a fighter represents. Fighters leave their records and resumes at the door. They enter the ring to face the most important opponent of their careers, the man in the corner opposite of him. They are there to win, but more importantly to themselves and the fans; they are there to fight.
I attended my first Philly fight in February of 2008 to cover a club show at the Legendary Blue Horizon. The main event featured Lenny DeVictoria (10-10) against Derrick Moon (12-15-1). I did not recognize a name on the card, and it did not matter. My name was on a press credential, and a seat was reserved for me against the ring. I found my seat and sat in it until the final bell rang. I had as much fun watching the fighters as I did the fans. I did not feel like the follower of a niche sport, but was rather in a room full of people who loved this sweet science as much as I did.
The majority of the men who fought that night had to set their alarms for work that Monday. Few had the illusions of making six figures, driving fancy cars, or even making a career out of the sport. They fought because of the way they felt when stepped between the ropes.
On Saturday Night those who tuned into the NBC Sports Network got a glimpse of the fighters and fight fans of Philadelphia. Main Events promises to showcase other venues which will no doubt be filled with similar fan bases doing what they always do, show up to support their fighters, their cities, and their sport. The opportunity to see that up close is the reason why we fans continue to defend the sport no matter how many times those in charge remind us that it is a business
On Freddie Roach
On Friday night HBO premiered “On Freddie Roach” the six-part look at boxer turned legendary trainer, Freddie Roach. Director Peter Berg’s documentary began as Roach was preparing Amir Khan for his junior welterweight unification bout against Zab Judah. Boxing fans will enjoy more of the behind the scenes footage of the fight game that they have come accustomed with by watching “24/7”. This, however, is not an over-produced infomercial. This is a raw, authentic look at the man that most know for guiding Manny Pacquiao from being an offensive juggernaut to becoming one of the two most popular fighters in the world.
This series also appeals to more than just the boxing fan. This is a look at a man who uses therapy, medication, and passion to battle his bout with Parkinson’s disease. An opponent Roach cannot slip or counter, but one he never stops trying to neutralize.
What impressed me the most were the moments that showed Roach as being human. There is no glossing of a hard man in order to keep his public persona pristine. Roach himself gives credit to Virgil Hill for hiring him as a trainer. That opportunity gave Roach a second chance in a sport that would have otherwise left him as being a cautionary tale.
The episode was even more poignant because I watched it the day that legendary Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno passed away. Paterno was 85 years old, and died only months after being removed from a post he held for 46 years. A similar fate met Alabama coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, who also passed away shortly after retiring.
Roach echoed a similar passion for his trade during the final scenes of the episode. We see Roach going through a series of tests at a hospital. Roach admits it’s not a good day because he is away from the gym. The gym and not medication is what makes him feel better.