Magic City Casino reintroduces boxing on Jan. 4, but under a different backdrop than when the Miami facility showcased the sport in 2010.
Located in the former Flagler Dog Track near Miami International Airport, Magic City will open Stage 305 — a new room adjacent to its casino — and boxing could become a frequent attraction.
“We needed a room for indoor entertainment,” said Scott Savin, chief operating officer of Magic City Casino. “The site can be used for a variety of events. Everything in the room is modular. We can do boxing, conferences, music shows. The seats can be configured different ways.”
Boxing previously was tried at Magic City in an outdoor setting. The ring was situated on the infield area of the dog track, but the majority of seats were at a distant grandstand section. The five-card series ended in early 2011.
“It wasn’t a great venue for boxing; it’s a great venue for entertainment,” Savin said of the outdoor location.
According to Savin, the new indoor room cost $5 million to refurbish and remodel. Seating for boxing shows will accommodate 750 spectators, with the option to expand to 1,100.
“There are no bad seats anywhere,” he said. “For this first show, the least expensive seats are only 12 rows from the ring.
“We have a venue nobody can equal. There are no columns. The sightlines are fantastic.”
Savin said Magic City will repeatedly present boxing if the cards’ top fights are nationally televised. The Jan. 4 card is headlined by a bout between unbeaten junior-lightweight contenders Rances Barthelemy of Miami and Canada’s Arash Usmanee. ESPN2 will broadcast the bout in the first 2013 telecast of its Friday Night Fights Series.
“Whether HBO, Showtime or ESPN, the show has to be high-quality boxing,” Savin said. “We won’t do a show unless it has the appeal to fill up the room.
“For us, there are no better words to hear at the opening of an HBO or Telemundo boxing telecast than, ‘Live from the Magic City in Miami.’ But again, the boxing has to provide the appeal of a competitive event.”
Miami-Dade has lacked a constant venue for fight shows since Miccosukee Resort and Gaming discontinued boxing two years ago and Magic City stopped its outdoor cards. Broward has had a busier presence with the Seminole Hard Rock Live Arena in Hollywood, and Golden Boy Promotions’ plans to present four cards next year at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.
“We want nothing more than to revitalize boxing in Miami,” Savin said. “The population that follows boxing here is fervent about the sport.
“But we just don’t want to fill the calendar. How busy we become with boxing is going to depend on the quality of the fights.”
Barthelemy and Usmanee will fight for the International Boxing Federation’s No. 2 ranking. The winner could eventually land a fight with the sanctioning body’s reigning junior-lightweight champion, Juan Carlos Salgado.
Jonathan Gonzalez, who represented his native Puerto Rico in the 2008 Summer Olympics, will open the ESPN2 telecast with a junior-middleweight bout against Derek Ennis. The undercard will feature Miami-based fighters Roberto Acevedo, Yuniesky Gonzalez and Hairon Socarras.