The marriage between boxing and casinos has a new couple.
Hialeah Park, which unveiled a casino at the historic horse racing venue last August, will introduce boxing with its inaugural card on May 1. The main event and two additional bouts from the show will be broadcast live by ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.
“When we opened the casino, we considered various entertainment options, including sports,” said Frank Fiore, Hialeah’s vice-president of marketing and entertainment. “Boxing was the obvious one.”
The amphitheater complex that will showcase boxing sits next to the race track’s finish line. Seating will accommodate approximately 3,000 spectators.
“We have used the amphitheater for concerts and received positive feedback,” Fiore said. “That’s when the idea for boxing was considered.”
Local and national promoters contacted Fiore about booking the facility. But any deal would require the inclusion of a TV network telecast. Hialeah officials eventually reached an agreement with Hollywood-based Warriors Boxing and the ESPN networks to present the first show.
“The phone rang constantly and without naming names, all promoters were nice to deal with,” Fiore said. “Although they were generous and ambitious with their plans, at the end of the day ESPN and Warriors was the most natural fit.
“The TV angle is what we’re after. We think it is great exposure for the venue and it is difficult to match ESPN’s potential viewership. That eliminated those promoters interested in doing local club shows.”
The opening card’s main event will feature a welterweight bout between Roberto Garcia, of Weslaco, Texas and the Dominican Republic’s Victor Cayo. Fighters scheduled to appear in undercard bouts include unbeaten middleweight Jonathan Gonzalez of Puerto Rico and unbeaten light-heavyweight Yunieski Gonzalez, a native of Cuba and Miami resident.
“I’m very confident about this venture,” Fiore said. “After we announced our plans to have boxing, the response has been dramatic both in the casino and switchboard.”
In his first fight since a solid win against Lucas Matthysse last September, Garcia (28-0) connected with power shots but Herrera (20-4) moved in angles and frustrated the defending champion with jabs and follow-up combinations.
Garcia won on two judges’ scorecards, 116-112., while the third judges scored it, 114-114. With the victory, Garcia successfully defended his World Boxing Association and World Boxing Council belts.Ed Paredes