Local celebs show up in style
Move over Las Vegas and Atlantic City, two historic locales for bigtime boxing in this country. Minneapolis is now a destination place for championship boxing.
Last Saturday saw the largest crowd ever at the downtown Armory, a sold-out 4,695. Just like Vegas and the Boardwalk, we have our celebrities, politicians, radio personalities, legendary community folk, and a college coach all in attendance at the June 4 evening-long event.
“I never went to any live fights until it came to the Armory,” admitted Hamline Football Coach Chip Taylor, the MIAC’s only and longest-tenured Black coach. “This is my third time coming to the Armory.”
John Baker, a former prep basketball star who now works with the current generation of young hoopsters, observed, “I never seen anything like it.”
WCCO Radio’s Henry Lake said that as impressive as last Saturday’s sellout crowd was, “It actually can get bigger. I think it can ratchet up one more level.”
State Senator Bobby Champion loved it as well: “The pandemic is not over, but it’s good to have people out and to have them here at the Armory. People are having a good time, people from the North Side and other places, and it’s good to give someone a hug.”
He added that he became a fight fan as a youngster listening to stories from longtime community activist Spike Moss, who in his day was a Golden Gloves fighter. He too was in the record crowd last Saturday.
Taylor got hooked on boxing as a youngster “watching fights on ABC,” he said.
David Morrell, Jr. retained his WBA world super middleweight title with a 4th round TKO over Kalvin Henderson. Both fighters predicted victory during the June 2 press conference attended by the MSR. “It will be him [Morrell] and me throwing punches at each other. This fight is gonna be a great fight,” said Henderson.
Speaking through his Spanish interpreter, Morrell said, “It’s a shame that he’s going to go home with a loss.”
During their post-fight comments Morrell, now 7-0, declared, “I promised my brother a stoppage in rounds one through five. Promise fulfilled!”
Stephon Fulton, Jr. during that same press conference, said he felt his ring performances had been undervalued. “Don’t look for anybody’s respect,” he told the MSR last Thursday. “As long as your family respects you and you respect yourself, that’s all that matters.”
The WBC and WBO super bantamweight champion defeated former champion Danny Roman in a 12-round unanimous decision last Saturday, keeping his two belts and improving to 21-0. “It was very important to control the distance tonight,” said Fulton after the fight. “Any moment he [Roman] had, I took it right away from him.”
Taylor was rooting for Fulton. “He is a Philly guy, and I’m from Philadelphia,” the Hamline coach said proudly.
Lake said afterwards, “I thought that Morrell was as aggressive as I’ve ever seen. He really was impressive tonight and took care of business. The Fulton main event was a little lackluster and wasn’t enough action early, but it picked up in the middle rounds.”
All 11 fighters on last weekend’s card who fought out of the blue corner won. Seven contests ended in quick knockouts and two went the distance.
Lake told us he was impressed with Travon Marshall (6-0), a promising super welterweight who defeated Amin El in a six-round contest. “He’s a young man everyone should be looking at. He’s rangy and long,” said the WCCO weeknight host.
“It was real boxing, old fashioned scrapping,” said Baker. “All the fights have been intense.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.