The Meadows to host 1st boxing card
One thing Sean Sullivan has learned from three decades working in the casino industry is that boxing is a mainstay, a draw that lures high rollers for the fight and gets them in good spirits.
Sullivan experienced this while working at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, which hosted world-class boxers from Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard to Mike Tyson and Oscar De La Hoya.
That's why Sullivan, vice president and general manager of The Meadows Racetrack and Casino, is eagerly anticipating its first foray into hosting a pro boxing show Saturday.
The card is being held the same day as the harness track's richest race of the year, the $400,000 Delvin Miller Adios Pace.
The first bout is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
“I love boxing, and I think casino customers love boxing,” Sullivan said. “I think casinos and boxing are as natural of a marriage as you can conjure up. People enjoy the energy. Your adrenaline gets pumped, whether it's a good card or a great card.
“It's my plan and our plan at The Meadows to get more into boxing, traditional boxing, as well as King of the Cage. You're going to see MMA. Our festival area, which opened on Memorial Day weekend, is definitely going to be optimized with sporting events like this.”
The Crown Boxing card will feature an NABA USA heavyweight title fight between champion Jason Bergman of Washington, Pa., (23-10-2, 16 knockouts) and Justin Jones of Houston (15-0-1, 9 KOs). Sullivan is counting on drawing the oil-and-gas crowd, considering that Bergman also works for Range Resources.
“The idea of getting these gas and oil guys who are from Oklahoma and Texas to come down here is exciting,” Sullivan said. “To get regional or local fighters from Pittsburgh or Ohio is great exposure. We're here for entertainment of our guests. We believe it's complementary to everything we do.
“Assuming this first one is well received and well attended, it's pedal to the metal. You have to quality fights, not club fights. You have to world-ranked quality or title fights, something that makes the fan want to come here. We're bringing it to southwest Pa., because people have asked for it.
“A lot of our high-rollers are big boxing enthusiasts.”
That it took five years for The Meadows, known first and foremost for harness racing, to venture into boxing shows had mostly to do with space limitations. But after building a new parking garage, Sullivan said, the casino carved out a 20,000-square-foot area as a multipurpose center where it can hold events such as boxing cards.
The 22-foot outdoor ring and ringside will be covered by a 40-foot canvas ceiling and surrounded by three walls, so Sullivan said the casino will “hope and pray that we have good weather” for the sake of the anticipated crowd of 1,500.
“I've been here five years, and this is the first boxing match,” Sullivan said. “It's really more about the planets being in alignment. We really didn't have the space here. To put it on race track like concerts is too rectangular. Boxing needs to be square. Part of it is we took the initiative to build a space. We wanted to make sure when we did it we're ready.”
The co-feature is a title fight between Uniontown's Tommy Karpency (22-4-1, 14 KOs) and Dhafir Smith (27-24-7) for the vacant NABA USA and Pennsylvania light heavyweight belts. The six-bout undercard includes Irish light heavyweight Cian Dalton (3-0-1), who fights out of the Conn-Greb Gym in Oakland.
Tickets can be purchased at ticketmaster.com, and Sullivan is counting on a successful debut leading to The Meadows becoming a major player in Western Pennsylvania's boxing scene.
“We don't want to do it once in a while,” Sullivan said. “We want to do it as regular as we can. We'll do a couple shows this year; next year, we'll have a card a month. We want to have an aggressive schedule.”