|By Kalle Oakes, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The license to promote such events effectively lapsed when the state commission that oversaw all prize fistic pursuits was eliminated in a cost-cutting measure. In truth, however, the sport was in such a state of dormancy that almost nobody noticed.
When the time came for second-generation boxer
Four fights, one key piece of legislation and a baker's dozen mixed martial arts cards later, Gamache gets to play a home game. The same state representative who resuscitated the sport now heads up the promotion that will bring an all-pro boxing docket to
New England Fights, the upstart organization that has helped develop the talent pool and fan base that lured two worldwide mixed martial arts promotions to
"I am excited to be part of the first pro boxing show in
Shortly thereafter, he joined forces with
While the rampant popularity of mixed martial arts has been a driving force behind NEF's growth, Peterson said that cage fighting's old-school cousin was part of his vision from the beginning.
"What got all this started for me was my parents taking me to a movie theater to see 'Rocky IV' when I was 8 and me staring at the screen without blinking for an hour-and-a-half," Peterson said. "It always has been our intention to grow a full plate of options for the combat sports enthusiast."
Lewiston's boxing culture dates back more than a century. The first recorded prize fight in town took place in 1883.
Next May marks the 50th anniversary of the heavyweight championship fight between
Ali's legendary, controversial first-round knockout, achieved with what many observers considered a "phantom punch," has furnished Lewiston a measure of immortal infamy in the sports world.
"This gives us a great opportunity to ramp up leading into what should be a star-studded event," Peterson said.
"He was the man when I was in high school," Peterson said. "That made such an impression on me. To be able to work with him and his son in bringing this together is an honor. I've had a lot of great conversations with Joey and Joe Sr. about this. They've really helped weigh in."
Ali made an in-person appearance at a nationally televised card in the late 1990s.
The most recent pro card featured former heavyweight contender Oleg Maskaev at the Multi-Purpose Center on
"It's great to see the history of the facility come to life," Colisee general manager
Berry attracted more than 1,000 spectators to his most recent fight at
NEF's quarterly promotions at the Colisee since 2012 have averaged more than 2,500.
"Needless to say I am very excited to headline this event," said Berry, who trains out of a gym in
Official matchups have yet to be announced.
"This won't be a one-and-done thing," Peterson said. "We chose Lewiston for a reason. It's a city with a very active boxing fan base. I can't think of a place in
NEF has promoted mixed martial arts events in
Influenced by the organization's success, Ultimate Fighting Championship will hold its first-ever
Both men say that mixed martial arts fans shouldn't worry about boxing stealing any of the newer sport's thunder.
"We have the same schedule planned for MMA. We'll probably supplement it, add to it, tweak it, possibly adding some smaller amateur shows to develop more fighters," Peterson said. "There are a lot of opportunities for cross-pollination. I think we will draw in a lot of mixed martial arts fans for this one, and in turn I think it's possible that we will see some of the boxing fans come out for mixed martial arts as well."
"We always intended this promotion to be multi-faceted when it came to putting together different combat sporting events. With pro boxing once again legal in
Nine bouts are planned for the boxing card, with a bell time of
Tickets will go on sale to the general public
There is a special online presale beginning Friday at
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