Evander Holyfield is bringing professional boxing back to Louisville for Ali festival - Insider Louisville
For the first time since 2004, bright lights will soon be shining over a professional boxing match in Freedom Hall. The inaugural “I am Ali” festival will feature professional championship boxing thanks in part to four-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield and his company Real Deal Sports & Entertainment, which he launched four days ago.
Holyfield announced at the Muhammad Ali Center Friday morning that his inaugural Real Deal Championship Boxing would debut on June 24 in partnership with the locally-based nonprofit TKO/Top Notch Boxing and Kentucky Venues.
Details about the event are still coalescing, Holyfield’s partner and longtime promoter Sal Musumeci said, but there will be a title fight and at least three or four professional undercard fights that will be featured on the CBS Sports Network at 10 p.m. A handful of amateur, mostly local fights will also precede the televised portion.
CBS announced earlier this week that “Real Deal Championship Boxing,” the new series for the company, is expected to televise monthly cards on the CBS Sports Network. “Evander’s Tribute to Ali” will be the name of the first televised event on June 24. The televised boxing will be preceded by a tribute to Ali, which will be hosted by Holyfield and narrated by CBS Sports commentator Benny Ricardo.
Ali died last year and was buried in Cave Hill Cemetery.
Musumeci said that “plenty of places” courted Holyfield and this event, including a bunch of casinos. “But, Louisville is the place to bring back big-time boxing,” he said. Musumeci praised the Louisville team of people who helped make this happen, including the Kentucky Sports Commission, Kentucky Venues, Top Knotch Boxing, Mayor Greg Fischer and Governor Matt Bevin. He said that he had “done 200 shows worldwide” and had rarely seen a team that had worked together so well.
Musumeci also said that should this event go as expected there would be a long-term plan to keep professional boxing in Louisville on a regular basis. He said that this event had mostly come together in the past 48 hours. Next week, details, including the fight card, will be announced.
“I love it here in Louisville,” he said.
At the press conference, Mayor Fischer gave a quick history lesson on boxing in Louisville and said that the first recorded match took place on 7th and Main in 1781. In the 1950s the very same police officer, Joe Martin, who told a young Cassius Clay that he should take up boxing if he wanted to “whup” the person who stole his bike hosted a TV show from Louisville about amateur boxing. Ali fought his first professional fight in Freedom Hall and 44 years later, his daughter Leila kept her I.W.B.F. super-middleweight title with a ninth-round technical knockout against Monica Nuñez in the last professional match held in the hall.
“As a kid, I was told I could be like Muhammad Ali,” Holyfield said. “But I told them I had to ask my mama.” He said his mama said, “They going to hit you.” And he said, “well, I get three whuppings a day anyway…”
Holyfield was the heavyweight champion of the world four times by winning title fights in 1990, 1993, 1996 and 2000. He said he owed his success to his mother’s advice: “listen, follow directions and don’t quit.”
Last fall, Gov. Bevin abolished the former Kentucky Boxing and Wrestling Authority and formed the Kentucky Boxing and Wrestling Commission and appealed regulations that had been keeping pro boxing from booking events in Kentucky.
At the announcement, Bevin told a story about his longtime love of boxing and meeting “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler while he was working at an amusement park driving Cinderella’s pumpkin coach. He also said that he saw Holyfield in the Atlanta airport once during a long weather delay and praised the boxer for “waiting in line like everyone else.”
Today at 3 p.m. at TKO Boxing on Breckenridge, Musumeci said that he would be signing a contract with a local amateur boxer.