New York- Boxing has changed since the last time a professional card was held at Yankee Stadium. Back on September 28, 1976 when Muhammad Ali fought Ken Norton for the heavyweight title, then at the old stadium, that is no more, fans knew who the heavyweight champion was.
Now ask an astute boxing fan who holds the heavyweight title and it becomes a guessing game. There are four different champions that represent alphabet soup organizations known as sanctioning bodies. The WBC, WBA, IBF, and WBO, they did not exist when the old stadium hosted its last boxing card. A television audience was not a priority for promoters but getting people to fill the Stadium was.
Jack Dempsey defeated Jack Sharkey before a Yankee Stadium crowd of 77,283 in 1927. No HBO cable or pay- per-view telecasts then, or for Ali, Norton, and the other prominent heavyweights such as Rocky Marciano and Archie Moore that fought there. They were known more from back page newspaper headlines that no longer exist unless tragedy hits the sport.
When there was a big time fight at Yankee Stadium it got attention. From 1923 to 1976 there were 49 professional boxing cards that made Yankee Stadium as famous as Ruth, DiMaggio, Gehrig, and Mantle hitting a baseball.
So here we are, Saturday evening, at the new billion dollar Yankee Stadium, pro boxing again in the new House that Ruth Built. Miguel Cotto (34-2, 27 Ko’s) the three-time champion as a welterweight moves up to 154 and challenges Yuri Foreman (28-0, 8 KO’s) for the WBA Super Welterweight championship.
Bob Arum of Top Rank who promoted that last card at Yankee Stadium is expecting about 30,000 enthusiastic boxing fans Saturday night in the Bronx. The cost of a ticket is much higher than the one purchased for Ali-Norton and HBO will telecast the fight They, are calling this “Stadium Slugfest” and back then all they had to do is say that Ali and Norton were fighting for the heavyweight championship.
And at about 11:15pm, after an under card that begins at 6:45 PM, Cotto the popular fighter from Caguas Puerto Rico and Foreman, from Brooklyn, the first Orthodox Jewish fighter to hold a championship will enter a ring set up on a stage in right-center field.
It will be history again at Yankee Stadium. When they built this new palace in the Bronx it was always the intention of the Yankees organization to stage memorable pro boxing events again. They also are committed to having football on their turf and this Fall, Army and a bowl game will be played there.
Madison Square Garden wanted Cotto-Foreman when this fight was first discussed a year ago. It has always been Cotto time in New York, at the Garden this time of year. He has defended his title four times in the month of June on the eve of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade.
The schedule was available again for Cotto at the Garden and he, along with his promoter Arum were welcome to come back. Arum though has been thinking bigger. The Stadium was a proper venue when the idea came to the table. Arum got over 40,000 fans to attend the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey welterweight title fight earlier this year at the new Cowboys Stadium in Dallas Texas.
This fight certainly will lead to more at the new ball yard in the Bronx. The Yankees with their 27th World Series championship christened the Stadium last November. Now, after Saturday night, the past becomes present and truly we can say boxing has returned where it belongs.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]