MEADOW LANDS – Frank Luca has done a little bit of everything in the boxing world, from competing, to managing and training star heavyweight Ernie Shavers in the 1970s, to promoting championship bouts at the highest levels.
Recently, the Canton, Ohio, native was put to a different task – helping create a boxing venue at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino.
The fruits of that labor will be on display Saturday when The Meadows hosts a fight card for the first time since adding a casino to the racetrack.
Topping the five-fight card – a sixth might be added – for “Madness at the Meadows” will be co-main events featuring Washington resident Jason Bergman (23-10) defending his NABA U.S. heavyweight belt against unbeaten Justin Jones (15-0) and former WBO and IBO world title challenger Tommy Karpency (22-4) facing Dahfir Smith (27-24) for the vacant NABA U.S. light heavyweight belt.
Making the whole thing come together has been a challenge for Luca, who owns the Las Vegas-based Crown Boxing and MMA.
“I’m accustomed to doing this in venues that have had big fights, Las Vegas, Madison Square Garden,” said Luca. “But you have to start from scratch. ‘Where are we going to put the fight?’ We could have put it on the racetrack itself or in front of the grandstand. Or, we have this little space back here that we don’t know what to do with yet. They blacktopped it. Next thing you know, there’s the space. We’re good to go. Next question is where do you put the dressing rooms? It’s like starting from scratch. But the casino management has been superb with me. They’ve done an outstanding job here.”
The casino created a space adjacent to its main building and its parking garage to serve as the boxing area. The ring and seating are being set up this week. When completed, it will hold seating for 1,500 fans.
“It’s exciting,” said Luca. “People have been responding to the sale of tickets. We’re practically sold out.”
Helping with the sales is the fact the fights will start at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, after The Adios, The Meadows’ biggest event of the year on the racing side of things, has been completed.
“We’re anticipating that it’s such a great event day here that people will come and enjoy the entire day,” Luca said. “The racing will be over in mid-afternoon. The doors open for the fight at 6:30 (p.m.). The first fight will go at 7:30 sharp. We’re hoping that we get some of those people that are sports-minded. If they like the horses, that they’re sports-minded. They’ll come to the fight, and we can create some new fans.”
Those not fortunate enough to get a ticket to the fights won’t need to miss the action. According to Luca, the casino will be broadcasting the action on televisions throughout the facility.
And if things go well enough with this first foray into boxing, Luca and The Meadows are looking to hold fights on a more frequent basis.
“Yeah, we sure are,” Luca said. “We determined to see if we can make this a happening. It’s a beautiful casino.
“I’ve been doing fights there for 30 years. The venue, as far as the casino is concerned, with the hotel coming in, will be as good as any of the casinos in Las Vegas that do fights of this caliber. The MGM has a 15,000 seat capacity. Mandalay Bay has 12. Thomas and Mack (Center), where I did (Evander) Holyfield and (Francois) Botha for the heavyweight championship, that’s 18,000. As far as the 1,500-seat capacity to 2,000, this rates right there with them.”