Thursday, January 31, 2002

Williams Jr. bout brings boxing back to Gardens

Local fighters also on Feb. 24 card

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It was where Ricardo Williams Jr. wanted to be — at home — and one by one, his fellow Cincinnati boxers thanked him for it.

        Robert Dula, Ravae Springs, Cornell Shinholster, Stefan Pryor.

        “Thanks, champ,” said Springs, who was idolized by a young Williams Jr., the Olympic silver medalist who will headline a Feb.24 professional fight card at Cincinnati Gardens.

        The group gathered for a press conference Wednesday at the Gardens to promote the show, which will be nationally telecast on ESPN. Tickets ($25, $40, $60, $100) go on sale Friday. Boxing has a storied history at the Gardens, dating to heavyweight champion Ezzard Charles vs. Joey Maxim on Feb.28, 1949. It drew 14,062 fans, a Gardens record that lasted for 15 years.

        Ricardo Williams Sr., his son's co-manager, fought Golden Gloves here. Williams Jr. boxed an exhibition here as a 55-pounder.

        “They were talking about the fight being in Akron, but if it was anywhere in Ohio, it should be in Cincinnati,” said Williams Jr. (6-0), who will face Anthony Washington (15-0-1) at 140 pounds in the card's main event. As many as seven fighters on the card could be Cincinnatians.

        “Why not sacrifice a little bit?” Williams Jr. added.

        Williams Jr., 20, made the hometown fight possible by taking part of his compensation in tickets. Otherwise the card was headed for Akron, where Williams Jr.'s substantial guarantee would have been just that — guaranteed. The arena rental was less expensive in Akron.

        What about his opponent in the scheduled 10-rounder?

        “He's a good fighter; he's elusive,” Williams Jr. said. “But I'm going to put on a spectacular performance. I'm going to send him back to Philly with a "1' in the "L' column.”

        Also on the card: two of Williams' Olympic teammates, Brian Viloria and Cincinnatian Dante Craig, as well as Cincinnatian Mark Scott.

        “I'd love to see 10,000 people here and revive boxing to the way it used to be here,” said Buddy LaRosa, Williams' co-manager. “This is a great opportunity for the community. Boxing brings people from all areas of the city together, all creeds and cultures together.”

        Tickets are available at Ticketmaster (562-4949), LaRosa's (347-5677) or in person at the Gardens box office (631-7793).


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