merlin 69021573

The remodeled Minneapolis Armory held its first boxing card on April 13, 2018, and it coincided with the start of a storm that landed 15.8 inches of snow on the Twin Cities.

It was labeled as the heaviest April snow in our history, beating out a storm in 1893.

That’s bad luck right here — starting a new promotion in an old building that had become a blight on downtown’s eastern edge, while also breaking a 125-year-old record for misery.

Onward with boxing went Ned Abdul, the owner who privately funded the remarkable remodel.

The Amory’s 13th card in the tie-in with Premier Boxing Champions — and now Showtime — will be held Saturday evening.

That number would be several cards higher if not for the Armory’s 15-month shutdown during the pandemic. How did this enterprise, based on good-sized public gatherings, survive that blow?

“We just waited, like everybody else,” Abdul said. “I knew we’d be back in time — and we are, stronger than ever.”

That was certainly the case Friday, when the traditional fight card weigh-in was held in a good-sized meeting room at the W Hotel.

I had been to three or four previous weigh-ins for Armory cards, and was disappointed with the largely civilized behavior among the participants.

My experience in previous decades, when local newspapers ventured to Las Vegas and elsewhere to cover big fights, was that last-ditch salesmanship required questioning the opponent’s brains, courage and strength at the weigh-in.

Showtime is the big time, and it was getting past time for taunting.

Saturday’s title bout will be unbeaten WBA super middleweight champion David Morrell Jr., with Minneapolis listed as his boxing home, and unbeaten No. 1 challenger Aidos Yerbossynuly from Zharkent, Kazakhstan.

Showtime went all-out for the weigh-in, bringing in Tommy Kramer (?), and having Jimmy Lennon Jr. introduce the participants for the featured bouts.

Listen, I covered Greco-Roman wrestling at a couple of Olympics after the breakup of the Soviet Union, so I’ve encountered some names from that part of the world, but this fella … no chance.

As expected, Yer-bos-syn-uley (or some such thing) was no problem for Jimmy Jr., as it rolled off that silver tongue.

Morrell was a big young man as he tried to stay at 168 pounds for his pro career. He labored to get down there for his last title fight here in June.

He’s continued to work with trainer Ronnie Shields and the staff at Shields’ boxing gym near Houston.

The Cuban defector, now 24 and a titleholder with only seven pro bouts, weighed in at 166.5 this time, while displaying what can be termed a washboard stomach (even if washboards are obsolete).

There was minimal taunting with Morrell and his opponent during the end of the weigh-in staredown. One reason was because of Morrell smiling at the fact Yerbossynuly had placed a ushanka on his head.

You have no choice but to smile when you see a guy wearing one of those Russian-style fur hats indoors, right?

The true fireworks came after light heavyweights Andre Dirrell and Yunieski Gonzalez had weighed in.

There were a dozen people in the audience bellowing “Flint town, Flint town,” in honor of Dirrell and his Michigan roots. Gonzalez was waving it off as hilarious enthusiasm for a fighter he plans to beat. And then this pair did the old nose-to-nose deal at the staredown.

Beautiful.

I do find it remarkable that Minneapolis, thanks to this building and the 3,500 to nearly 5,000 loyalists who have been attending these cards, has become a Showtime/PBC staple, with three or four other better-known boxing cities.

This leading question was asked of Abdul on Friday:

“When you started in that snowstorm 4 ½ years ago, you couldn’t have anticipated boxing being this successful in the Armory, right?”

Abdul gave a not-true shake of the head and said: “When I looked at it, I imagined a building that could be 100 percent multi-purpose … for concerts, community celebrations, large meetings. And boxing was always part of that plan.

“It’s set up so there are no bad seats. I thought people would get in here, feel the history, feel the excitement, and keep coming back.”

For sure, when doing that, the boxing crowd won’t get thirsty with those long open bars on both sides of the arena floor.

“Who came up with the idea for those giant bars?”

Abdul, generally quiet, not prone to braggadocio, smiled and said: “That idea was mine.”

Source link