The Apollo Theater will have to keep waiting to host its first boxing card in over 15 years after Golden Boy Promotions decided to move the March 2 card that was initially scheduled to be held there to the Hard Rock Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, rival Top Rank is expected to host a highly anticipated fight on April 13 at Radio City Music Hall for the first time in 13 years.
The change in location for the March 2 fight is in direct response to an ankle injury sustained by fast rising Puerto Rican star Jayson Velez that forced the cancelation of his challenge for the WBC featherweight title against Mexican champion Daniel Ponce De Leon. Interim WBA lightweight titlist Richard Abril (17-3-1, 8 KOs) will face Sharif Bogere (23-0, 15 KOs) for the vacant WBA lightweight world title in the new main event. Undefeated featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr. (21-0, 13 KOs) will meet Vyacheslav Gusev (20-2, 5 KOs) of Russia on the Showtime televised undercard.
This move is logical since the card no longer carries the same draw to Spanish Harlem without the Mexico vs Puerto Rico headliner. The new main event will pit a Miami-based Cuban (Abril) against a Las Vegas-based Uganda native (Bogere) so should attract more fans from the West Coast.
What doesn't seem to make much logistical sense is holding the super bantamweight unification fight between WBO champion Nonito Donaire and WBA titelholder Guillermo Rigondeaux at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan on April 13. Aside from the convenience of synchronizing the fight with the Boxing Writers Association of America's (BWAA) 88th annual awards dinner that will be held in New York on April 11, there seems to be little reason to hold the fight in this location.
As Ivan G. Goldman of Boxing Insider observes, Donaire can collect his 'Fighter of the Year' award while receiving a stream of publicity from fight writers and photographers. This exposure is expected to help the personable fighter pick up straying fans as Manny Pacquiao’s star fades.
However, the 6000 seat capacity venue is not ideal for a boxing match. Almost all of the seats will be lumped on one side of the theater with the ring up on the stage and the majority of on-site fans being denied favorable viewing without the aid of video screens. It has been reported that a deal could not be reached with the Theater at Madison Square Garden and other cites in California and Texas where the Filipino Donaire has fought most recently.
This would mark the first fight in 13 years to be held at Radio City Music Hall, with Roy Jones Jr. defeating David Telesco at the legendary theater on January 15, 2000.
Donaire's last three fights averaged an attendance of roughly 5300, with the help of draws such as Rios-Alvarado on October 13 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California and Jorge Arce on December 15 at the Toyota Center in Houston that was comprised of a large group of Hispanic fans to support the Mexican fighter.
While he was voted the 2012 'Fighter of the Year', Donaire is not quite the draw on his own. The April 13 undercard will be important in helping to bring out more fans who may generally prefer to watch the 'Christmas Spectacular' than a fight on this particular stage.
Tags: Boxing, Daniel Ponce De Leon, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Jayson Velez, Nonito Donaire