2 world boxing championship fights at Stateline | TahoeDailyTribune.com

2 world boxing championship fights at Stateline

Steve Yingling

Ticket scalpers may be able to drum up some business Saturday afternoon at Caesars Tahoe.

Boxing cards at Stateline rarely sell out, but tickets could become scarce to Title Night in Tahoe as two championship bouts headline one of the more appealing cards to come to the area this decade.

“This fight is so huge,” said Shannon Johnson, marketing and public relations manager at Caesars Tahoe. “I believe this is an event that appeals to everyone across the board.

“Boxing is a very popular and very loyal sport, and I have found through the years that regardless if they’re a casino player or not, they’re going to come just to maintain that loyalty to the sport.”

Champion Jeff Lacy (20-0) and challenger Scott Pemberton (29-3-1) will duke it out in a 12-round International Boxing Federation super middleweight title bout and Rafael Marquez (34-3) will put his IBF bantamweight title on the line against South Africa’s Silence Mabuza (18-0).

If that smorgasbord of fights doesn’t titillate fight fans, “Contender” celebrity Joey Gilbert of Reno will do his part to entertain them in his six-rounder on the undercard.

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Due to the high caliber of boxing, Caesars Tahoe has been able to lure some high rollers into town for the weekend.

“We have approximately 150 big table game players coming into this fight,” Johnson said. “We have found that table games and boxing go hand in hand, thus our reason to target them for the fight.”

The biggest star attending the card will be light middleweight champion Winky Wright, who has trained with Lacy at Caesars for the past month. Wright is best known for sending Felix Trinidad back into retirement and decisioning “Sugar” Shane Moseley twice.

Major title bouts usually gravitate toward the bright lights of Las Vegas, but Stateline lucked into two championship fights when Marquez became ill prior to his scheduled Sept. 30 title fight against Mabuza in Reno.

“I was definitely surprised this fight came here to Lake Tahoe,” Lacy said. “The fans came every day to watch us train. I think it’s gonna be a packed house and mean another big fight will come to Lake Tahoe.”

Mabuza is the IBF’s No. 1 challenger and refers to himself as the second coming of former champ Azumah Nelson.

“Rafael Marquez is the No. 1 bantamweight in the world, but I will be No. 1 after Saturday,” Mabuza told Showtime earlier this week.

Marquez is no longer known as Juan Marquez’s younger brother. Rafeal has won 13 straight bouts, including 10 by knockout, to become one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

“Recognition doesn’t come easily, but I feel that as long as I do my job in the ring, more and more people will hear about me,” Marquez told Showtime.

The Marquez-Mabuza is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m.

The Lacy-Pemberton main event will follow at 7 p.m. and promises to be a slugfest. Pemberton has won 24 of his 29 pro bouts by knockout while the undefeated Lacy has KO’d 16 of his 20 opponents.

Lacy has no intention of surrendering his title anytime soon.

“I have something that everybody wants, and that’s a world title,” Lacy said. “It’s something I like to have around my waist.”

In the past, it has taken a fight of the magnitude of Pernell “Sweat Pea” Whitaker vs. Carlos Bojorquez or Lennox Lewis vs. Henry Akinwande to stir some interest in the local sports books. But Cal Neva sports book operators inside Caesars Tahoe used a consultant in Las Vegas to create lines Thursday on the championship bouts.

Lacy is an overwhelming -$8.00 favorite to defeat Pemberton, who will earn bettors $5.75 for each dollar if he pulls an upset.

The Marquez-Mabuza line is much closer, with Marquez listed at -$2.60 and Mabuza at +$2.15.

Drawing extra attention to the card is Showtime, which will televise the championship bouts live on the East Coast and tape delayed on the West Coast.

The Circus Maximus Showroom has a seating capacity of 1,800. Less than 200 tickets were available by Thursday. Last-minute tickets can be purchased at the Lake Tahoe Gateway inside Caesars, by logging on to Ticketmaster.com or by phoning any Ticketmaster outlet. For more information, phone Caesars at (775) 588-3515.

Ticket prices range from $25 to $200.

Doors to the Showroom open at 3 p.m., with the first bout set for 3:15 p.m. It will be televised on pay-per-view live on the East Coast and taped delayed on the West Coast.