Harrah’s has some fight left
Harrah’s Tahoe isn’t just picking any weekend to return to professional boxing.
The Stateline casino will end its 11-year abstinence from boxing with an ESPN2 Friday Night Fights card July 6, the opening day of the 12th American Century Celebrity Golf Championship. Lightweights Efren Hinojosa of Mexico, who will be trained by South Lake Tahoe’s Juan Torres, and durable veteran Ivan Robinson of Philadelphia will meet in the main event in the 900-seat Special Events Center.
“We think it’s a good match with the American Century golf being in town, and with all the celebrities and star athletes here that they’d want to see a fight,” said Harrah’s Marketing Director Barry Phillips. “This will be a special event, a big event and celebrities like being at big events.
“We can always get invited guests to attend, but then it’s knowing how much the public wants to see it. ESPN cards are much easier to sell to the public, because it’s a well-known product.”
More than anyone, Phillips is responsible for returning boxing to Harrah’s Tahoe.
“Barry has been involved with a lot of fights in Reno, both when he worked at Cal-Neva and Harrah’s Reno,” said John Packer, Harrah’s communications manager.
Packer said that boxing’s decade-long absence from Harrah’s entertainment calendar was due to different marketing philosophies of previous directors. Despite buying its own ring in 1990, the purchase didn’t indicate a long-term commitment to the sport.
“The ring sat in storage for a year. Finally, we decided to donate it to the Police Athletic League and the Boys and Girls Club because they were starting a boxing program,” Packer said. “At the time, we thought we could borrow it back.”
As it turns out, Harrah’s will borrow a ring from Reno for the July 6 card.
Longtime promotor Don Chargin of Los Angeles is orchestrating the card and promises it will have more punch than one fight. Carlos Bojorquez, who upset Pernell Whitaker in April at Caesars Tahoe, will also fight on the card.
“Carlos is an integral part of the card,” said Chargin, who will be inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame on Thurday in New York. “He makes such great fights. If we can get someone with a similar style to Bojorquez’s, we have the makings of one of the greatest fights ever.”
Chargin also plans to appease local fight fans by including unbeaten Roseville middleweight Eric Regan, unbeaten Sacramento cruiserweight Michael Sims and first-year pro Simon Ruvalcaba of South Lake Tahoe.
“There’s not a lot of local fighters now, but the Sacramento kids are a good local draw and Don’s always looking to put someone on the card to sell tickets,” Phillips said. “If they can find (Simon) an opponent, I’m sure he’ll put him on there.”
Sims scored a first-round technical knockout at Caesars on April 27 and has the potential to reach the top. However, he has a history of not adhering to the sport’s hierarchy. The world amateur champion was once kicked off the U.S. Olympic team for insubordination, according to Chargin.
Torres expects Hinojosa (22-0, 16 KOs) to arrive in town next week to finish his training. No title is at stake for Hinojosa and Robinson (30-5-1). Robinson, a former NABF champion, has taken on the division’s best, including Arturo Gatti and Angel Manfredy.
“Ivan would have been our first choice, but at first we didn’t think he was available. As soon as we found out he was, I grabbed him,” Chargin said. “This makes it a heck of a fight.”
Chargin has been impressed with the recent development of Hinojosa.
“He scored a major upset in his last fight on TV, beating Lamar Murphy,” he said. “Efren threw the third-most punches that have been thrown since they’ve been keeping the compubox punches. He never stops.”
Harrah’s isn’t tendering the card to the public to scratch an 11-year itch.
“If we sell some tickets, I can see another card forthcoming,” Phillips said. “We’re entering a great partnership with Harveys, so the next one could be here or it might be over there.”
Tickets are $35 for club seating and $75 for VIP.
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