Evander Holyfield's new company will promote inaugural boxing card at Freedom Hall next month

05/12/2017 06:00 PM

LOUISVILLE — Championship boxing is coming back to Louisville thanks to former four-time heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield’s new venture, and officials said Friday that they hope boxing will become a staple once again in Kentucky’s largest city.

Holyfield and others announced a still unfinalized card set for June 24 at Freedom Hall, which will be headlined by an undisclosed title fight. The event will be part of the “I Am Ali” Festival, and Holyfield said his admiration for Muhammad Ali prompted him to look for Louisville for his first card as a promoter with Real Deal Sports and Entertainment.

Although the company was unveiled earlier this week, Holyfield says the June 24 event, called the Real Deal Championship Boxing Series, at Freedom Hall has been in the works for about four months.

“The thing is when you have the right people it works,” Holyfield said after a news conference at the Muhammad Ali Center.

Sal Musumeci, co-founder of Real Deal Sports and Entertainment, said as they searched for the right location for their first fight card, the welcome they received from officials in Kentucky and Louisville helped reaffirm their decision to promote boxing at the venue that hosted Ali’s professional debut.

He said Real Deal Sports and Entertainment plans to bring future fights to Louisville, noting that the June 24 card will be announced soon once contracts are signed. The 10 p.m. event will be carried live by CBS Sports.

“There were many venues, many large casinos around the world the we could’ve chose, but we felt there was only one place to bring this, and that’s the home of his (Holyfield’s) inspiration, who was born here,” Musumeci said during Friday’s press conference.

“Louisville is the place to bring back big-time boxing,” he added. “We feel that we’re well received here.”

Gov. Matt Bevin, who said he hoped to bring boxing matches to Louisville before he ran for public office, said his administration’s focus on reducing the number of administrative regulations helped coax boxing back to Kentucky.

He cited the elimination of the “cut” rule, which required fights to stop if a participant is bloodied until he or she is no longer bleeding.

“One of the first things we did was cut that rule out that precluded something like this from taking place,” Bevin said. “We were talking a little bit earlier, it’s not so much what we’re doing to make it possible for boxing to be here, it’s what we can stop doing that prevents boxing from being successful here.”

Bevin said the economic impact in Louisville could be “tremendous” and hopes to see a packed Freedom Hall for the June 24 card.

He also wants to see similar high-level combat sports, such as mixed martial arts, and professional wrestling come to Kentucky, noting the success of a recent World Wrestling Entertainment event in Louisville.

“I hope this is the first of many professional boxing events,” Bevin, who declined to address questions on topics unrelated to Friday’s announcement, told reporters after the press conference. “I would love to see UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) come. I mean, there is a tremendous amount of fan interest in that, including from myself.”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said he hopes boxing regains prominence in the city, which has seen its sports profile grow in recent years. Sports are “big business” for Louisville and part of the city’s overall economic growth, he said.

“You look around this city you see all kind of momentum,” he said. “Ten billion dollars in capital constructions, a couple projects the governor and I have worked on together from the Omni hotel, the expansion of the convention center. It means to world is coming to Louisville.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

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