The great boxing writer A.J. Liebling used to maintain that television was the worst thing to ever happen to boxing was television. For fans of younger generations, it’s impossible to even imagine boxing separate from television. The small screen is where most of us fell in love with the Sweet Science.
But what Liebling meant was that once fans could watch big-time fights on television, it put a hurt on the club-level fights that had been the bread-and-butter of the sport for years. Those were the sort of fights that allowed a wanna-be contender to truly develop his craft.
Cards like Salito Promotion’s Brooklyn Brawl series provide a critical platform for both emerging prospects and international talent looking to make a splash in the United States. In 2016, Salito will be expanding the popular series into Detroit.
Salito is one of the best rising promotions in the sport. Their move into the Motor City is a gutsy but appropriate expansion of the brand.
Detroit is a city that has been on the decline for more than a generation, but its gritty spirit hangs on. Beyond that, it has one of the greatest boxing legacies of any U.S. city.
It was the birth place of all-time pound-for-pound king Sugar Ray Robinson. It was the home city of heavyweight icon Joe Louis and of Eddie Futch, my choice as the greatest trainer in the sport’s history.
In recent decades, Detroit for boxing fans has been synonomous with the famed Kronk Gym, where the legendary Emanuel Steward developed a youth boxing program into the most famed camp of the late 20th century. Among Steward’s first pupils was his most famous, the Motor City Cobra, Thomas Hearns. Other world champions from the gym include Hilmer Kenty, Mark Breeland, Michael Moorer and the McCrory brothers, Milton and Steve.
The Detroit Brawl kicks off on February 6 at the Masonic Temple, with local, undefeated bantamweight James Gordon Smith (8-0, 5 KOs) facing Antwan Robertson. Smith was an amateur standout, as was junior welterweight Ed Williams (10-1-1, 4 KOs), who is also featured on the card. International prospects Dimash Niyazov of Kazakhstan and Giorgi Gelashvili will look to stay unbeaten and raise their profiles, as well.