Reno professor traces Nevada’s rich boxing history

Long before Las Vegas called itself the “Fight Capital of the World” in the 1980s, boxing had a rich history in Nevada.

There was organized boxing in many small mining towns during the 1800s and professional boxing gained a foothold in Northern Nevada in the late 1800s and early 1900s. That history has been captured in a new book by UNR distinguished professor emeritus Richard Davies called “The Main Event.” He will be in town at 1 p.m. Saturday for a lecture and book signing at The Mob Museum, 300 Stewart Avenue.

Davies, 76, who has written 15 books, six on sports in America, admitted he’s not a huge boxing fan. But in doing his research for the book, which is published by the University of Nevada Press, he found himself fascinated by the characters in the sport and how important boxing would become to the state’s economy.

“What I found is that boxing is ingrained in Nevada’s culture, going back to the mining camps,” he said. “It’s also about the economic relationship between the sport and the casinos.

“There’s not much written on boxing in the early days. But in 1897, the heavyweight championship between Bob Fitzsimmons and James Corbett in Carson City was big for Nevada. They filmed the fight and it was the first feature film shown in the United States. It was great exposure for the state back then.”

Davies also writes about promoter Tex Rickard and his influence on the sport in Nevada. He writes about Jack Dempsey coming to Nevada and walking into a bar in Tonopah or Goldfield and claiming he could lick any man in the house, and then doing exactly that. He also writes about how the sport nearly died in Nevada in the early 1950s during the organized crime hearings conducted by Tennessee senator Estes Kefauver.

“It was the first time a lot of Las Vegans realized organized crime existed in their city,” Davies said. “But boxing survived and it would remain part of Las Vegas to this day.”

Tickets for the lecture are $19.95. Mob Museum members are admitted free. For more information, go to the museum’s website, themobmuseum.org.

■ FLOYD FIGHTS CANCER — Floyd Mayweather Jr. will have a special rooting section when he faces Marcos Maidana May 3 at the MGM Grand Garden. The world welterweight champion has invited 46 area women who are battling cancer to attend the fight as his guests and he is also fitting the women with wigs.

“It’s about giving back for a good cause,” Mayweather said. “We were looking to do something nice and help these women who are going through so much battling cancer. They’re fighters too.”

Why 46?

“This is my 46th fight so each of the women represents one of my fights,” he said.

Mayweather’s staff is working with local cancer organizations to help select the 46 guests.

■ ISHE’S OPPONENT — Former world junior middleweight champion Ishe Smith of Las Vegas has found an opponent for May 2 at the Hard Rock Hotel. Smith will face Ryan Davis (24-13-3, 9 KOs) in the main event scheduled for 10 rounds.

Smith (25-6, 11 KOs) was scheduled to fight WBA junior middleweight champ Erislandy Lara at the Hard Rock. But Lara pulled out of the fight last week to face Canelo Alvarez on July 12 at the MGM Grand Garden.

■ HUNTER’S NEXT FIGHT — Las Vegas heavyweight Michael Hunter has landed a spot on the May 10 card at USC’s Galen Center on the undercard of the World Boxing Council heavyweight title fight between Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne. Hunter (4-0, 3 KOs) will face Jerry Forrest of Newport News, Va. (7-1, 6 KOs) in a six-round bout.

Hunter is coming off a six-round unanimous decision win over Rodney Hernandez on April 3 in Indio, Calif.

■ PACQUIAO-BRADLEY NUMBERS — According to the Nevada Athletic Commission, the April 12 rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley at the MGM Grand Garden sold 14,099 tickets, generating a live gate of $7,865,100.

Their first fight in 2012 at the Grand Garden sold 13,229 tickets and produced a gate of $8,963,180. Tickets for the rematch were cheaper than the first fight, which had a top price of $1,200.

The HBO Pay Per View buy numbers are expected to be announced this week.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.