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Downtown events center steps in between boxing ropes

Derek Stevens had his own unique vision for downtown Las Vegas.

The owner of the D Las Vegas had acquired the old Clark County Courthouse building. But instead of building another hotel, he created a place for concerts and sporting events, including boxing, at what is the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center.

On Friday, the DLVEC hosted a boxing card for the second time, this one promoted by Hall of Famer Don King and televised on Showtime. Stevens’ goal? Make boxing a part of downtown’s landscape and provide affordable entertainment for fight fans.

Think the old Showboat or Silver Slipper, only outdoors.

“I think we have a unique opportunity,” Stevens said. “We’re in a great location, one that’s easy for both locals and tourists to get to. We have the support of the other downtown hotels. We’re getting on national TV, first on CBS (Sports Network) and now with Showtime. It’s great exposure for downtown and that’s our goal — to get people to come here.”

Stevens is a big boxing fan and used to come in from Michigan to attend the fights at Caesars Palace back in the 1980s and ’90s. That’s what got him thinking about the outdoor model rather than converting a ballroom at the D into a boxing venue.

“I always thought there was something special about an outdoor fight,” he said. “The energy is different. At the Events Center, you have a great backdrop with all the hotels and Fremont Street. The zipline. Everything.”

Stevens said the key to the success of boxing downtown will be bringing competitive fights and keeping the ticket prices reasonable. It was $39 to get into Friday’s card.

“We had an unbelievable amount of walk-up sales in May,” he said of the first card at the Events Center. “Frankly, I was a bit shocked. But we have a lot of tourists who visit downtown who have watched boxing on TV from Las Vegas and when they found out we were doing a boxing show a block away, a lot of people decided to buy tickets. So that’s a market I think we can tap into for future fights.

“We’re committed to this long term. We’re going to do a lot of fights here. I try to learn from every experience and I want to build on what works.”

Stevens said he enjoyed working with King and hopes to do more business with him.

“It’s been great,” Stevens said. “No problems at all.”

King said he hopes to come back to the D in 2016, if not sooner.

“He’s a daring guy,” King said of Stevens. “He’s revitalized downtown Las Vegas. He’s not afraid of a challenge. But it goes to show you what can happen when you work together.”

OFFICIALS SELECTED — The Nevada Athletic Commission has selected the officials to work the main televised undercard fights for the Sept. 12 card at the MGM Grand Garden which has Floyd Mayweather Jr. facing Andre Berto in the main event on Showtime Pay Per View.

Vic Drakulich of Reno has been selected to referee the World Boxing Organization super featherweight title fight between Orlando Salido and Roman “Rocky” Martinez. The judges will be Patricia Morse-Jarman of Las Vegas, Burt Clements of Reno and Glenn Feldman of Connecticut.

The NAC chose Las Vegas’ Robert Byrd to referee the World Boxing Council super middleweight title fight between Badou Jack and George Groves. The judges are Glenn Trowbridge of Las Vegas, John McKaie of New York and Guido Cavalleri of Italy.

Groves’ team objected to using Kenny Bayless as the referee because they didn’t like his style of officiating. The commission immediately rejected the request and it was moot anyway since Bayless is the ref for Mayweather-Berto and wasn’t even under consideration to work the Jack-Groves fight.

FLANAGAN EXCITED — WBO lightweight champion Terry Flanagan is looking forward to making his first title defense when he faces Las Vegas’ Diego Magdaleno on Oct. 10 in Flanagan’s hometown of Manchester, England.

“I’m content in what I plan to do on fight night,” Flanagan said Thursday on a conference call.” I have no problems fighting southpaws. I’m in for a hard fight and he’s in for a hard fight.

“I don’t take any fight lightly.”

Flanagan, who won the title July 11 when he defeated Jose Zepeda by technical knockout after Zepeda couldn’t continue after dislocating his shoulder in the second round, said Magdaleno has a similar style.

“Magdaleno reminds me a bit like Zepeda in that they both like to come forward to attack,” Flanagan said. “I like that.”

Flanagan said as important as winning the title was, holding on to it is even more important.

“I like being a world champion,” he said. “I like being a role model for children. I am now making enough money to take care of my family and have a better life.”

Joel Diaz, who trains Magdaleno, said going halfway around the world and taking Flanagan’s belt in his own backyard is not an impossible task.

“We took Tim Bradley over to England in a fight no one said we could win (against Junior Witter) and came back with a title belt,” Diaz said. “I feel exactly the same about Diego and this fight.

“Diego improves every single day we are in the gym. He works so hard. He does all of his conditioning, his running. We are prepared to win.”

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



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