Organizers give away tickets for novel card

In these tough economic times, nothing gets the public’s attention like the word “free.”

Daren Libonati, the director of the Thomas & Mack Center, realizes that. Along with the organizers of a June 20 boxing and mixed martial arts card, he decided to let everyone through the doors to the venue for no charge.

The catch: Fans had to obtain seats in advance through on the Internet. As of Friday, 16,000 tickets had been distributed, and the “sold out” sign had been posted on the Web site.

“We thought this would generate some interest, but it has surpassed our expectations,” Libonati said. “We think this is the first time that boxing and MMA have been offered on the same card at the same venue on the same night.”

ESPN will televise the boxing portion, which will have local heavyweight Friday Ahunanya vs. Alonzo Butler in the main event.

After the boxing portion, there will be a 20- to 30-minute intermission to adjust the ring for the MMA card, which will have John Alessio vs. Pete Spratt in the main event at 170 pounds.

Libonati said the ring adjustment will consist of adding a fifth rope to the bottom to accommodate MMA.

“The whole thing is about building partnerships,” Libonati said. “We hope this will lead to more of these types of events.”

Libonati said he’s not sure whether future boxing-MMA cards will be free. He said there might be a $5 charge.

“We took a bit of a gamble on this, but it looks like it’s going to pay off,” he said. “The public’s response has been tremendous. We’re going to get some great exposure on ESPN, and the MMA portion will make its way onto the Internet or through a cable company for future distribution.

“Not only do we have a guaranteed big crowd, we’ve built a solid (fan base) for future events.”

• GARCIA POLICY PAID — It took more than 13 years, but Jimmy Garcia’s family finally received payment on the late boxer’s life insurance policy.

Garcia sustained multiple injuries in his WBC world lightweight title fight against Gabe Ruelas on May 6, 1995, at Caesars Palace and died May 19.

Garcia’s life insurance policy with the WBC was worth $200,000, and according to the sanctioning body, the reason for the delay was Garcia’s daughter, 5 years old at the time of his death, had to wait until she was 18 to collect on the policy.

• TORRES-HOLT OFFICIALS — The Nevada Athletic Commission has selected Jay Nady to referee the July 5 WBO junior welterweight title fight between Ricardo Torres and No. 1 challenger Kendall Holt at Planet Hollywood.

The judges will be Burt Clements and Robert Hoyle, both from Nevada, and Oren Schellenberger of Texas.

• PROMOTERS HONORED — Longtime boxing promoters Bob Arum and Don King will be inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame on Sept. 16. The two have more than 60 years of experience promoting fights in Las Vegas.

The ceremony will be at the Red Rock. Joining Arum and King as inductees will be Bernard Goldstein, chairman of the board and former chief executive officer of Isle of Capri Casinos, and celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at or 702-387-2913.

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