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‘Vindication’ for Tiberi may be on the card when brawlers enter the ring on Feb. 17

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Sam Waltz

Sam Waltz
Founding Publisher

This column always has been titled “First Look,” but, for this issue, it might be titled “Another Look,” as in “boxing takes another look at the First State,” and “the First State takes another look at boxing!”

The basics first . . .

A fight billed as “Skill vs. Will,” on Feb. 17 at the Chase Center of the Riverfront, features Roy “Junior” Jones Jr. vs. Bobby Gunn for the vacant World Boxing Federation World Cruiserweight Championship, in what its promoter calls “the biggest boxing event in the history of Delaware.” Find all you need to know, including ticket purchases, at www.firststatefights.com

Jones, 48, of Pensacola, Fla., is 64-9 with 46 wins by knockout, and he’s been fighting for nearly 30 years. Gunn, 43, born Robert James Williamson and going by “The Celtic Warrior,” of Hackensack, N.J., is 21-6-1 with 18 wins by knockout.

Ticket prices are $55 to $350 (for ringside, with all the benefits), and promoter David Feldman reports that the “live gate” is “on pace to sell out at 2,350 fans.” Nearly half of the expected 50 sponsors already are committed, and they’ll be getting a range of benefits from promotion to preferred seating.

Doors open at 6 p.m., the bouts begin at 7 p.m., TV coverage goes live at 9 p.m. in time to pick up the featured bout and some top of the card bouts, and it likely will wrap by about 11 p.m.

Timing of the fight also permits a 25th anniversary celebration for a unique moment in boxing history involving David Tiberi, one of Delaware’s two championship-caliber boxers over the last generation, Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Milligan being the other.

“In February of 1992, Dave Tiberi fought James Toney for the IBF 160-pound title and lost a controversial decision that was so bad that on the air television commentator Alex Wallau described it as “˜cruel and disgusting’ and the controversy surrounding the decision sparked a full-fledged Senate investigation into professional boxing,” BoxingScene.com, an industry e-publication, reports even today. “Just recently James Toney finally admitted to losing the fight.”

“We’re saluting David as one of our “˜Ambassadors’ at this fight,” Feldman said, “along with others like Ciro Poppiti who has helped us bring this night of fights to Delaware.” (It was the late U.S. Sen. William V. Roth who spearheaded the Senate investigation as an ally for the wronged Tiberi.)

“This month is the 25th anniversary of David’s fight Feb. 8, 1992, and we really want to get that awful decision overturned,” Feldman added. “We hope the IBF will agree, and we want to get Dave an honorary belt,” a reference to the championship belt, boxing’s trophy for its champions.

If Tiberi is vindicated that night, he will get truly global exposure – and so will Delaware – as he basks in its limelight. And, to his credit, Feldman has come quickly to recognize the parochial nature of Delaware, where Delawareans look after “one of their own” like Tiberi.

The Feb. 17 title fight will be carried on pay-per-view TV, and it will also be aired in a variety of venues that following boxing, among them, China, Russia, Germany, Brazil, Bolivia, Italy, even Uzbekistan and Kohistan.

Skip the TV, though, and come out. I’ve been to boxing matches in Delaware, perhaps four times or so over the last 30 years (they don’t happen very often here), and it’s a great night out with buddies!

Feldman acknowledged that professional boxing has had a bit of checkered recent past in Delaware as a sporting event, only occasionally turning big crowds if and when home-grown celebs like Tiberi and Milligan have fought.

But the interest Feldman said he is finding suggests something of a renaissance for boxing, he said.

“We’re seeing so much interest that we want to look at bringing a quarterly boxing series to Delaware,” added Feldman, 46, of Broomall, Pa., in nearby Delaware County.

Feldman, who was 8-1 in the middleweight class as a professional boxer, heads XF Events and David Feldman Promotions. He’s a graduate of Marple Newtown High School, with a criminal Justice degree from Temple University. He attended Temple, he sheepishly admits, because it was just four blocks from Champs Gym at 26th and Master streets, where both he and Tiberi had trained.

Alex Hamer, a national boxing industry leader and former U.S. Army Judge Advocate General attorney who now lives on Philadelphia’s Main Line, concurs with Feldman’s assessment of growing interest in boxing.

“We’re seeing what David is seeing, which really is increasing interest in boxing, and the sense of engagement that fans get and enjoy from consuming it on a variety of platforms, from attending to TV to the web and publications,” Hamer said. A businessman, Hamer is CEO and founder of www.RingsideNetwork.TV, cable TV’s first exclusive to cable boxing channel, which will launch this spring.

“We’ve been working on this a few years, and right now we’re seeing some real excitement for a boxing channel, from cable system operators to advertisers and sponsors, to the, well, to the industry,” he added.

Milligan, now 58, by the way, was 17-3-1 with 15 KOs (knockouts) in his pro career from 1985-98 as a cruiserweight, but, as an amateur, he fought – and lost to – Mike Tyson in a June 1984 runup to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Tiberi, now 50, was 22-3-4 with 7 KOs in his pro career from 1985-92, when he retired after the “stolen decision” in the Toney fight.

Statistics come from a site that readers may research their favorite boxers, www.BoxRec.com, a site maintained from the U.K. by a boxing aficionado who has done an amazing job of cataloging every boxer and fight in modern recorded history.

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