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A ‘Return to Greatness’ should help Valley boxing

Legendary boxing promoter Don King said it best Wednesday while standing at the podium of The Grand Resort.

Saturday’s boxing feature at the W.D. Packard Music Hall in downtown Warren is a “Return to Greatness” for boxing in the area.

For the first time in a long time, the city of Warren will be center stage for the boxing world.

Like it should be.

Now, seeing that I grew up in Western New York, along with being new to the area, I never got to witness the great events that were held at the Struthers Fieldhouse or the previous showcases held at Packard. But, since moving here, I have heard multiple stories about what the sport used to be like in the Mahoning Valley.

I was told of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, who will be an analyst and color commentator for the event on Saturday, lighting up Mollenkopf Stadium along with several other venues in the area, including Packard Hall. I was told about the storied Golden Gloves battles in the area and how if you wanted to succeed in the tournament, you had to go through the boxers in this area.

The stories I’ve heard have been endless, because the boxers that came through here gave younger boxers from this area something to look up to and accomplish.

During a phone call with Mancini on Thursday, the former world champion described boxers back in the day as fighters that were going to give you a headache if you had to square up with them. That’s just how it was, and rightfully so. The blue-collar attitude transferred from the workforce into the boxing ring.

The Valley produced several talented boxers, but since that time some of those names have fallen into the history of the sport and the stories that are being told are becoming less and less recent.

But, King’s event Saturday should be the beginning of something new for the sport in the area because King has brought some big names to Warren.

WBC World Cruiserweight champion Ilunga Makabu (28-2, 25 KOs) is defending his title against WBC Silver Champion Thabiso Mchunu (23-5, 13 KOs) with the winner reportedly being scheduled to face off with world champion Canelo Alvarez later this year.

An opportunity to see a boxer that could be fighting on the biggest stage in boxing is one way to try and bring the sport back to Warren.

Not only that, but WBA World Heavyweight champion Trevor Bryan, who’s undefeated with a record of 21-0 and has 15 KOs, will also put his title on the line against Jonathan Guidry (17-0-2, 10 KOs).

In recent years, the sport has been kept alive by gyms in the area that have boxers who look to keep the rich tradition in full swing, and we’ve seen some of them have success on the amateur level throughout this year. But, an event like Saturday’s is something that could help the fight of bringing big-time boxing back to the area and Mancini is hoping so as well.

The legendary boxer wants to see events like this happen on a regular basis. So, this could be just the beginning, and it should be.

Doors open 6 p.m. Saturday with the first fight slated for 7 p.m.

Tickets are available at Ticketmaster or via W.D. Packard Music Hall at 330-841-2619. The tickets will be priced at $550, $350, $250, $175 and $80. The fights will be available for pay-per-view on Donking.com, DKPBoxing.com or itube247.com for $49.99.

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