North Bergen, New Jersey’s venerable Schuetzen Park ballroom will be the site of some major fight action on the evening of November 30th, as Bloomfield-based Main Events presents their “Back to the Future” card, the first in a series of promotions planned for northern New Jersey that will headline some of the younger, locally-based fighters in their deep talent pool.
The six-bout card will feature fighters from the Garden State; well, mostly from our fair confines, as the headliner, Jason Litzau, is from St. Paul, MN but trains under Bob Van Sickle in Spring Lake and New Brunswick, NJ. The undefeated 22-year-old featherweight, last seen climbing off the canvas to score a gutsy split nod over John Nolasco on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights in July, has streaked to a 15-0 start with 14 KO’s. While he may hail from The Land of 10,000 Lakes, Litzau has shown the kind of lunch pail fighting sensibility that goes over big time with Jersey fight fans. With his cocky attitude, gusty resiliency and heavy-handed punching power Litzau can, on his best night, conjure up equal parts Macho Camacho, Vinny Paz and Sandy Saddler as his fighting persona.
Bayonne’s entrant in the light heavyweight derby, Bobby Rooney, will also appear in action. Rooney’s ledger stands at 5-1 (3 KO’s), and the late-blooming scrapper—at 33 years of age—has shown some nice pop in his hands to go with a sturdy chin. Former amateur standout Henry Crawford, who compiled an impressive 90-10 record as a Simon Pure – along with three New Jersey State Golden Gloves titles, will appear in a welterweight tilt, and is sure to draw on his hometown of Paterson for support on fight night. The 24-year-old Crawford’s record is 7-0-1 with 2 KO’s.
Super middleweight hopeful Wayne Johnsen of Lyndhurst, NJ will be on the card, trying to extend his perfect 9-0 (5 KO’s) record. Johnsen scored a decision over tough trial horse Dhafir Smith this past August and is sure to have his usual legion of “Wayniacs” on hand for this scrap. Buddy McGirt-trained junior lightweight Danny McDermott, 26, of Jersey City will also appear, taking time out from sparring with the likes of Arturo Gatti, Sharmba Mitchell and Junior Jones among others, to improve upon his 3-0 (1 KO) record.
The lone distaff representation on the card will be in the person of Noriko Kariya, a 3-0 bantamweight from Jersey City (by way of Toronto) who took the Canadian National Title as an amateur. She also sparred with Academy Award-winning actress Hillary Swank as she prepared for her role in “Million Dollar Baby.” The striking brunette with the supermodel cheekbones is the sister of NHL superstar Paul Kariya and could always turn to runway modeling if her ring endeavors don’t work out.
This series marks a substantial commitment to the sport of boxing in a state that used to have a white-hot interest in the game. Dwindling venues, promoters who have drowned in both red ink and regulatory issues and a shrinking talent pool have all contributed to the dearth of boxing promotions in New Jersey as of late, a situation that Main Events matchmaker, the erudite Carl Moretti, addressed in his remarks to the assembled press.
“You know, as promoters sometimes you get spoiled. You forget where you come from and what develops fighters and what develops talent,” said Moretti with his classic candidness. “It’s very easy to go to casinos and big arenas around the country and do HBO and ESPN shows, but at the end of the day it’s the fighters who deliver everything. The days of the great Olympians coming out, winning gold medals are slowly slipping away. [You just] have to look in your own backyard and you’ll find fighters that are as good as anybody, anybody out there in the world today.
“We’ve wrestled with this idea of doing local shows for a long time and we’ve finally found a place that we didn’t have to go for our lungs to rent and, at the end of the day, it’s a little bit of money but it’s okay because we know we’re going to build something; hence the whole reason of calling this “Back To The Future.” Main Events started doing these shows before a lot of us even got into boxing; the future is these kids right here, and anybody else that might come along.”
With the quintessential “Jersey Fighter” in attendance, Moretti continued by saying, “Just like the legend back there – Arturo Gatti – before he got on HBO he fought fights that a lot of people didn’t see and they were as exciting as the ones you’ll see on November 30th.”
With over two decades of being the premier matchmaker in the country, and with his sentiments firmly in touch with the realities of the boxing marketplace in this state, it is a safe bet that Moretti and Main Events CEO Kathy Duva will go a long way towards providing both an incubator for talent and quality bouts for the paying public to enjoy with this series of promotions.
Tickets, priced at $150 (VIP), $50 and $25, can be purchased by calling Main Events at (973) 893-9100. The $150 VIP ticket will entitle the bearer to dinner, drinks and a “Meet and Greet” with boxing celebrities in attendance on fight night.