AC Has Seen Some Heavyweight Action

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Amir Mansour and Kelvin Price

Photo Credits: Larry Levanti/Main Events

Atlantic City, NJ-When Amir Mansour and Kelvin Price step into the ring Saturday evening, Dec. 14, to face each other in the 10-round main event at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City (NBC Sports Network Fight Night, 8pm ET), they will keep alive a long tradition of outstanding heavyweight boxing at this seashore resort.

Heavyweight veterans and prospects fill the rest of the seven-bout card. Among them: former IBF cruiserweight champ Steve USS Cunningham, of Philadelphia, PA; unbeaten David Rodriguez (36-0, 34 K0s); of Mexico, first-timer Andrew Peurifoy, of Sicklerville, NJ.

It's a chance for these men to show off their ability in a city which has played host to some of the biggest heavyweight fights and fighters in the sport's long, storied history.

Atlantic City's heavyweight boxing heyday, which peaked with Mike Tyson's one-round destruction of Michael Spinks in 1988, goes all the way back to 1921 when heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey came here to train for his July 2 title defense against Georges Carpentier, of France. Their outdoor fight at Boyle's Thirty Acres near Jersey City drew more than 80,0000 people in a makeshift stadium and produced boxing's first Million Dollar Gate. Dempsey won by knockout in four rounds.

Dempsey returned to train here in the summer of 1926 for his Sept. 23 defense in Philadelphia against Gene Tunney, of New York. That fight, which Dempsey lost by decision after 10 rounds, drew a record crowd of 120,757 in a pouring rain at Philadelphia's Sesquicentennial Stadium.

Not much major heavyweight action took place in Atlantic City until 1973, when former WBA champion Ernie Terrell, of Chicago, was judged the loser after 12 uninspiring rounds against Chuck Wepner, of Bayonne, NJ. In those days, the referee was the sole arbiter and when Harold Valan raised Wepner's hand at the end (his scorecard read 7-5 in rounds for Wepner), he was chased by Terrell's trainer Sam Solomon, who went after Valan with the scissors he used to cut the bandages from Terrell's hands. It remains one of boxing's most dubious verdicts.

When legalized gambling came to this resort in 1978, so did televised boxing and the casinos jumped into the mix, each one trying to stage the biggest fights for their high rollers.

Nearly every major heavyweight boxer of the last 30 years has appeared here, beginning with a pair of 1983 title defenses by Larry Holmes against Scott Frank, of Oakland, NJ, and Marvis Frazier, of Philadelphia. Frank lasted five rounds but Frazier never heard the bell for round two.

In a comeback early in 1988, Holmes was blitzed by Tyson, then a feared slugger, in four rounds.

Other heavyweights champions who boxed here include Evander Holyfield, whose 1991 war with George Foreman was a classic, as well as Tim Witherspoon, Buster Douglas, Riddick Bowe, Pinklon Thomas, Lennox Lewis, Michael Dokes, Ray Mercer, Hasim Rahman, Chris Byrd, Bruce Seldon, Bonecrusher Smith, Greg Page, Oleg Maskaev, Leon Spinks, James Toney, John Ruiz, Michael Moorer, David Bey, Oliver McCall, Tony Tubbs, Roy Jones, Jr., Francisco Damiami, Shannon Briggs and Tommy Morrison.

Some of them boxed here on their way up, some on way down, others in title fights.

The last official heavyweight title fight here was June 2, 2007, when Briggs lost his WBO belt to Sultan Ibragimov after 12 less-than-scintillating rounds at Boardwalk Hall.

Current champ Wladimir Klitschko, in his only fight here, got off the floor twice to outpoint Samuel Peter in 2005 at Boardwalk Hall.

In addition, a slew of outstanding heavyweight contenders appeared here, including Andrew Golota, Gerry Cooney, Carl “The Truth” Williams, Tex Cobb, Razor Ruddock, Alex Stewart, Jesse Ferguson and David Tua.

With those giant footsteps to follow, there is no doubt both Mansour and Price, as well as the rest of Saturday's card, will put forth their best effort to make Atlantic City heavyweight boxing proud.