Casino closings, a Governor fighting off the ropes, accused of abusing his power, of playing “politricks” and signing off on a payback plan to punish a public official who didn't support his re-election campaign. Many folks still dealing with Sandy fallout, and the pathetically slow red-tape hampered restoration efforts…yep, it hasn't been a fun run for Jersey of late. But of course, they do always have the Boss in their pocket, they can always but always play the Springsteen card. But too much trouble has been busing in from out of state, in the form of word from titans of industry and real estate commanding casino closures…so this beleaguered state could use some good news.
The new-old boxing commish, one Larry Hazzard Sr., was in a mood to provide that when I chatted with him on the phone the other day. Hazzard, the passionate overseer of fight sports in Jersey, was “unceremoniously” as he put it dislodged from his position, as head of the Athletic Control Board, almost seven years ago, and was invited back to the helm last September, September 22 to be exact.
Some fight fans, the Gen X and above ones, might remember Hazzard from his not infrequent forays to the top rope, when he'd hop up and signal for the plug to be pulled on a fight, if he thought one of his refs was giving the on-the-ropes guy too much leeway to try and fight back in a hopeless cause. This version of Hazzard, the man told me, isn't so likely to exude such passion, not in such a public manner. He told me that he's been pleased as punch to deal with this administration (good news for Mr. Christie, the portly punching-bag for much of the media, who don't take to his sometimes abrasive manner in dealing with constituents), and likes that the AG, who is his boss, is such an open door sort. “It's unbelievable,” Hazzard told me, “from what I expected.”
He was doing his thing for 22 years, so has dealt with a myriad of admins and personality types, he said. No longer does he have to jump through so many hoops, go through two, three folks to get an answer to a question, and he finds that refreshing.
“Now, the job seems a lot easier,” he noted, making it clear that is largely because he has changed, mellowed, more than anything else. “I don't have that same in your face manner I did in earlier years. It makes for a smoother ride, and a better type of interaction with people in the industry. I have nothing to prove now. I realized, I'm in the Hall of Fame (2010 inductee), people know who I am, I have arrived. So I'm a little bit more laid back. I'm older, and a lot wiser!”
Yes, he seems serene, and also optimistic. Hazzard, formerly a referee, said he liked the effort of young promotional outfit LMG, who ran a card in Jersey City last week. And he cited a Roc Nation date at the Boardwalk Hall small room April 17 as a positive, headliner TBD, and Top Rank date in Newark, (where he was born) at the Prudential Center May 8, to be topped by Glen “Jersey Boy” Tapia, as a plus sign for the direction Jersey boxing is going in.
A former Golden Gloves champ and jiu jitsu practitioner, Hazzard is thinking and hoping Main Events will bring back their “Krusher,” Kovalev, in June or July, for a summertime fistic frolic as well.
“We've been going through a transition, and it feels like it's coming back gradually,” he stated. He's thinking the gang at Caeasars, who in the past have embraced the sweet science, could open the purse strings and bid on some bouts in the near future as well.
“We're starting to feel a little rhythm coming back to boxing in AC and the state again,” said the past and present boxing boss, who reminded me that one can gain wisdom, and admit past imperfection, and grow as a human being, at an age some believe we could be past the point of trying. I admit, I selfishly enjoy as many big cards as possible to take place near my residence, in Brooklyn, but as a true trickle-down type, I like to see wealth shared. And a vibrant Atlantic City, as a fight game venue, aids that economy, and bolsters a competitive spirit, which can spur jurisdictions to life their game. So, I wish Mr. Hazzard good luck with the AC kickstart.