For Tenacity, Boxing Types Run Rings Around Other Promoters


November 01, 1991|By Pat O'Malley

In all the years I've been in this business, the group that has impressed me the most with the way they stick up for their sport and tenaciously promote it are the boxing types.

When it comes to promoting their sport, these guys can't be KO'd. They keep getting up off thedeck and coming back for more, no matter what the odds.

Take the likes of pro boxing promoter/matchmaker Josh Hall of Point Pleasant and amateur boxing enthusiasts Leo Schumacher and Jim McNally of Annapolis.

Hall has suffered financially while trying to give local boxing fans a first-class pro event at La Fontaine Bleu in Glen Burnie, while Schumacher and McNally have revived amateur boxingin the Annapolis area.

Moving to a new location at Michael's 8th Avenue, Hall has a show scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 14. The Schumacher-McNally duo auditioned an amateur show at the Maryland National Guard Armory in Annapolis Tuesday night, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club,and will do it again on Thursday, Dec. 5.

Poor crowds and financial losses don't discourage them and seem to make them work harder -- the kind of attitude they would have in the ring if they were losing a fight.

They simply fight back. They know no other way.

Hall inherited the dinner/boxing shows at La Fontaine Bleu that took formerpromoter Max Kisner under financially. Kisner worked his tail off tomake it work, but just couldn't get the kind of support he needed.

Kisner bowed out, embarrassed by canceled shows, but you know he would give anything to get back in it. It seems when the boxing bug gets you, it gets you for a lifetime.

In a poem "Fighter's Prayer" written by Hall, a former Maryland middleweight and member of the StateBoxing Hall of Fame, a line goes, "a fighter's life is short at best, no time to waste, no time to rest."

Believe me, these guys don'trest.

Fighting the stigma of shows gone awry, Hall has restored respect and excitement to the local shows, but has been losing money. It wasn't that he didn't expect that, but certainly he and his promoter/bookkeeper wife Victoria Savaliski had hoped to catch a break.

In search of a better financial deal to stage his dinner and boxing shows, Hall approached state Sen. Mike Wagner, who owns and runs Michael's 8th Avenue.

The plush banquet and wedding facility never has played host to a boxing show.

Wagner was receptive, and a deal wascut for a show on Nov. 14 with popular Baltimore journeyman Eddie Van Kirk headlining the card.

"I like Josh, admire the way he is working so hard to make boxing go," said Wagner. "We've got a great atmosphere in our hall, and we're going to help every way we can to make it a first-class show."

After five comeback shows, Hall has made money only one time while breaking even just once. So, he's 1-3-1 in the league of finances, taking a near $6,500 bath on his last show that produced only 350 paying customers.

His main problem at La Fontaine Bleu was the same one Kisner encountered. Hall and Savaliski wererequired to pay for a minimum 500 dinners whether they were needed or not.

At Michael's, Hall will pay only for the dinners served, which should make things fly.

"It's hard to say how many we will have the first show, but we could put 800 in there for boxing with the seats no more than 80 feet from the ring, plus I'm setting up some special seating for some VIPs on our balcony," said Wagner.

"I know alot of guys who talked about going to the boxing shows, but because nobody asked them or one reason or the other, they didn't go. Those people will be coming to our show."

Hall is eagerly anticipating the dawning of a new era in pro boxing locally.

"People keep tellingme that there are only so many people who will come out for boxing, and that most of the boxing fans would be happy just with hot dogs and beer and no sit-down dinners, but I don't buy that," said Hall.

"I think there are a lot of people out there who could become new fans, including women, once they come out and see a first-class show, and I think that's what we're going to have at Michael's."

Boxing istaking on a new image.

In New York City, for instance, professional types are working out in local gyms. White- and blue-collar types have taken up pugilism for two reasons: self-confidence and self-defense.

With crime rampant in the Big Apple, many button-down guys are spending their lunch hours in the gyms boxing, and even women are getting into it.

Boxing is being portrayed in a safe light for once, thanks to headgear and thumbless gloves, both developed by Emerson Smith of Annapolis.

Smith, the former U.S. Naval Academy boxing coach and a recent inductee into the USA Boxing Hall of Fame for his lifelong pursuit of safety in boxing, is forever promoting the sport and its safety.

It was no surprise that he was on hand Tuesday nightat the armory in Annapolis for the first amateur show there, other than those at Navy, in nearly 30 years. Smith was in the sparse, but enthusiastic, crowd of 200 that took in 11 amateur bouts.

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