Promoting keeps Smith's hand in game

Card is outdoors tonight at Rosedale Gardens


June 06, 2000|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In the early 1990s, Jake "The Snake" Smith was an ambitious super-middleweight performing on area club shows.

"I was like the Marlon Brando character in `On The Waterfront,' " he said. "I thought I could've been a contender. And then reality set in."

After several losses sidetracked his boxing career, Smith decided he had a more promising future in the sport, training and managing fighters and promoting shows.

"Even when I was fighting, I knew I would wind up in this end of the business," he said. "I always had a knack for selling myself and boxing."

Smith turned a tidy profit the past few years staging low-budget amateur cards where renting a hall and buying two dozen trophies were the major outlays.

Now Smith, with the financial backing of fledgling promoter Keith French, will take the next step by staging a professional outdoor card tonight at Rosedale Gardens off Philadelphia Road.

French, who trains regularly at Smith's Fells Point gym, shares his love of boxing and has the advantage of owning Rosedale Gardens, where he caters weddings and parties.

"It saves the expense of renting an arena, and we also control the concessions," said French. "Our only problem is that our seating capacity is limited to 500. We're looking for a bigger place."

After a dearth of local boxing cards through most of the '90s, Baltimore now finds itself with three active promoters.

Scott Wagner runs monthly shows at his catering hall in Glen Burnie and Arnie Dansicker uses Martin's West in Woodlawn as his operating base.

French, who has heard all the horror stories of boxing's cutthroat competition, has been pleasantly surprised by the show of support from his rival promoters.

"Everybody has been free with their advice - all the promoters and managers I've talked to," he said.

"I think we all understand that by having more shows we encourage local fighters to stay in the gym. It's also helped with the development of amateur programs. That's the lifeblood of the sport."

Both French and Smith share the belief that the best way to attract a crowd is by showcasing homegrown talent and making competitive fights.

The card will include Baltimore junior middleweight Charles Clark and the pro debuts of heavyweight Russ Shifflet and junior middleweight Steve Garrett.

It was the way the late Eli Hanover operated with great success, building such crowd favorites as Leo Saenz, Ralph Palladin and Buddy Boggs.

"This isn't a one-shot deal," said French. "We're in it for the long haul. Just pray it doesn't rain tonight."

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