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Boxing returns to the Catskills

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MONTICELLO, NY — Energy was a tad slow to build Friday night at the Resorts World Catskills Epicenter, but by the time “Action” Anthony Laureano cornered Dieumerci Nzau in the ring in the first of three eight-round bouts, the crowd was surging with each jab. The previous four-round bout, between crowd-favorite Robert Duran Jr. out of Florida and North Carolina’s Jermaine Corley, was a catalyst for that enthusiasm. Onlookers rose to their feet to see Corley systematically wear down previously undefeated Duran and win by unanimous decision.

That momentum was exactly what Resorts World and Star Boxing, the night’s sponsor, were looking for. The American Boxing Organization (ABO) triple-header, dubbed the “Catskills Clash,” was the first event in the casino’s drive to “bring boxing back to the Catskills.” Resorts World Catskills Casino—a $1.2 billion operation betting on a tourism revival—wants to rekindle the link between the Catskills and boxing.

“Boxing champions made a name for themselves in the Catskills years ago, and we look forward to bringing that same excitement back to the area,” said Resorts World Catskills Chief Operating Officer Kevin Kline in a release.

The history of boxing in the Catskills began as early as the 19th century. By the time Sullivan County became a hotspot vacation destination in the ‘50s, it was also a training locale for top-tier pugilists.

Boxing greats, including Mike Tyson, Sonny Liston, Ingemar Johansson, Muhammad Ali and Roberto Duran—the legendary father of the Duran who fought here Friday night—all trained in the Catskills. Not only did renowned trainer Cus D’Amato have a gym in Catskill where he worked with the likes of Tyson and Floyd Patterson, but boxers were often invited to train at mainstay resorts, including the Concord and Grossinger’s hotels.

The new Resorts World casino in Monticello is built on the former site of the Concord, one of the biggest and most renowned resorts in the Borscht Belt’s touristic heyday.

Though the epicenter, which has the capacity to seat 2,500, was far from being filled up, the turnout Friday was sizeable.

The event drew some international attendance—college buddies of the Irish welterweight Dylan “The Real Deal” Moran turned out to cheer him on. They ultimately watched him take two defeating blows from Dennis “Billabong” Okoth that ended the bout in the third round.

In the featured fight of the night, Richie “Popeye the Sailor Man” Rivera took on Brian “MVP” Howard. Rivera, a showman who was undefeated with a 12-0 record and 10 KOs, riled up the crowd by entering in his signature sailor’s hat and pipe. Though Howard put up a good fight, Rivera took home the belt and became the regional champion and ABO America’s Cruiserweight Champion.

In the night’s other bouts, Laureano defeated Nzau to take home the ABO America’s Super Lightweight title and “Monroe County Sheriff” Lawrence King out of Rochester, made quick work of Buffalo’s Perez Aughtry in the opening bout.

“Friday night went beyond expectations,” Star Boxing CEO Joe DeGuardia said of the evening in Monticello. “Three fantastic ABO Championship bouts, two phenomenal undercard bouts and a night of boxing that had fans on their feet from the opening… We hope that this is the first of many thrilling cards in the Catskills, and we cannot wait to be back here.”

Longtime boxing fan Vincent Starks, visiting Monticello from Manhattan Friday night, said he will be back for more.

“The crowd seemed enthusiastic,” he said. “There were some good bouts, some good fights. It’s a good start.”

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