Boxing has a history on Long Island, but that section of NY hasn't been really, truly on the map as a place able to boast a beast since Gerry Cooney, the Huntington-based hooker who smashed his way up the heavyweight ladder in the later 70s, was wrecking brain cells.
There is no single entity now on the Island lighting it up like Cooney, but don't discount that it won't happen in the coming five or so years.
Why, you pray tell?
The Nassau Coliseum is being re-fashioned, and will be open for business, the boxing business, in the spring of 2017. The Uniondale building, which opened in 1972 and housed the NHL Islanders from '72 to 2015, will be remade into a brand, spankin and sparkling facility which will enable about 14,000 persons to watch pugilistic faceoffs.
If you have been to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the Isles now do their ice escapades, you will get a sense of the design layout and feel of the place; Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark will be heading up the programming there as he does in BK, and he's said boxing will be integral to the slate of sports, music and such. “People can expect the same superb action that they've enjoyed in Brooklyn, with a Long Island flavor,” said Barclays communications chief Barry Baum today.
Four of the best current hitters to call the Island home, light heavy aces Joe Smith (of Mastic-Shirley), Seanie Monaghan (Long Beach), welter contender Chris Algieri and rising junior welter Cletus “The Hebrew Hammer” Seldin donned hard hats, to see where they'll be dispensing hard launches in front of presumably XXL crowds.
I'm speculating, but as I discussed with Smith, I could see the fan bases for all these four, and more, exploding exponentially. There are ridiculous amounts of entertainment options in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Not that the Island is a dead zone, but the door is open for boxers to become sort of a personal franchise, and allow fans to follow their rise and attempts to get to the fistic promised land.
Smith told me he hopes to headline opening night. Who knows, maybe an all Island light heavy elimination waltz between him and Monaghan gets made. The joint will already sort of feel familiar to Smith, interestingly, because he toils as a construction worker to stay busy, keep the muscles moving, and augment his fighting income while promoter Joe DeGuardia sifts offers, which could soon include a title shot, as the WBC has Smith ranked No 2. In a few weeks, his construction crew is set to ply their trade in getting the new Coliseum building blocks in place.
Monaghan said he was impressed by the building in progress. “I got invited to Nassau Coluseum today, it's a place I grew up watching the Islanders play. It's 20 minutes from my home town. I had my first face to face with Joe Smith since his big win against Fonfara. It's only a matter of time until we settle our score in the ring. Two Long Island guys, Nassau Coliseum seems like the perfect battleground!”
Algieri was similarly excited with the event and possibilities for the future.
“It was an incredible feeling walking into the Coliseum on my visit yesterday.
“It felt like it did when I was a kid, familiar but exciting and new at the same time. Long Island deserves a venue like this; the fans deserve to see big time boxing on the big stage. I sold out shows all over LI on my come-up and am looking forward to doing the same at the Coliseum. When I fight at the Barclays Center, I have brought Long Island to Brooklyn. It is awesome that Brooklyn Boxing is coming to LI. They have done such a phenomenal job with the boxing series at Barclays there is no doubt that it will be a success at the Coliseum.
For a former world champion and Long Island native like myself, this is historic! I look forward to getting back on track, get some solid wins under my belt and be ready for the opening of Nassau Coliseum as the premier boxing venue on Long Island once again.”
Cooney said he wants more boxing all around NY. “I have great memories of fighting in the Coliseum, against Ron Lyle. Having this be that big stage, the talent will come,” said the hooker, who does a radio show on SiriusXM with Randy Gordon and is now training boxers at a gym in NJ.
Baum said that on Sept 28, Barclays will celebrate the opening of the building and on Oct 20 the fourth anniversary of their first fight card. (Quiz: Who headlined?) “And boxing will be a big part of what we do at the Coliseum,” he reiterated.
“We're trying to make it happen, how about a main event, me fighting for a world title!”