Oct. 30, 2003 – On Dec. 5, according to boxing promoters, ESPN2 will be broadcasting the "Friday Night Fights" live to 90 million homes, and the people tuned in will see the action taking place on St. Thomas.
Retired world boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard and Sterling McPherson of Sterling Promotions said at a press conference on Thursday morning that they are bringing ESPN boxing to St. Thomas under the name "Rumble in Paradise."
"This is a historic moment for us," Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg said at the meeting with the media at the Holiday Inn Windward Passage Hotel. He said the six-fight card will be the first time boxing has been televised live nationally from the territory.
Joining Leonard, McPherson and Donastorg were St. Thomas's own retired boxing champion Julian Jackson and Housing, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Ira Hobson.
Leonard said his vision is to return boxing to its glory days and to promote evenly matched and entertaining fights.
The "Rumble in Paradise" main event will be an International Boxing Association title fight between Lawrence Clay-Bey of Connecticut (19-2) and Samuel Peter of Nigeria (16-0). Peter has never let an opponent go past four rounds since coming on the boxing scene in February 2001, according to publicity.
The co-main event will feature welterweights Carlos "Indio" Quintana of Puerto Rico (14-0) against Davis Estrada of Chicago (15-1). "Puerto Rican sensation Quintana put together an outstanding amateur career winning 62 of his 70 bouts with 48 knockouts," a release states.
The boxers who'll be fighting on St. Thomas are expected to arrive three or four days before the event to put the finishing touches on their training, Leonard said. And, according to McPherson, they "will most likely train in Julian Jackson's gym."
Donastorg said he expects the island to receive much needed media attention during the event, "Sports tourism is something we should explore," he said. "Sports stand out in the minds of people."
When asked if the island of St. Thomas would receive any TV coverage in connection with the fights, Donastorg replied that, in his experience, "in these productions they get footage of where they are located."
Where the fights will take place has yet to be decided. Leonard said two sites are under consideration, and "by next week" they will decide on the venue.
The island's newest and largest indoor athletic arenas are the Sports and Fitness Center on the University of the Virgin Islands campus and the Mark C. Marin Center at Antilles School.
Seats will go for $75, $50 and $25. Doors will open at 8 p.m., with the first of the evening's six fights to begin at 10 p.m.
Boxing fans will be "treated to an evening of excitement," Donastorg said, adding that he is planning an after-party, too.
Someone asked how much of a turnout it would take for the event to be considered a success in terms of local support. McPherson said if 300 to 400 people came out, that would let them know that people in the Virgin Islands are interested in boxing. But, he added, "this press conference tells me that you are enthusiastic about having a show here."
Donastorg thanked his colleagues in the Legislature for supporting his efforts to bring world-class boxing to the territory. Sens. Roosevelt David, Usie Richards and Ronald Russell were among those on hand Thursday at the press conference.
Leonard, who held world welterweight, junior middleweight, middleweight, light heavyweight and supermiddleweight titles during his career, was surrounded by fans eager to take photographs of and with him. One showed up with a boxing glove to be signed.
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