Professional boxing comes to the on Friday night and both the promoter and the casino’s president are hoping that it will be the first of many fight cards to come in the Christmas City.
Headlining the Friday night fights will be Bethlehem’s own Ronald Cruz, a promising, undefeated 24-year-old welterweight who has knocked out nine of his 12 opponents.
Stepping into the ring with him will be Doel Carrasquillo, a 38-year-old veteran fighter from Lancaster who is described by the fight promoter as having an “iron chin and heavy hands.”
The seven-fight undercard features three other Lehigh Valley boxers:
Lightweight Eliud Torres of Allentown will face Bryne Green of Vineland, N.J.; heavyweight Eric Newell of Bethlehem, a former standout football player at will face John Mercurio of Philadelphia; and heavyweight William Miranda of Allentown will square off against Zeferino Albino, also of Philadelphia.
These fights will be the first professional boxing matches in Bethlehem in more than 25 years, said Russell Peltz, a Philadelphia-based boxing promoter who is behind Fight Night at the Sands. He and a few of the fighters – including Cruz – appeared Wednesday at a pre-fight news conference at the casino’s Molten Lounge, where pre-fight weigh-ins will be held on Friday.
The fights will be held in a temporary tent, erected for the Musik at the Sands series of concerts, which has hosted shows by and in the past month.
But Sands Bethlehem President Robert DeSalvio said that he is hopeful that boxing will become a regular feature of new 2,500-seat Sands events center scheduled to open in February.
The tent will seat 1,500 for boxing and more than 1,000 tickets have been sold for the Friday night fights, DeSalvio said. The Sands executive said he has gotten an enthusiastic response from Lehigh Valley fight fans.
DeSalvio also said he was happy to be working again with Peltz, a 42-year veteran of boxing promotion. Peltz promoted fights at the Sands Casino in Atlantic City in the 80s and 90s, while he also worked there, DeSalvio said.
“We are extremely excited and proud to be hosting this event at the Sands,” DeSalvio said.
Tickets at $51 and $78 are still available through the ticket office and through the ArtsQuest website. The night of boxing begins at 7:30 p.m.
Like the concerts, Fight Night at the Sands, will also be, in part, a fundraiser to help the nonprofit to develop the SteelStacks campus, DeSalvio said.
Fight fans can also catch the card on the Internet at gofightlive.tv.
Peltz described the main event – between Cruz and Carrasquillo – as a fight for bragging rights for eastern Pennsylvania. He said fight fans should not be fooled by Carrasquillo’s record, which is 15 wins and 17 losses.
“Carrasquillo has made a career out of knocking out undefeated fighters,” Peltz said. In his most recent fight in February, for example, he knocked out New Jersey’s Dennis Douglin, who, like Cruz, had been undefeated in 12 previous fights.
Cruz, who sat on the other end of the table from the promoter, had only one prediction about his first professional fight in his hometown: “All I can say is, expect fireworks.”