Low turnout plagues boxing event in Vicksburg

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 9, 2009

Boxing returned to Vicksburg Saturday night but whether it can succeed in the River City remains a tough question.

Attendance for the “Gloves Up, Guns Down” boxing card put on by Showdown Boxing Productions was disappointing. The estimated crowd of 400 was less than a third of what a martial arts card on March 24 brought to the Vicksburg Convention Center. The MMA card featured mostly fighters from the Jackson metro area.

The boxing card featured a former world middleweight women’s champion making her comeback against the current No. 1 contender and two highly regarded middleweights as the co-main events.

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“I thought Vicksburg would show out for this, but they didn’t come out as good as I hoped,” Showdown Boxing Productions promoter James Dixon said.

Dixon said he put up nearly $50,000 to put on the card, which included the fighters’ purses, arena rental and other costs. Not only did the empty seats hurt his wallet, but both of his draws from Chicago in women’s middleweight champ Leatitia Robinson and middleweight Louis Turner, lost their fights. Dixon said he wasn’t surprised by Robinson’s loss because of her layoff and that she was fighting the No. 1 super middleweight contender in the world in Nigeria’s Ijeoma Egbunine (16-2).

“Tish had been off for two years and she was up against a No. 1 contender. I still think that was the best fight of the night,” Dixon said.

Gerald McNeil of Meridian, who helped find opponents for Dixon’s two draws in Robinson and Turner, said he had a difficult time putting together a match for Robinson.

“There weren’t a whole lot of people who wanted to fight Leatitia. Egbunine was the first one who wanted to take the fight. It is a rare thing for Mississippi to have a fight with two world class fighters with such good records as those two,” McNeil said.

Egbunine won by a unanimous decision in the eight-round bout. Egbunine said afterwards she has lined up a fight on June 28 for the WBC Intercontinental belt in Germany against Lisa Ested, whom she beat last year in Kenya.

The card’s last fight saw Atlanta’s Darrell Boone pull out a surprising majority decision over Turner, a highly regarded middleweight who fought for the NABC world belt in August. This was Turner’s third straight loss and the second straight by a majority decision. Dixon disagreed with the judges’ verdict.

“My guy (Turner) was the aggressor and he won every round. It’s a shame to see that happen to Louis. He was the one who made the fight exciting,” Dixon said.

The end results, both from the financial side and in the ring, left Dixon wanting a do- over.

“Really, what I’d like to do, is do the same card again. I definitely want Louis to fight (Boone) again. And I loved to have Tish fight Egbunine again,” Dixon said.

Because of Egbunine’s commitment to fight in Germany, Robinson will have to wait. And Boone (15-10) said don’t count on a rematch from him.

“Once I beat a guy, I don’t want to fight him again,” Boone said. Boone said his win may have landed him a shot on an ESPN card later this month.

Losses aside, Dixon said he realized his primary goal of bringing boxing back to the city and its youth.

“The whole thing about this was to start an amateur program here in Vicksburg. Me, Tish and Louis spent the week before the fight and we went to a lot of the youth clubs here in Vicksburg and showed the kids what boxing can do. It got both Tish and Louis out of bad neighborhoods in Chicago and they became world class fighters. I think we closed the deal on having a program here,” Dixon said.

Vicksburg north alderman Michael Mayfield was a big booster for Dixon’s goal.

“I was very pleased with the show. Yes, the attendance could’ve been better, but for the first card, it was okay. We got our feet wet and I think the future is good for boxing in Vicksburg. We’ll have a lot better attendance the next time,” Mayfield said.

As Dixon prepared to go back to Chicago, he promised he’ll be back.

“Hopefully around August we’ll have another card. I want to have fights in Vicksburg.”


Contact Jeff Byrd at jbyrd@vicksburgpost.com.