Tom Sorensen

Pink Promotions wins Round 2 in bid to revive local boxing

Former International Boxing Federation and U.S. Boxing Association Bantam Weight Champion Kelvin Seabrooks.
Former International Boxing Federation and U.S. Boxing Association Bantam Weight Champion Kelvin Seabrooks.

NoDa’s CenterStage has been used for weddings, wedding receptions and a NASCAR fan appreciation gathering. On Saturday night, it was used for boxing. Capacity was 620, and every ticket and every seat at the VIP tables had been sold.

A Charlotte boxing card is like a reunion. The crowd Saturday included former U.S. Olympic superheavyweight and professional contender Calvin Brock. Former IBF bantamweight champion Kelvin Seabrooks had to work or he would have been there. Cruiserweight Quentin Rankin was in the building but not on the card. Doug Brafford, who owns Ultimate Gym, was there.

It’s a brotherhood, Charlotte boxing. Now it’s a sisterhood, too. Christy Salters, the former women’s lightweight champion (then Christy Martin, the Coal Miner’s daughter), promoted Saturday’s card. This is her second show in Charlotte, where she lives. Her company is Pink Promotions, and most of the fighters wore pink boxing gloves. Their hands might have looked pretty, but the impact of their punches was the same.

Why did the card sell out? Salters burned a lot of calories talking to fans and asking if they were having a good time. She made them feel important.

Also, Pink Promotions featured three Charlotte fighters: Stevie Massey, Lavonte Earley and Santario Martin. Each brought fans.

Massey, who is called The Answer, didn’t require time to find one. He ended his fight with a body shot 53 seconds into the first round.

Earley, who lacks Massey’s power but moves better than any fighter on the card, won a decision. On the front of Earley’s shorts are the letters WCG, or World Class Gentleman. He gave himself the nickname. It’s unlikely that any other boxer is using it. It’s conceivable no other boxer ever has. Massey and Earley are both 4-0.

Martin, who was born in Cuba, ended his fight in the second round. His opponent stood up in time to beat the referee’s count. After he did, he dropped back down and took a knee. He was finished. Martin’s nickname is Too Handsome. I think he gave it to himself.

The shortest fight featured the tallest boxer. Zhang Zhilei is 6-6 and weighs 249 pounds. He fought 237-pound Mark “Oaktree” Brown of Brooklyn. With 53 seconds remaining in the first round, Zhilei landed the evening’s best punch. Long arms, short punch. The Oaktree was felled, and he stayed down long after the referee had counted to 10.

There were two Chinese fighters on the card (the other was Meng Fanlong). Both entered the ring undefeated, and still are. Both are from China. There was a blue corner and a red corner, and of course the Chinese fighters came out of the red corner. It’s like renting a car when you fly into San Antonio, Tex. You have to rent from Alamo.

The card was good and quickly paced, and fans made a lot of noise. Whenever fighters clutched and tied each other up, a woman behind me would scream, “Hug it out.” She said she was a mom and was trying to be nice. A more likely possibility is that she likes sarcasm.

Before each round, two women holding placards circled the ring. The ring girls were introduced as Arizona Cardinals’ cheerleaders, then students at New Hampshire, then ski instructors at the University of Maine, then residents of Oklahoma City and then Cleveland, where both had dated LeBron James. A ring announcer who is conversant with geography is always useful.

Pink Promotions will put on its next show this summer. Nobody has successfully promoted boxing cards in Charlotte since I moved here in 1981. Be interesting if Pink Promotions can make it work.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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