Originally created 08/27/99

Augusta fight fans not answering bell



Longtime Augustans may remember professional wrestling, tennis matches, boxing events and basketball tournaments held at Bell Auditorium through the years.

Tonight, the civic auditorium returns as a sporting venue with a nationally televised professional boxing event, featuring hometown fighter Vernon Forrest, North American Boxing Federation welterweight champion.

ESPN 2 will televise the bout from 9 to 11 tonight.

Six fights on the undercard will lead up to Mr. Forrest's scheduled 12-round title defense against Santiago Samaniego of Miami.

"We would like to do more sporting events," said Reggie Williams, general manager of Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center and Bell Auditorium.

Professional wrestling promotions smaller than World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling, which book the larger civic center, might be a good fit for the auditorium, Mr. Williams said.

Basketball, packaged with post-game parties featuring live music on the Bell's stage, would be ideal, he said.

"It makes sense to have a post-game concert on the stage," said Mr. Williams. "After the game, it could start right away."

However, if the venue is to continue as a site of boxing events like tonight's promotion, advance ticket sales are going to have to be better, Mr. Williams said.

Mr. Forrest told The Augusta Chronicle earlier this week, "I'm expecting no less than a sellout."

As of Monday, however, only about 700 of the 2,600 available tickets had been sold, Mr. Williams said.

Tickets, available through TicketMaster and at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center box office, 601 Seventh St., are $25 and $40.

"I'm disappointed in advance sales," Mr. Williams said. "The Bell's not the best auditorium in the world, but Vernon Forrest is a good attraction. If that doesn't sell, it raises real questions. If you don't buy your homeboy, who do you buy?"

Fight information

What:Professional boxing featuring Vernon Forrest

When:7:30 tonight

Where:Bell Auditorium, 712 Telfair St., Augusta (click here for a locator map)

How much:$25 and $40

Phone:828-7700

Kent Kimes covers entertainment and arts for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3626 or kkimes@augustachronicle.com.