Originally created 07/21/02

Indianapolis finds niche in boxing



INDIANAPOLIS - David Kahn looks at Indianapolis, looks at Conseco Fieldhouse and sees potential.

That's why, he said this week, Saturday night's Shane Mosley-Vernon Forrest rematch for the WBC welterweight title shouldn't have been in New York. Or Las Vegas. Or Atlantic City.

Instead, he insisted Indianapolis was the perfect city for this fight and is the perfect city to become the new boxing capital of the Midwest.

It's the city with all the potential in the world, Kahn contended.

"Indianapolis is fast becoming the boxing mecca of the Midwest," said Kahn, the general manager of Pacers Sports & Entertainment, which helped promote the fight. "We've always been famous for our cars. We want to add boxing (to that list)."

Kahn said Saturday's match was only the beginning.

"I'm realistic, and I realize there's no casinos in Indianapolis, so there will be fights that are beyond our reach," Kahn said. "But it's within our reach to do this on a once-a-year basis."

Already, Indianapolis has played host to four boxers who lay claim to the title of "best pound-for-pound fighter in the world." Forrest and Mosley on Saturday night; light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr., who beat Richard Hall in May 2000; and Bernard Hopkins - one of the top boxers in the world - who was victorious on the undercard of the Jones-Hall fight.

"The key to this is getting fighters that people recognize," said Jeff Johnson, the marketing and communications manager for Pacers Sports & Entertainment.

Don't, however, underestimate the power of HBO - which televised Saturday's fight and the Jones-Hall bout - and Conseco Fieldhouse, which opened in November 1999.

"HBO has been big because they really enjoyed it the first time they were (with Jones-Hall)," Johnson said. "They've encouraged us to get into the boxing business. Plus, the fieldhouse is a great building for sight-lines and cameras."

Perhaps the biggest reason why Saturday's fight was expected to be a near sellout was the Indiana Black Expo.

"It attracts about 250,000 people, and I think it's the second-largest Black Expo in the country," Johnson said. "The fight gives them a landmark event that they can center some of their events around."

As of Friday afternoon, almost 12,000 tickets had been sold. Conseco Fieldhouse holds 18,345.

The last time the world of boxing and the Indiana Black Expo collided, in 1991, Mike Tyson met Desiree Washington and later was convicted of raping her.

But for Indianapolis, those days are gone. And the future for boxing in this city is bright.

"In the old days, this used to be a good fight town," said Al Mitchell, Forrest's co-trainer. "It looks like it's coming back."

Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or josh.katzowitz@augustachronicle.com.