- Andrew Marchand, ESPNNewYork.com
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The ring will be located in short right field, about where Robinson Cano shifts to when David Ortiz is at the plate. On June 5, a Saturday night, the new Yankee Stadium will wake up memories of the old Stadium's past, when names like Gene Tunney, Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano regularly fought in the Bronx.
WBA super welterweight champion Yuri Foreman, a Brooklyn resident, will fight three-time world champion Miguel Cotto in the main event. But the featured attraction will be boxing at Yankee Stadium -- for the first time in 34 years, and for only the second time in more than a half-century.
"Someone asked me if it will have a playoff atmosphere," said Lonn Trost, the Yankees' chief operating officer. "I think it will."
Tickets will range in price from $150 to $400, Trost said, and will go on sale Friday, April 16. There will be 7,000 seats set up around the ring. The Yankees have yet to decide how much of the rest of the stadium they will open up, but they definitely will sell seats down the first-base line and in right field. "We can confidently expect to have at least 30,000 people," promoter Bob Arum said.
They will need Mother Nature on their side. The ring and the ringside fans will be protected by a blue canopy, but if it rains the fight will go on and fans in the other seats will be left unprotected. "I would prefer it didn't rain," Trost said with a smile.
The Yankees are smiling a lot about their stadium right now. Trost said the club has already sold 3.4 million tickets for 2010, which is ahead of last year's 3.7 million pace. And when the Yankees built the new Stadium, they planned on hosting more than just baseball. They plan to host concerts at the stadium, along with a Notre Dame-Army football game in November and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 30. And they have been negotiating with the NHL to bring its Jan. 1 Winter Classic to the Bronx.
The last time boxing took place at the old Stadium, the nation was in the midst of celebrating its bicentennial. On Sept. 28, 1976, Muhammad Ali beat Ken Norton in a 15-round decision. Prior to Ali-Norton, the previous fight was in 1959, when Ingemar Johansson TKOed Floyd Patterson. From its first fight in 1923 (Jess Willard over Floyd Johnson), to Joe Louis and Max Schmeling in the '30s, to Rocky Marciano over Archie Moore in the '50s, the Stadium was one of the meccas of boxing, hosting 45 bouts over those 36 years.
Trost labeled the June 5 fight, "The Battle of the Bronx! The Battle of the Boroughs! The Stadium Slugfest!" Born in Belarus and raised in Israel, the 29-year-old Foreman is an orthodox Jew with a large New York following. He attended the press conference in style, wearing a gray bowler hat that looked like something writers used to wear when they covered fights at the old Stadium in the '30s. He topped it off with a white shirt and a pink tie to go along with plaid pants. "It is an honor fighting here," Foreman said.
Cotto, who is from Puerto Rico, has trained in the Bronx, which should help attendance, as well. The local nature of the initial fight night was by design.
When Trost came to the podium, he started reciting some of the names who fought at the old Stadium. "Gene Tunney, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano ..." It was like the Bleacher Creatures were chanting a roll call of Yankees greats.
"As a boxing fan, you can't forget any of those names," Trost said.
The Yankees want to start adding more.
Yankee Stadium gets back in the fight game. It's about time.