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Live Boxing at the Drive-In Theater: A “Ringside” Report

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  • Live Boxing at the Drive-In Theater: A “Ringside” Report

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    By Phil Woolever

    Boxing in front of a live audience returned to Germany Saturday night, July 11, under unique conditions at the Autokino drive-in theater, a makeshift venue just north of Dusseldorf. A solid nine-bout program entertained a few hundred fans who watched from their automobiles, lined up in a horseshoe type pattern set approximately 20 yards from the closest ring posts.

    Sight lines weren’t perfect but a strolling survey of the perimeter area where dozens of vehicles were parked indicated the customers were quite happy. Once it got dark, the matches and replays were shown on the venue’s large movie screen.

    As the sun set and the rounds progressed, it looked more and more like a normal boxing scene, pre-Covid-19. There was no discernable difference from a typical outdoor ring area except for the masks on various officials. An average of seven people, including the three judges, sat or stood around the strands, with a pair of cameramen poised in opposite corners.

    It looked like half of the autos carried two people inside, just as many appeared to hold four or more. Pickup trucks are not so common in these parts, but they were definitely an advantage tonight. Many cars appeared to be well stocked with snacks and libations, and there were a lot of smokers who made their own little clouds in an abstract recreation of old fight arena scenarios.

    One of the judges puffed on a billowing vape between fights. You probably won’t see that in Vegas. Another rare sighting involved the comet Neowise, said to be visible overhead but unverified at ringside.

    Almost everyone kept their windows down. You could hear plenty of cheers and clapping, but by far the biggest response to the action came when people honked their horns. That blaring symphony occurred quite a bit, and became a surprisingly joyous noise. After a while it seemed like a stress release factor was involved.

    There was also a palpable celebratory mood at the press conference and weigh-in, a cheerful gathering that illustrated how glad participants of all sorts were to experience the step back toward fistic normalcy. Boxers seemed so happy with each other that one wondered how much aggression they’d exhibit. That was never an issue; every fighter came out swinging hard.

    The final turnout was less than hoped for by promoter Karim Akkar, but he deserves credit for getting past significant hurdles while coordinating the event. Akkar, chief of Legacy Sports Management, teamed up with the resurgent Universum from Hamburg for his initial venture into the promotional arena.

    “We understood from the beginning that we wouldn’t make a profit. Our main concern was to give the fighters some work and a paycheck,” said Akkar. “We had a lot of boxers who were out of a job and couldn’t get paid, so we brainstormed on ways to put on a show. Just having the boxers back in the ring, that was the main thing. We wanted everyone to get a paycheck, and we were determined not to make any cuts to the usual salaries like other promoters have done or proposed.

    “There was some new problem every week, partners jumped off the project, matches had to be changed. It was complicated to bring in boxers from outside Germany and our popular local heavyweight Patrick Korte injured an elbow in training. It took about eight weeks to get official approval, the health governance was scared about everything so we really only had a couple weeks to finalize things (due to the venue’s limited schedule). Universum did a really good job supporting our efforts.”

    The temporary drive-in closes before the end of July, but it probably won’t be too long before the engaging Akkar comes up with another good idea. Barring another wave of infections, it looks like crowd restrictions will gradually be lifted, but while it was indeed a novelty, the drive-in night was also a cool boxing show.

    Tonight’s main event saw French contender Ahmed El Mousaoui, 153 ¼, up his resume to 33-3-1(8 KO) with a precision based second round stoppage of game but outgunned Sergej Wotschel,151, now 14-5-1 (7). Wotschel was willing to make it a firefight and there was some blazing early action, but it didn’t take long for the slick Mousaoui to solve the fistic equation and lower the boom until ref Mustafa Erenay properly waved off the assault. Official time was 1:54. According to BoxRec, Mousaoui still has some suspension issues with the Illinois commission from years back, but tonight he looked ready to take on a ranked challenger.

    Munich’s undefeated light heavyweight James “Baby Boy” Kraft, now 18-0-1 (9), earned an 8 round split decision over sturdy Karel Horejsek, 17-13-3 (14), but it was no easy task in a two-way brawl. Horejsek joined a tough trio of visitors from the Czech Republic who dropped hard-fought contests to German fighters but represented their homeland well to earn approving honks.

    Ali Kiydin, 217, a solid prospect from Frankfurt, was scheduled to gain some experience from well-traveled Danny Williams before Williams was derailed by travel issues. Bulgarian replacement Kristian Kirilov, 254, 5-8-1 (1), gave it a try but after Kiydin’s first punches the ending was clear. By the second frame a huge uppercut sunk Kirilov to a knee in delayed reaction and subsequent body shots had him holding on. Kirilov didn’t come out for the third, a wise decision.

    29-year old Kiydin, now 11-1 (10), was a member of the German National Team. He’s still in a developmental stage, but like they say with heavyweights it only takes one punch, and Kiydin definitely carries some power.

    From Universum’s Hamburg stable, 20-year-old junior-welterweight Ali Dohier took too big a step against experienced Frenchman Fouad El Massoudi, 155, now 17-12-1 (2). Dohier, 154 ½, 3-0-1 (1), was lucky to escape with a split draw over eight rounds, and if Massoudi had just a bit more power the result probably would have been different.

    18-year-old Luca Cinqueoncie, 177 ¾, improved to 10-0 (7), with a unanimous six round nod over Czech Pavel Albrecht, 171 ¼, 4-6 (4). Luca showed potential while Albrecht made him work for it every step of the way.

    Ajdin Reiz, 150, of Cologne had a near perfect debut blasting out countryman Sandro Luetke Bordewick,149, now 7-17 (5), at 1:36 of the opening frame. Reiz got raucous support from a pair of small SUVs in the VIP parking area that were full of lubricated revelers who zoomed away almost immediately after his fight ended.

    In a crowd-pleasing ladies’ match that had screaming girls hanging out their car windows for her, Universum’s Dilar Kisikyol, improved to 3-0 with a debatable UD4 over hard luck Tereza Dvorakova, 1-4, Czech Republic. Both women weighed in at 140 for a fine, coin-toss rumble that could have gone either way. Kisikyol’s screaming fans might have made the difference.

    Muhammet Barut, 157 ½, 4-1 (3), notched a TKO 2 over Martin Friesse, 153 ¼, 1-5, when referee Dominic Kuhaupt called it off at 1:55.

    A pair of ex-pat welterweights got things off to a solid start. Originally from Lebanon, Ali El-Said, 148 ½, 5-1-1 (4), stopped Russian transplant Serej Vib, 144 ¾, 11-13 (8), at 1:39 in the third round of a scheduled four.

    Ultimately, while much of the scene was almost identical to pre-quarantine conditions, there were still constant reminders of the new normal, with mask requirements and distancing guidelines well enforced. When people got out of their cars to stretch, event staff went over to remind them of restrictions about staying inside vehicles unless headed directly toward the restroom trailer or a small concession stand.

    Two cleaners swept the ring and wiped down the ropes and corner posts between bouts. The most visible advertisement on the apron was for a medical disinfectant. That’s a sign of the times.

    The card was broadcast by multiple networks, with the featured bouts reportedly televised to 43 countries, in 12 languages.

    Whether or not the Dusseldorf Drive-In Fight Night was the first or only event of its kind, it was, during these uncertain days of pandemic, a rare opportunity for boxers and boxing fans.

    Like any good fight card, there was a bit of magic in the air. Tonight you could hear it with the sound of fellow drivers blaring their horns into a starry sky, comets and all.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Car horn sounds in the ring?

    Boston Boxing Promotions is a small New England promotion but they will be the first to put on a live show since the China Virus was deployed by Communist China. Brandon “The Cannon” Berry, a popular fighter from Maine is reporting on IG that the show will be held 8/15 in New Hampshire (Live Free or Die, this state has no tyrannical mask requirements) and that there will be...drum crowd. He’s fighting a rematch with a guy who had previously beaten him. If there’s to be any media, I’d consider covering this show for TSS, given the “historic” nature.