Omaha! Omaha! Is just the latest Boxing Outpost to host Championship Boxing
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Omaha! Omaha! Is just the latest Boxing Outpost to host Championship Boxing
By Matthew Aguilar, Doghouse Boxing (June 28, 2014)

(L-R) WBO Lightweight champ Terence Crawford of Omaha & Olympic gold medalist Yuriorkis Gamboa of Cuba weigh in (Crawford 134.8 lbs, Gamboa 134.4 lbs )
(L-R) WBO Lightweight champ Terence Crawford of Omaha & Olympic gold medalist Yuriorkis Gamboa of Cuba weigh in (Crawford 134.8 lbs, Gamboa 134.4 lbs )
Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank
This weekend, Omaha, Nebraska – a city best known for the headquarters of a mutual insurance behemoth and the centerpiece for Peyton Manning’s endless at-the-line audible verbiage – will host its first world title fight in 42 years.

Back in 1972, Joe Frazier knocked out Ron Stander to defend his WBC and WBA heavyweight titles. Saturday, hometown hero Terence Crawford will defend his WBO lightweight title against former featherweight phenom (and fellow undefeated) Yuriorkis Gamboa at CenturyLink Center.

It is the latest example of a boxing outpost becoming a pugilistic focal point because of the popularity of a favorite son. It was the case with Omaha’s Stander, who gave a brave effort against the legendary Frazier before losing by 5th-round knockout.

Below are some of other off-the-beaten-path cities and towns that have hosted world championship fights, thanks to the drawing power of a hometown hero.

• Beaumont, TX (Alexis Arguello TKO 6 James “Bubba” Busceme, Feb. 13, 1982): Busceme was a native of Beaumont, a city that in later years hosted additional memorable title fights, including Rocky Lockridge’s first-round knockout of Roger Mayweather in 1984. But Busceme brought the all-time great WBC lightweight champion Arguello to town, along with a national television audience, on the basis of a 27-3 record and a strong following. After a spirited effort, Busceme succumbed in the 6th round. Beaumont proved itself worthy of the exposure and network TV returned two years later with Bill Costello-Bruce Curry and Lockridge-Mayweather.

• Scranton, PA (Larry Holmes-Lucien Rodriguez, March 27, 1983): Holmes, looking to repay the town of Scranton for his boxing development (the site of his pro debut and 10 fights over his career), defended his WBC heavyweight title in Scranton in a fight billed as the “Homecoming.” His opponent was French contender Rodriguez. The fight was televised nationally, and has the distinction as the first-ever heavyweight title fight scheduled for 12 rounds after the WBC reduced the length of world title fights from 15 rounds in early 1983. Rodriguez, 35-7-1, was a no-hoper intended to make the champ look good in his return to his roots. His hopelessness was on display after the final round, when he impulsively threw up his hands in victory – apparently thrilled that he lasted the distance. Holmes won every round in capturing a unanimous decision.

• Kingston, NY (Bill Costello-Ronnie Shields, July 15, 1984): Costello won the WBC junior welterweight title from Bruce Curry in January 1984, and then defended his title against Shields in his native Kingston in July 1984. The crowd was raucous and the fight was a ratings hit. So network television returned to Kingston twice more, as Costello defeated former champions Saoul Mamby and Leroy Haley by decision at a tiny, local neighborhood center. On the undercard of the Costello-Mamby fight, Juan “Kid” Meza rebounded from a knockdown to upset WBA junior featherweight champ Jaime Garza by first-round knockout in 1984’s “Round of the Year.”

• Bismarck, ND (Virgil Hill-Jean Marie-Emebe, April 3, 1988): You don't get much more boxing outpost than North Dakota, but "Quicksilver" Hill changed all that after capturing the WBA light heavyweight title from Leslie Stewart in 1987. In his third defense, Hill took on Emebe at the Civic Center in his native Bismarck before an electric throng of hometown fans. The networks were so impressed that Hill returned championship boxing to the state of North Dakota another 15 times - 12 of those in Bismarck – and the town became as much of a boxing regular as Las Vegas or Atlantic City in the 1980s. Despite a style that wasn't always thrilling, Hill's North Dakota fans loved him, and it has become the standard by which fistic hometown heroes from boxing outpost towns are defined.

• Providence, RI: Vinny Pazienza-Greg Haugen, June 7, 1987: Pazienza had made a name for himself on network television after appearances before rabid home state fans against the likes of Harry Arroyo and Robert Elizondo. Though he was a native of Cranston, Providence was considered “Paz Man’s” home den, and his frenetic style energized the crowd. He was 22-1 and wildly popular when he was matched with IBF lightweight champ Haugen in one of the biggest fights of 1987. After a torrid, back-and-forth affair, Paz captured the title via controversial 15-round decision (some would describe it as a "hometown" decision). When the nod was announced, cameras showed Haugen’s family – watching from a remote location – flip the bird in reaction to the decision. Pazienza turned the trick again five years later, when he won the WBA junior middleweight title from Gilbert Dele in Providence.

• Norfolk, VA (Pernell Whitaker-Louie Lomeli, April 30, 1989): After fighting in his native Norfolk, Va., five times on his road toward the IBF lightweight title, Whitaker – like Holmes in 1983 at Scranton – returned to his home base as champion in a nationally televised fight against contender Lomeli. “Sweet Pea” scored a rare knockout – destroying Lomeli in the third-round – and fought four more times in Norfolk, against Jose Luis Ramirez, Poli Diaz, Santos Cardona and Buddy McGirt (all decision wins). His ring entrances were highlighted by his being led to the ring by the high school’s marching band. The Whitaker-Diaz fight in 1991 featured a wild undercard battle between Michael Moorer and Alex Stewart, with Moorer scoring a 4th-round KO.

• Laredo, TX (Orlando Canizales-Billy Hardy, May 4, 1991): Though Canizales was not Hill when it came to bringing championship boxing to his hometown, he did fight three times in the Texas border town of Laredo – his hometown. Overall, Canizales made a record 16 title defenses of his IBF bantamweight title, and the first in Laredo came against England’s Billy Hardy in an entertaining scrap that Canizales won via 8th-round knockout. He followed that up with knockouts of Ray Minus (TKO 11) and an outdoor decision over undefeated upstart Sergio Reyes at Laredo’s Martin Field.

Matthew Aguilar may be reached at
Follow him on Twitter @MatthewAguilar5

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