SPORTS

Returning to the squared circle

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Last Friday, Classic Entertainment & Sports Fights announced an upcoming professional and amateur boxing event that will be taking place at Cranston Stadium on Saturday, June 19th. It will be the first outdoor boxing event in Rhode Island in 60 years and features a card filled with local talent.

As one might expect, the primary reason why this event was scheduled outdoors was due to the ongoing pandemic. CES could have hosted an indoor card, but the state is still urging sports organizations to remain outdoors if possible.

After a few months of kicking some ideas around and figuring out the logistics, CES President Jimmy Burchfield, along with Cranston Mayor Ken Hopkins and a few other notable figures in RI boxing, were able to put it together.

What an exciting concept.

First off, the spectacle will be something to see. Outdoor boxing cards are always a blast to watch, but to see one in our own backyard at a stadium so beloved in the city? Should be a sight to see.

I don’t understand why there isn’t a greater push to have more outdoor boxing events. The only thing I can come up with is the obvious one in the weather. However, is it really that difficult to put a canopy of some sort over the ring if the worst case plays out?

That is far from ideal, but my point is that outdoor boxing should definitely be embraced more than it already has. The weather is a risk for sure, but isn’t that the case with pretty much any other outdoor sport? Even the NFL will call delays if there is lightning or extreme weather.

Also, this is a special event because it feels almost like a kick off for summer. It is projecting to hold anywhere from 4,000-5,000 spectators, so it will be a fun way of bringing the state together to have some fun while also taking one step closer to normalcy. We’re in the home stretch of the pandemic, so this will be a great way to celebrate the progress we have made.

In terms of the card itself, there are a couple of storylines to watch out for.

Perhaps the biggest is the return of Jaime “Hurricane” Clampitt, who is coming off of an eight-year retirement at 44 years old. We all know what promoters’ jobs are, but if the buzz around her is indeed true, we may be seeing a great local comeback story.

After enjoying a career as one of the country’s top female boxers, Clampitt hung up the gloves, focused on her family, and began to work at On the Ropes Boxing in Warwick as a trainer and business partner.

She’s ready to step back in the squared circle and put on a show. Let’s see if age really is just a number.

The next story to watch is Gary “Batman” Balletto III.

Balletto III, the son of local boxing legend Gary “Tiger” Balletto, will be making his second pro appearance after winning by knockout back in 2019. Balletto III has spent the majority of his career practicing mixed martial arts but is set to represent his hometown at a stadium that he is very familiar with.

Long bloodlines are common in boxing and combat sports. Balletto III, 26, has shown some talent and skill in both MMA and boxing and will look to continue the momentum that he has built.

There is nothing like a father-son team in sports, it’s always such an easy story to root for. A big win here could mean big stakes for the future for Balletto III.

The third storyline that intrigues me is the main event which features Worcester’s Irwin Gonzalez Jr.

Gonzalez Jr. was the WBC Youth World Featherweight champion and most recently fought on the same card as Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. back in November. As a Worcester native, I have heard a little about him, especially since he fought under Tyson, so it will be interesting to see his next bout.

Gonzalez lost back in November but is still considered a bright young prospect in his division. This event could be a make or break fight for him moving forward.

What I love most about this card is how committed it was to shining a light on this region’s talent. New England has some great boxing that tends to be overlooked … it always seems like fighters from around here don’t start to get their shine until they have logged significant competition time.

This card will be a great showcase of what the region has to offer and the outdoor element will certainly catch some eyes. It will also be aired on UFC Fight Pass, which is just another great platform to promote it.

It doesn’t matter if you are from RI or not, there is enough talent and curiosity with this event to deliver. My hope is that weather is not an issue, the fighters stay healthy to compete, and we see a great show and have a fun night.

This event’s impact on the local sports community is far greater than the norm. It will be led by locals, star locals, and bring the community together. It has been over a year since the state has seen any live boxing, what a way for it to return.

Considering the limited seating, I would urge fans to purchase tickets as soon as possible. Once again, we all know what a promoters’ job is, but Burchfield claimed to have been receiving calls for tickets prior to the show even being finalized.

Let’s get ready to rumble.

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