After building a strong fan base during its first five years, Battle at the Boat, which held its inaugural show on July 9, 1997 at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Wash., continued to evolve into the premier boxing event in the Northwest in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The Battle at the Boat cards enjoyed televised broadcasts on SHOWTIME, HBO and ESPN, among other networks and continued to bring in top established and rising talent as it laid the foundation to becoming the nation’s longest-running tribal casino boxing series over this five-year window.
Battle at Boat will celebrate its 20th anniversary on June 3 with its 111th edition. This is part two of a four-part series which highlights the history of the series. Part one can be found on halquistproductions.com.
“I really believe that this second five-year window was key to our brand,” promoter Brian Halquist said. “Boxing didn’t have a presence in Washington state for a number of years before we started the series. So those initial years were filled with enthusiasm among the fans who were excited to see world class boxing return to the Pacific Northwest. But if we didn’t have strong shows each and every time out moving forward that excitement would have faded. Fortunately, that didn’t happen as we saw numerous top flight talent fight on every card.”
One of the first of those talents during the series’ second five years of existence was future WBC world female heavyweight champion Martha Salazar, who made her Emerald Queen Casino debut on June 22, 2002 by defeating Carley Pesente. Salazar would fight three times at Battle at the Boat, triumphing in all three contests before besting Tanzee Daniel to capture a world title in 2014.
While Salazar began her path towards a world championship at Battle at the Boat, two months later a former titlist was seeing his two-decade long career come to an end in Tacoma. Rodolfo Blanco, a former IBF world flyweight champion, fought at Battle at the Boat on Aug. 8, 2002.
Blanco lost to NABF super bantamweight champion Ricardo Medina in the main event to put an end to his 20-year career in which he posted 30 wins.
Battle at the Boat teamed up with ESPN on Oct. 20, 2002 for a televised show featuring several world heavyweight contenders. Tony Thompson opened the broadcast by knocking out Zuri Lawrence. It was the 14th consecutive win for Thompson. He would run the streak to 27 before losing to IBF world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
Future NABA heavyweight champion Taurus Sykes closed out the show by defeating Sherman Williams in the main event.
“That ESPN show was quite a scramble. It was a Sunday show, we got teamed up with ESPN relatively late, but everything turned out incredible. The major promoters in the world, Top Rank, Gary Shaw, Productions, Goosen Tutor, all knew we could pull off fights on short notice. Our first show at the EQC proved that,” Halquist said. “So when a major title fight on an ESPN fight lost a venue, they knew we would pull it off. Looking back there was a lot of talent on that card. Thompson twice fought for the world heavyweight title. He went 34-2 over a stretch during his career with his only losses coming to Wladimir Klitschko in title fights.”
Continuing the trend of up-and-coming fighters appearing on a Battle at the Boat card, Eric Aiken, who captured the IBF world featherweight championship with a win over Valdemir Pereria, KOs Cesar Garcia at the Emerald Queen on April 12, 2003.
The summer of 2003 featured a pair of championship main events. Luis Villalta defeated Martin O’ Malley to win the WBA NABA lightweight title on July 19, 2003, while Kingsley Ikeke bested Kenny Ellis to secure the NABF, NABO and NABA middleweight championships on Aug. 29, 2003.
Two more world female champions would be added to the list of Battle at the Boat alumnus with Valerie Mahfood, a former IBA world light heavyweight champion, winning at the venue on Oct. 11, 2003 and Jeannine Garside making her professional debut on Dec. 4, 2004.
Garside eventually won the WBC world female featherweight title with a unanimous decision over Germany’s Ina Menzer. It was Menzer’s only loss as a professional. She finished her career with a record of 31-1.
While Garside was the opening fight on the Dec. 4, 2004 card, the main event saw undefeated Chad Van Sickle (18-0-2) lose his WBC Continental Americas cruiserweight title to Gary Gomez.
Kevin Johnson became the latest in a long line of heavyweights who fought at Battle at the Boat and later challenged for a world heavyweight championship on Jan. 8, 2005 when he defeated William Cook in Tacoma. Thompson would take an unblemished record (22-0-1) into a championship fight against Vitali Klitschko in 2009 where Johnson lost by unanimous decision.
A year later on Jan. 14, 2006, Jorge Solis upped his record to 28-0-2 with a win over Hector Javier Marquez at Battle at the Boat. Solis, a former interim WBA world super featherweight champion, fought in three world title fights during his career.
Six weeks after Solis’ appearance, former WBO world welterweight champion Manning Galloway lost to Saul Roman in the Battle at the Boat main event. It was Galloway’s final fight. He won a remarkable 62 fights during his 28-year career which began in 1978.
David Torres, a fixture at Battle at the Boat in the 2000s, capped the show’s first decade by winning the vacant WBA NABA super lightweight crown on April 8, 2006 with a win over Marteze Logan.
Battle at the Boat will host is 20th anniversary show on Saturday, June 3 with Battle at the Boat 111.
Headlining the card will be a light heavyweight main event between rising division stars Mike Gavronski (22-2-1, 14 KOs) and Quinton Rankin (12-3-2, 9 KOs).
Tickets are available through the EQC box office and all Ticketmaster Outlets. Preliminary bouts will start at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Battle at the Boat 111 will feature the VIP experience with 3rd Row Seats being discounted to $75 per ticket. All fans seated in in the VIP section (rows 1-3) will have an exclusive access point and a dedicated server to help create a true VIP experience.
Battle at the Boat 111 is brought to you by Brian Halquist Productions. For more information, please visit www.halquistproductions.com and the Battle at the Boat Facebook page.
Battle at the Boat 111 Card
Saturday, June 3, 2017
10 Round Main Event – 173 pounds
Mike Gavronski (22-2-1, 14 KOs) vs. Quinton Rankin (12-3-2, 9 KOs)
5 Round Semi-Main Events
170 pounds: Tommy Turner (4-7-0, 3 KOs) vs. Issac Tadeo (8-0-0, 4 KOs)
147 pounds: Andres Reyes (6-2-1, KO) vs. Will Hughes (5-5-0, 3 KOs)
4 Round Undercard Bouts
177 pounds: Richard Vansiclen (3-0-0, 2 KOs) vs. Justin Milani (1-4-0)
140 pounds: Andre Keys (3-1-0, KO) vs. Ricardo Maldonado (7-6-1, 1 KO)
140 pounds: Niko McFarland (0-3-0) vs. Shae Green (debut)