Surprising world title changes and a parade of notable champions highlights Battle at the Boat’s history between the years of 2007 and 2011.
The longest-running tribal casino boxing series in the United States, Battle at Boat will celebrate its 20th anniversary on June 3 with its 111th edition. This is part three of a four-part series which highlights the history of the series. Parts one and two can be found on halquistproductions.com.
“Looking back those years were arguably the greatest five-year span for boxing in the Northwest,” promoter Brian Halquist said. “Each card seemed to have a fighter, or more, that was either a former world champion or on the path to becoming a world champion. It’s a time frame we are extremely proud of.”
Cornelius Bundrage, a semi-finalist on season two of the reality series’ Contender, kicks off 2007 by defeating Chris Smith in a Battle at the Boat main event by split decision on Jan. 12, 2007. Three years later Bundrage would win the IBF world super welterweight championship by defeating Cory Spinks.
The Tacoma venue would see an abundance of world champions over the next five years.
Two world champions battled it out at Battle at the Boat on July 28, 2007 before a live broadcast on HBO as Carlos Baldomir, fresh from a unanimous decision loss to Floyd Mayweather, faced Vernon Forrest for the vacant WBC world super welterweight championship.
Forrest prevailed, dominating the fight to pick up his third career world title.
The Viper’s victory highlighted a stacked Battle at the Boat card which also saw Hector Velazquez best previously undefeated Mario Santiago (18-0) in a WBC world featherweight title eliminator and victories by two future world champions in Yohnny Perez and Antonio DeMarco.
Perez improved to 12-0 by knocking out Jose Laureano, while DeMarco, who went on to captured the WBC world lightweight title, scored an impressive victory over Roberto Valenzuela, winning by first-round KO.
“Easily one of the best cards, not just at Battle at the Boat, but in Northwest boxing history,” Halquist said. “There was this incredible atmosphere to the event. We had four world champions in the building, and to see Forrest reclaim a world title was amazing.”
Another world title change took place at the Battle at the Boat three months later when Fulgencio Zuniga pulled off a surprising upset by knocking out champion Victor Oganov to win the IBO world super middleweight title.
Broadcast on SHOWTIME, Oganov entered the title bout with a perfect 26-0 record with every victory coming via knockout.
Oganov showed his power early, knocking Zuniga down with a glancing blow to the top of the head in the first round. The challenger, however, was able to recover and eventually scored a ninth-round KO to secure the championship.
Also appearing on the undercard was Mickey Bey, a future IBF world lightweight champion, who upped his record to 9-0 with a win over Jose Magallon.
A third consecutive televised Battle at the Boat closed out the 2007 slate as Eddie Chambers (29-0) won a split decision over Calvin Brock (31-1) in a heavyweight main event on Nov. 2, 2007. The thrilling contest had Chambers appear as the 115-113, 115-113, 113-115 victor on the judge’s scorecards.
Chambers would lose to Alexander Povetkin in his next fight. He would eventually get his title shot when he faced Wladimir Klitschko for the IBF crown in 2010.
A second surprising title change at Battle at the Boat occurred less than a year after Zuniga’s upset victory as Ola Afolabi (11-1-3) knocked out hard-hitting Eric Fields (11-0) to win the NABO cruiserweight title. Afolabi would go on the win the WBO world cruiserweight championship and was the IBF interim world cruiserweight title holder.
Carlos Molina would fight for the first of three career fights at the Emerald Queen Casino on June 28, 2008 with a win over Cedrick Armstrong. Five years later Molina won the IBF super welterweight title from Ishe Smith.
More world title changes continued in Tacoma on Aug. 2, 2008 as Vic Darchinyan knocked out IBF world super flyweight champion Dmitry Kirillov in the fifth round of their Battle at the Boat main event to become a world champion in two weight divisions.
One year after that Lateef Kayode (7-0) made his Battle at the Boat debut by knocking out Leo Bercier. Kayode would go on to win the WBA interim world heavyweight title with his only career loss (21-1) coming in a losing effort in a bout for the WBA world cruiserweight title against Denis Lebedev.
Two rising stars continued their undefeated careers at Battle at the Boat on June 19, 2010 when Evgeny Gradovich, a future IBF world featherweight champion, and Sergey Kovalev, who went on to win the IBF world light heavyweight title, both won matches at the Emerald Queen Casino.
However, if there is one Battle at the Boat event that leaps out among all the rest it is the Dec. 10, 2010 show which saw the semifinals of SHOWTIME’s world bantamweight tournament.
The standout card saw Joseph Agbeko win a unanimous decision over Yohnny Perez to win the IBF world bantamweight championship and Abner Mares defeated Vic Darchinyan to claim the IBO and WBC Silver bantamweight titles.
The undercard saw Cesar Seda (19-0) win the NABO super flyweight championship with a victory over Ernie Marquez and former WBA world flyweight titlist Eric Morel defeat Juan Jose Beltran.
“That night was about as great a night of boxing you could ask for,” Halquist said. “The event was co-promoted by Halquist Productions, Don King Productions, Gary Shaw and Golden Boy. We had the four best bantamweight fighters in the world facing each other on SHOWTIME. That tournament concept, where we see the best boxing the best, is something very special to see when it all pans out.”
It was also during this time frame that saw the emergence of Battle at the Boat staples Walter Wright and David Torres.
Wright, a multiple-time Tacoma Golden Gloves champion as an amateur and contestant on ESPN’s The Contender, fought 10 times at the venue, winning nine of those fights, including handing Dan Wallace his first career loss on Jan. 12, 2007 and winning a unanimous decision on June 19, 2010 in his last appearance at the Emerald Queen Casino.
Around the same time, Torres was also making a name for himself. The former NABA super lightweight champion worked his way up from opening bouts to appearing on the main event at several Battle at the Boats. Torres, who went 19-1-1 in 21 career bouts in Tacoma, fought for the last time locally on Nov. 13, 2010, scoring a draw against Santos Pakau.
“Over the course of the years, Walter Wright and David Torres really stood out in this program,“ Halquist said. “Walter had the pedigree and work ethic to be a world champion. Battle at the Boat wouldn’t be what it is today without their presence.”
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)