TACOMA, Wash. – Battle at the Boat will celebrate its 20th year on June 3 with its 111th installment. The nation’s longest running tribal casino boxing series has hosted more than 700 fights, with multiple world title bouts, over its two decades.
It’s the premier professional boxing event in the Northwest.
And it almost didn’t happen.
Brian Halquist had a history in the boxing game, promoting world champion Greg Haugen and former world heavyweight contender Joe Hipp, when Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank, contacted him about putting on a show in Tacoma.
Halquist was intrigued, but there was one glaring issue.
The show was scheduled to take place in 10 days.
“The original venue had fallen through and they were scrambling to find a replacement,” Halquist said. “Looking back, it was crazy to think we could pull it off in such a quick turnaround, but for some reason, I decided to at least give it a try.”
Halquist had been in talks with Emerald Queen Casino manager Frank Wright about potentially putting on a boxing series at the newly opened Tacoma casino, but that was a long-term vision.
This was going to be a whirlwind.
“Frank loved the idea,” Halquist remembered. “They did have a problem though. At that time the Emerald Queen didn’t have a venue that could host a boxing event. Frank told me to give him a day and he’d try to figure something out.”
Less than 24 hours later, Wright had secured a tent big enough to house the 2,500 chairs needed for the event.
“We found this huge tent and immediately started putting everything together,” Halquist said. “We set up the chairs, the lighting, everything. I still have no clue how we pulled it off so fast.”
With the venue secured and the crowd pouring in, Battle at the Boat enjoyed its inaugural show on July 9, 1997 with a stellar card.
The main event saw Tacoma product Emmett Linton battle Jose Flores for the IBA super welterweight championships, while the under card featured future WBA world super bantamweight champion Enrique Sanchez and Eric “Butterbean” Esch both picking up victories.
It was Butterbean who christened Battle at the Boat with a powerful fourth round KO of Scott Lindecker to notch his 18th consecutive victory.
“The card was incredible. We had Linton, a local kid fighting for a title, Enrique Sanchez, who was less than a year away from becoming a world champion, and Butterbean, who at the time was one of the most popular figures in boxing,” Halquist said. “If you were to ask me now to put on a show without a venue in 10 days, I wouldn’t even consider it, but 20 years ago, I’m so thankful I did.”
Interestingly, the first show was not called Battle at the Boat, but was initially known as Quarrel at the Queen. Two months later, Halquist was back at the Emerald Queen promoting his second show. This one was called Slaughter on the Water.
“I think after the second show we knew we were going to be around for a while and decided to stick with one name,” Halquist said. “Battle at the Boat was born. The first Emerald Queen Casino had this iconic full-size riverboat. It just made sense to name the series after that.”
Sanchez returned for the second show on Sept. 19, 1997, defeating Nelson Ramon Medina to capture the NABF super bantamweight title. He would defeat Rafael Del Valle in his next fight five months later to win the WBA world super bantamweight championship.
HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” series came to Tacoma on March 20, 1999. The card proved to be one of the best during the Battle at the Boat’s first five years. The main event saw former IBF world cruiserweight champion Alfred Cole face undefeated Kirk Johnson (26-0-1).
The two had fought to a draw three months before in New York. Johnson would win the rematch by unanimous decision and would eventually challenge John Ruiz for the WBA world heavyweight title.
The co-main event offered another intriguing matchup as undefeated Ike Ibeabuchi (20-0) scored a devastating fifth-round KO victory over Chris Byrd in a contest between two of the world’s top heavyweight contenders.
Byrd, however, would shake off the defeat and go 13-1-1 over his next 15 bouts. During that span he defeated Evander Holyfield for the IBF world heavyweight title and Vitali Klitschko for the WBO crown with his only loss coming against Wladimir Klitschko.
Two title fights highlighted the Sept. 29, 2001 edition of Battle at the Boat with Juan Guzman (34-1-1) winning the WBO intercontinental, NABO and WBO Latino super bantamweight titles with a victory over Edel Ruiz and undefeated Ebo Elder (16-0) taking the WBO intercontinental super lightweight title with a victory over Dagoberto Najera.
Coincidentally, Emmett Linton’s brother, Robert Linton, closed out Battle at the Boat’s first five years of existence by winning his Emerald Queen Casino debut on Nov. 10, 2011.
“We’re extremely proud of our history,” Halquist said. “The Battle at the Boat fraternity of former boxers has dozens of world champions and fighters who have challenged for world titles. It’s just amazing to think, 20 years later, how it all got started.”
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)