Nearly two years after the Forum closed its doors on boxing, promoter Ken Thompson is bringing it back, at least for one night, with more grandiose plans should everything fall into place.
Thompson Boxing Promotions, in association with the World Boxing Hall of Fame, will host a six-bout card at the Forum tonight beginning at 7:30.
"We're bringing boxing back because the Forum is like Madison Square Garden--they're the greatest places to see boxing in the world," said Thompson, who is also president of the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
Two title fights will headline the card with Dwain Williams (23-3, 16 knockouts) of Inglewood defending his California middleweight championship in a scheduled 10-round bout against Pat Coleman (27-7, 19 KOs) of San Diego.
Williams is ranked No. 3 by the North American Boxing Federation.
Samuel Lopez (10-1, 3 KOs) of North Hills will defend his state bantamweight belt for the first time in a scheduled eight rounder against Leonardo Gutierrez (21-19, 9 KOs) of Mexicali, Mexico.
Lopez won his title in May, defeating Sal Garcia.
OK, so they're relatively anonymous local fighters and far from the likes of Southern California pugilistic icons Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley and Fernando Vargas.
But as far as Thompson is concerned, it's a start.
"Anybody can put together a card," Thompson said. "That's why we're bringing back championship boxing, not just any kind. It's got to be championship boxing. That's the key."
The Forum hosted its first boxing show on June 14, 1968, when 16,595 saw Cucho Castillo beat Jesus Pimentel. By the time boxing was halted at the Forum, the arena had been the site of 88 world title fights.
"All the big names have fought there," Thompson said, "Muhammad Ali, Julio Cesar Chavez, Oscar De La Hoya. It's a place where every major boxer has fought over the years."
Thompson, who has been promoting boxing events since January 2000, has overseen cards in Ontario and Huntington Beach and has never been involved with a venue as large as the Forum.
More than 4,000 tickets have been sold for tonight's show, well under the goal of 10,000, though Thompson said Thursday he'd be happy with a crowd of 6,000.
Thompson is committed to the Forum only for tonight's show. But if all goes well, he could be promoting at least seven cards a year at the Forum.
At the end of that rainbow would be getting the likes of De La Hoya, Mosley or Vargas to headline a world championship card at the Forum.
"We've got to have a place where these guys can fight locally," Thompson said. "Shane Mosley goes to fight in New York and takes Antonio Diaz with him and he can't even sell out a ballroom there. They don't know these guys back there. But they do here."
Armando Velardez (10-1, 6 KOs) of San Bernardino will fight Eduardo Castillo (8-15, 0 KOs) of San Diego in a six-round welterweight bout, and Ernest Johnson (5-0, 3 KOs) of Dayton, Ohio, will face Justo Almazan (5-14, 2 KOs) of San Diego in a six-round junior-welterweight bout.
In another fight, Armando Medellin Contreras (6-3-1, 2 KOs) of San Bernardino will meet Guillermo Vara of Mexico City (3-1, 0 KOs) in a four-round featherweight bout.
Making their professional debuts, in a four-round fight, are Los Angeles welterweights Michael Santos and Raul Torres.
Tickets cost between $10 for general admission and $60 for ringside seats.
All profits will go to the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m.