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Caesars back in the ring

Dec 3, 2002 6:21 AM

Caesars is returning to its glory days with heavyweight boxing.

Next month, it hosts the Evander Holyfield-Chris Byrd fight at the Atlantic City Boardwalk for the IBF title. On March 1, Roy Jones Jr. takes on WBA champ John Ruiz under the Caesars banner at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Although neither bout will be on Caesars Palace property, Caesars President John Groom is committed to getting his hotel back into the fight game.

"There’s nothing like a fight to generate excitement in the casino,’’ Groom said this week.

While Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand have duked it out for boxing honors lately, Caesars is committed to join the fray. Last June, the hotel hosted Nevada Stupak’s professional debut, when he scored a second-round TKO over Tommy "Bam Bam" Hickey in an ESPN televised match.

"There are a lot of parallels between boxing and gambling. They’re both high-adrenalin, high-energy and high-risk,’’ Park Place spokesman Robert Stewart noted.

Caesars, the scene of several title fights over the years, erected outdoors stands to accommodate crowds of 20,000-plus in the 1970s and ”˜80s. But the outside arena presented problems, such as when a rogue skydiver careened into the ring.

Groom wouldn’t say what additional venues are being considered. But the resort’s new Colosseum, which only seats 5,000, is too small for big bouts. More likely is an ongoing contract with the T&M ”” an arrangement used by the Mirage when that resort was active in the ring.

"We’re very excited about this series," said Wally Barr, president and CEO of Park Place. "It’s the kind of attraction that originally made Caesars Palace the Home of Champions and Stars and we’re committed to bringing our players, guests and fans the very best in boxing and entertainment."

After the Atlantic City tilt, Jones and Ruiz square off in round two of the "Hard Road to Glory.’’ Former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson predicts that Jones will knock off Ruiz. If Jones succeeds, he would be the first middleweight to win the heavyweight title since the 1890s.

Promoter Don King was equally effusive. "I want to thank the dynamic and innovative new leader of the Park Place Entertainment team and Wally Barr. Without his support this series could not happen,’’ he said.

Lennox Lewis also could re-enter the ring next March.