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Renovated Nassau Coliseum getting into boxing business

NEW YORK -- When Brooklyn’s Barclays Center opened in 2012, Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark made it clear that boxing would be a major part of the arena’s offerings.

He wanted big-time boxing in the building on a regular basis, and not just fights involving New Yorkers. He wanted to compete with arenas all over for the biggest fights in boxing, and he has more than delivered on that promise. Barclays Center has quickly become one of the most active boxing arenas in the country, and it has hosted a slew of major cards since the doors opened. That includes on Saturday night when Badou Jack and James DeGale fought to a draw in a super middleweight world title unification fight that got 2017 off to a rousing start.

Another big fight is also on the schedule on March 4 when Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia square off to unify their welterweight world titles in a highly anticipated match.

"We are bringing our 'Brooklyn Boxing' brand to Long Island. We look at it as a market different and unique compared to Brooklyn. You have three million people between Nassau and Suffolk Counties and there are plenty of boxing fans out there."

Brett Yormark, CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment

Now Yormark plans to bring major boxing to another of the company’s holdings, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale on New York’s Long Island. The arena, which hosted about a dozen fight cards between the mid-1970s to mid-1980s, is in the midst of a $170 million renovation that began in 2015 and will reopen with native son Billy Joel performing for a sellout crowd on April 5.

On April 29, boxing will make its return to the arena for the first time in 31 years. It previously hosted fights involving a young Mike Tyson, Gerry Cooney and its most famous fight, George Foreman’s fifth-round destruction of Joe Frazier in their 1976 rematch.

There is no set main event yet for April 29, but there is a good chance that light heavyweight world champion Adonis Stevenson (28-1, 23 KOs) will defend the title against Joe Smith Jr. (23-1, 19 KOs), the Long Island union laborer by day who scored two huge upsets in 2016 with knockouts of Bernard Hopkins and Andrzej Fonfara. The camps are negotiating the fight.

“It’s going to be just as good for boxing as Barclays Center,” said Yormark, who sat down with ESPN at ringside during a break in the action of the Jack-DeGale card. “We are bringing our ‘Brooklyn Boxing’ brand to Long Island. We look at it as a market different and unique compared to Brooklyn. You have three million people between Nassau and Suffolk Counties, and there are plenty of boxing fans out there.”

He can’t wait to get boxing back into the building and to make it an important part of the arena’s offerings like he did at Barclays Center, although Nassau Coliseum will host fewer cards than Barclays Center.

Whereas Barclays Center probably will host about six major cards in 2017, “the goal right now is to do two, most likely three big shows a year out there,” Yormark said of Nassau Coliseum. “We want to maintain the heritage of boxing out there. It’s no different than what we have done in Brooklyn. We want the main events and co-main events to be of national significance, hopefully featuring Long Islanders. We want to have a hometown flavor but we also want big fights.”

Promoter Lou DiBella, who lives on Long Island and promotes or co-promotes most of the shows at Barclays Center, will be involved in the Nassau Coliseum fights as well, Yormark said.

“I’m sure Lou will be involved,” Yormark said. “I work a lot with Lou and I’m loyal to Lou. He’s done a great job with the fights he’s promoted at Barclays Center."

Beyond the April 29 card, the arena could host another card in the late summer and definitely will have one in the fall, Yormark said.

“If the market can support more, who knows? Maybe we’ll explore some smaller shows also,” Yormark said. “Boxing does a lot for us at Barclays Center and we want it to do a lot for us at Nassau Coliseum. We’re going to try to glamorize Long Island. We take that seriously.”