World Championship boxing could be coming to Islington as early as May next year.
Arsenal revealed this week they want to stage multi-million pound title fights at the Emirates Stadium.
Tens of thousands of boxing fans could soon be flocking to the Gunners’ stadium with high profile bouts staged in the middle of the Emirates pitch and alcohol allowed at ringside.
As a sports stadium, the Emirates is already licensed for boxing and any fight would be staged as part of a package of six non-football events a year.
The news follows the success of two massive Bruce Springsteen concerts held in May.
Boxing has a rich history in the borough – in 1966 the club’s former Highbury Stadium played host a world heavyweight title clash between Mohammed Ali and Henry Cooper.
Ken Friar, Arsenal’s acting managing director, told the Gazette:
“Why should we not want to have boxing? We had a world title fight at Highbury, admittedly a long time ago.
“We would have to see whether or not we would be able to attain the rights for a world title fight purely because boxing as a sport relies on TV revenue. That means you would have to broadcast to the USA and that brings time problems.”
He added: “At the moment concerts are a more realistic possibility but, having said that, if the right event came along of course we would be interested.”
Former Mayor of Islington, Mary Powell, a founder of the London Ex-Boxers’ Association, added:
“It’s very exciting – it would be a wonderful thing. I remember the Henry Cooper fight well – the atmosphere was electric. I’ll be there to see it at the Emirates.”
Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium and the City of Manchester Stadium recently staged money-spinning fights by world champions Joe Calzaghi and Ricky Hatton in front of 35,000 and 54,000 fans respectively.
The move would generate extra revenue for the Emirates within a tight three-week window following the end of the Premiership season in May and the laying of a new pitch for the next football season.
Pat Haynes, former Labour Mayor of Islington, who campaigned to have boxing banned on council property, said:
“I just think boxing is a brutal and a brutalising sport.
“I’ve been going to Arsenal for 60 years but I can’t afford the prices any more.
“Ken Friar said when they went to build the Emirates they knew they would have to have a lot of events to pay for it. It’s terrible.”
Highbury West ward councillor Richard Greening said:
“The Springsteen concerts were relatively successful but with a boxing match I presume the PA will be in a different place and that will affect the noise levels.”
Stay tuned to Gooner Talk and Islington Gazette for the latest information concerning the Emirates Stadium and Arsenal’s first team.
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