PHILLY BOXING HISTORY

Venue: New Alhambra  

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  NEW ALHAMBRA  
     
 

 
     
     
 

The New Alhambra was a South Philly venue that had more names in its brief history than probably any other Philadelphia fight club (New Alhambra, Arena, South Philly Arena, Asylum Arena, Asylum, etc.). The little boxing arena started as Viking Hall, when it was the local home of professional wrestling. But only one boxing show (1993) happened under that banner. In 2004, it's life as a fight venue really began when Russell Peltz and Joe Hand tapped the locale for a new series of boxing shows. Peltz named the place "The New Alhambra" in honor of the Alhambra, a long-gone South Philly movie theater at 12th & Morris that itself was a boxing venue between 1959 and 1962.

The Peltz / Hand shows at the New Alhambra brought regular boxing back to South Philly for the first time in decades. The place became South Philly's answer to the Blue Horizon, and provided an alternate location for local boxers to ply their trade. Area fighters saw plenty of action in the New Alhambra ring. In addition to the Peltz / Hand shows, other promoters eventually began staging fights at the club as well.

During the first year or so, the fights at the New Alhambra were solid, but memorable bouts came few and far between. The best fight during the early years was a classic heavyweight slugfest between John Poore and Willie Perryman. Poore (2004) roared back from terrible beating to stop Perryman in round four.

Headliners like Mike Stewart, Miguel Figueroa, and a pair of Georgian imports, Aslanbek Kodzoev and Ramazan Palyani, were place holders while the arena found its legs. Rogers Mtagwa, a South Philly-based Tanzaian, was arguably the arena's first real star. He provided big thrills to a growing South Philly fan base.

However, the New Alhambra will be best remembered as the launching pad for two of the brightest young talents that came along in the 2000's. Welterweight Mike Jones and junior featherweight Teon Kennedy, both Peltz fighters. Each boxer debuted at the New Alhambra. Jones bowed in 2005, and Kennedy two years later. These two fighters took over the venue, eventually growing into main event attractions themselves. As their undefeated careers developed, the expectations surrounding them started attracting crowds who wanted to see these potential future champions before they made it big. 

Jones excited fans with his impressive punching power, while Kennedy, a national Golden Gloves champ in the amateurs, was a "Technician" who looked like a sure title bet early on. Both boxers racked up victories and climbed the rankings. Eventually they graduated to bigger venues, casino ballrooms, and TV dates. Both eventually fought for world titles (on the same 2012 night in Las Vegas), but neither brought a world championship belt back to Philadelphia. However, their exploits at the New Alhambra were great boxing memories for South Philly fans. 

 
 


Every seat in the New Alhambra was a good one. The mostly single-level fight club was an intimate setting to watch a fight. There were a few raised boxes in the place - a large one at the back of the arena, a tiny second-level section was nested above the doorway, and another wide box above the concessions window that was usually used for a video camera or other TV production need - but most of the seats were folded floor chairs crowded around the ring.

The place had a total capacity of about 1,300. However, at times "standing room" tickets were sold to accommodate slightly bigger crowds.

The biggest crowd on record at the New Alhambra was 1,419 for the rematch between Rogers Mtagwa and Aldo Valtierra on March 07, 2008. Matagwa won a 10-round decision.

The smallest-ever crowd was just 160, when Bryheim Douglas won a 4-round decision over Paul Fernandez at a private event held on September 11, 2010. It was the only bout on the card that night, but it was a legitimate, PA Commission sanctioned fight.

Whether the crowd was big or small, boxers would meander their way back to the dressing room after their fights, which gave the fans plenty of access for photos, handshakes, autographs or just congratulations.  It

New Alhambra
Indoor Club / 1,300 Capacity
South Philly - Swanson & Ritner St.

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 KEY DATES FOR
THE NEW ALHAMBRA

   2004 - Peltz / Hand Series Debut
   2004 - Poore vs. Perryman
   2005 - Mike Jones Pro Debut
   2007 - Teon Kennedy Pro Debut    2008 - Kennedy vs. Snow     
   2010 - Ennis vs. Rosado
   2010 - Two Danny Garcia Fights
   2011 - Rodriguez vs. Hackett
   2012 - Jennings vs. Byarm
   2012 - Rosado vs. Soto Karass
 

 
 

helped to make the New Alhambra a fun place to watch a fight.

The night Mike Jones won his first regional title belt (in 2008), he held court in the back of the arena with his brand new NABA strap draped over his shoulder, while countless fans posed for pictures with him. 

Occasionally a more recognizable name would fight there, but most of the biggest names to fight at the New Alhambra were just local youngsters on their way up. Years before he became a world champion, Danny Garcia fought there twice in 2010. In addition to Jones and Kennedy, Bryant Jennings, Julian Williams, Angel Ocasio, Dennis Hasson, and Anthony Flores all made their professional debuts at the venue. Fan-favorite Victor Vasquez made several starts there, along with Gabriel Rosado, Derek Ennis, and others.

Junior middleweight Rosado won a PA state title in 2011 by beating Keenan Collins by decision. Later he pounded Jesus Soto Karass in arguably his career-best performance. Raul Martinez won the NABF junior featherweight title with a quick KO of Victor Proa in 2008.

Three New Alhambra fights were named the "Philly Fight of the Year" and earned Briscoe Awards for their participants.

The first of these memorable bouts was in 2010, when perhaps the venue's best-ever fight was staged by Peltz Boxing. Derek Ennis defended his USBA junior middleweight title in the classic all-Philly war against Gabriel Rosado. The fight see-sawed back and forth before Ennis finished strong and captured a close majority decision. It was a high-level and dramatic fight with a world ranking at stake. That night's atmosphere, the crowd, the fight, the throw-back nature, and everything else about it, made July 30, 2010 the New Alhambra's greatest night.

In 2011, KEA Boxing (Andre Kut) promoted a small club show that almost didn't happen. Leading up to fight night, one main event after another fell out. Finally a small 6-rounder between Juan Rodriguez of Union City, NJ faced Philadelphian Greg Hackett was elevated to the highlight spot, and the fight turned out to be the best local fight of the year. Rodriguez took the decision to remain undefeated.

The final main event at the venue launched the popular nationally televised "Fight Night" boxing series on NBC Sports Network. In that fight, Bryant Jennings beat fellow-Philly fighter Maurice Byarm in a 10-round battle between two unbeaten heavyweights for the PA State championship. Jennings' career took off after the bout, and the fight itself won the Briscoe Award as the City's best of 2012.

The New Alhambra closed shortly after the Jennings-Byarm fight. However, the site will apparently reopen in 2014, and thankfully more boxing appears to be part of its future.

 
     
     
 

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