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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

TV fight draws crowd to casino

Fans cheer as the featherweight championship bout ends after 12 rounds Friday at the Northern Quest Casino. Valdemir Pereira defeated Whyber Garcia by decision. For more on the match, see Sports, C1.
 (Jed Conklin / The Spokesman-Review)

Friday’s professional boxing event in Airway Heights was at a level not often seen in the Inland Northwest – one for national TV.

A crowd of 1,200 packed the Northern Quest Casino’s Pend Oreille Pavillion for six bouts, including the North American Boxing Federation “interim super welterweight championship.” While many in the audience didn’t know the boxers, most knew it was being televised live on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights.”

“It gives it some kind of validity,” said Clint Roig, who watched his first professional fight from the

beer garden.

The crowd enjoyed a 12-round squeaker in the first fight for a World Boxing Association featherweight title. The main event ended with a technical knockout in the seventh.

But there was more than just boxing. The crowd was treated to dance music and “ring girls,” as the boxing industry calls the curvaceous women in long sequined dresses who introduce each round and tease the mostly male crowd.

Arthur Pelullo, of Banner Promotions, which brought the event to Spokane, said Friday’s fight and another in December could be just the beginning of professional boxing at the casino.

“The talk that we’re having is three or four times a year,” Pelullo said. The next will be in April, and most will be nationally televised.

Jason Luoto, of Spokane, said the crowd wasn’t as excited as he expected. But he was impressed with the organization and setup and plans to go back.

“The more there is, the better,” Luoto said.

At times, little noise came from the audience, except occasional taunts such as, “Common, put your purses down!” But as the fighting got more intense, and boxers got knocked to the floor, the crowd’s interest grew.

Joe Seaman, who came to the event from Moses Lake with his son-in-law, said he likely will return.

“Boxing is a good, clean sport that people can take pride in,” he said.