Old time Portlanders will tell you about the glory days of boxing at the Portland Expo. Decades ago locals flocked to the now century old building for weekly fights. Raucous crowds would fill the smoky arena to cheer and jeer. It was the golden age for the sport, and Maine played a big part in its history.
In a 2013 interview with the BDN, legendary trainer Bobby Russo was quoted saying, “Portland was one of the great fight towns in the world back in the 1960s and ’70s. Boxing was like a franchised sport for the city back then, you could count on it every Thursday night.”
Russo, owner of the Portland Boxing Club, has seen his share of talented fighters over the years. In Russell Lamour, a fast rising star in the boxing world who I have known since grade school, Russo thinks Portland might have a world championship title contender.
Unfortunately, in the past few decades boxing has all but disappeared from the Portland Expo. As Lamour’s notoriety and cachet continue to rise, he and Russo are hoping to bring the sport back to the age old building. In the process, they’re hoping to help open doors for other up-and-comers.
Said Lamour in a chat on Sunday, “It’s always been a goal of mine to help bring boxing back to Portland.”
Back in November, they did just that. In front of a packed house, Lamour -a middleweight- defeated his opponent in six rounds in what was the first night of boxing at the Expo in decades.
The turnout for the fight night was so impressive that they decided to hold another one at the Expo, but this time they’re providing even more seating to accommodate an even larger crowd.
Russo explained, “we’re gonna have the whole arena opened up for seating, we’re hoping to fill the place and have another enthusiastic audience.”
The fight, scheduled for Saturday, June 14, isn’t just another fight for Lamour:
“To me every fight is important. What makes this one special is I’ll be fighting here at home in front of family and friends that aren’t able to travel out of state to my every fight. And I am fighting for The New England Championship Title.”
As if Lamour (and local boxing fans) didn’t have enough to be excited about the fight for- boxing legend and former heavyweight champion of the world Evander Holyfield will be in town for the event.
Holyfield, who Lamour has trained with in the past, is making the appearance to help revitalize the sport in Maine.
Lamour spoke to Holyfield’s involvement, “I’m excited that he’s coming to Portland. We both trained at the same gym out in L.A. two years ago. Him coming here is huge for the state of Maine and for Portland.”
According to Russo, if Lamour can continue the undefeated streak that he’s had since turning pro, he might reach the same elite level of success that Holyfield achieved back in the 90’s:
“Russell should have a record of about 12-0 or 13-0 by the end of the year. If he can do that he’ll qualify for a shot at a world title. He’s fought fights all over the world, he’s got the pedigree and the training to beat anyone we throw at him.”
Lamour is a throwback to those old, smoky fight nights at the Expo.
But he’s not content with simply bringing the fights back to town, he has big dreams and he wants to bring Portland with him:
“Hopefully soon we can make it even bigger and have ESPN, Showtime and HBO fight cards here in Portland. It can happen and I plan to help make it happen by making a bigger name for myself in the sport.”
Mark your calendars for June 14 folks, I’ll see you at the fights. Portland has a new homegrown hero.
Photo credits- Crossface Productions