City gears up for boxing

CITY HALL — A 62-year-old ban on boxing matches, under fire from local pro-fighters who argue they have nowhere to draw a hometown crowd, is expected to get a one-year reprieve Tuesday when the City Council considers temporarily easing the restriction.

Consideration of the trial period comes as the first test match at the Civic Auditorium looms on the horizon. City Council members have said they view the professional boxing event scheduled for May 8 as an all-important barometer for how ready the city is.

City officials have spent four months planning contingencies for nearly every conceivable problem that may arise from the event.

Tentative plans call for two Glendale Police officers and a canine unit patrolling the event, signage to direct traffic immediately to the two nearby freeways, a fire marshal to monitor the crowd and other fail-safes — all for a production with a capacity for a crowd half of what other larger events require at the auditorium.

The city resources don’t include all of the state commission oversight, background checks, private security, metal detectors and other measures that come with the event.

Kahren Karutyunyan, a champion boxer and local promoter whose Glendale-based Art of Boxing Productions is putting on the May 8 fight, said the amount of hoops to jump through was expected considering the unease with which the City Council agreed to consider the test period last year.

He said the conditions were “stricter than usual” for a pro-fighting match, but that he was happy “to show them it can be done properly and safely, and not only to benefit the city financially, but put the city’s name on the map.”

Professional fighting was banned in 1947 after the City Council, under pressure from residents who said the form of entertainment was “unwholesome,” denied a request to hold a boxing match in the city.

Beyond the potential for political fallout, both parties have a vested financial interest in making sure the event goes off without a hitch.

The historic Civic Auditorium has had trouble the last couple of years attracting new business, especially as resort and business hotels continue to compete for many of the same convention events.

The May 8 match is expected to generate $10,902 in permit fees alone, with an additional $2,890 in fees to offset Glendale police and fire staffing, according to a city report.

A possible deal between Art of Boxing and ESPN to broadcast the fight could bring additional fees, city officials said.

The entire rental contract is more expensive for this event than for those with comparatively smaller-sized crowds because Karutyunyan is reserving almost the entire second level, Community Services Administrator Brittney Bilotti said.

Over the past two years, the city has received 10 requests to produce pro-boxing matches, according to a city report.

While Karutyunyan promised the May fight would follow in his mold of smoothly run events, city officials said they would be watching closely to see how it impacts the surrounding neighborhood.

Beer and wine sales will stop short of the last match, and there will be extra attention paid to the recently enacted citywide smoking restrictions, police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.

The planned fight is scheduled to take place less than a month after the April 16 start of the year-long trial period the City Council on Tuesday is expected to approve.

In tentatively endorsing the plan in October, several on the dais warned that any sign of trouble could lead to the trial period terminating immediately.

The allowance only applies to professional boxing, excluding pro-wrestling, mixed martial arts and other forms of fighting.

“It’ll be a learning experience for us,” said Councilman Ara Najarian, who expressed trepidation over the deal in October.

Despite the watchful eye, Karutyunyan said he is planning a festive atmosphere for the first big fight in Glendale’s history.

And while he acknowledged there is much to prove to city officials, nerves among the fighters are high for other reasons.

“Of course, they get excited before every fight, but this puts extra pressure on them, because for once in their lifetime, they’re going to have hometown advantage,” he said.


 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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