FALL RIVER — Right where Meryl Streep so elegantly delivered lines in the filming of “Don’t Look Up” a year-and-a-half ago, you might soon see Axel Lopez not-so-elegantly deliver a left hook to an opponent’s yes.
In an event where the venue and show share top billing, the “Battle on the Battleship” amateur boxing card is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 20, on the USS Massachusetts at Fall River’s Battleship Cove. This show is hosted by Punishment Striking Systems of Swansea, where Lopez trains. And it is being aggressively promoted by Mike Herren’s Hurricane Promotions.
Aaron Bernardo, owner and coach at Punishment Striking Systems, anticipates this USA Boxing-sanctioned card to present 20-plus bouts. Open class. Novice class. Paint. Female. Junior Olympics (ages 8-16). Masters (38 and older). A half-dozen of these bouts could include PSS boxers.
All on the deck of the Big Mamie.
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“The buzz has just been electric,” Bernardo said. “I can’t remember an amateur show, in recent memory, that has had this much buzz, this many people talking about it.
“We have people from out of state, flying in to try to compete on this show, and just attend and watch it. It’s not every day you get to fight on a warship. So yeah, it’s been big.”
The leather throwers from Punishment Striking were understandably excited when they heard about the show.
“I was so pumped,” said Joe Brooks, a youth division champion at the New England King of the Ring tournament held in April. “It’s honestly going to be a great crowd. I’m going to put on a show in front of all my friends and family.”
“Very pumped up, honestly,” said Lopez, 156-pound champion at the King of the Ring. “I’ve never actually been on a boat, and the fact I’m fighting on it is crazy.”
How Mike Herren came up with the concept for the show
This isn’t the first boxing rodeo for Herren. In 2010 he promoted a successful amateur boxing card/Dave Gauvin tribute at the Bank Street Armory. A longtime boxing fan, Herren said he was very impressed watching PSS boxers at tournaments earlier this year and was determined to work with Bernardo on a local show.
And it didn’t take him long to determine where he wanted to stage the card – on Fall River’s WWII battleship. The plan is to accommodate close to 1,300 fans, including 577 ringside seats. “You know me,” the Lord said. “Go big or go home.”
Herren said he has attended at least eight boxing cards this year alone, starting with the Southern New England Golden Gloves at the Fall River PAL. Next was a Jimmy Burchfield CES Boxing card at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick, Rhode Island, and that show, Herren said, made him determined to stage his own show in his beloved hometown.
He kept attending shows, he said, to learn, to network, to see what works, what doesn’t. Once the Battle on the Battleship had been announced, Herren said, he heard people at these other shows, including at a show in New Hampshire, asking where they could get tickets for Aug. 20 in the Spindle City.
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More than just a boxing show
Herren emphasizes that his show will offer more than boxing. In the open area just through the Battleship Cove gift shop and on the way to the Big Mamie, Herren says ticket holders will find food trucks, micro-brew stands, artists’ stands, a Harley-Davidson display area. These extras, Herren said, should help avoid a crowded ship boarding while giving ticket holders a place to explore, peruse, socialize before climbing the gangplank to the battleship deck, which has served as an observation area to view the city’s July 4 fireworks. It has also been rented for private functions.
“The venue’s an amazing place to have a drink, watch the sunset, reconnect with old friends” Herren said on a recent late-morning visit to Battleship Cove. “In my experience, on top of that deck is one of the best pieces of real estate in Fall River. That was my reason to do the show here.”
General admission fans can stand, or lean against part of the hulking Big Mamie, or grab a seat at one of the picnic tables. The plan also includes mounted televisions showing the action. The show starts at 6 pm The gangplank opens an hour earlier.
“Oh man, I’m super excited,” said PSS’s Mason Almeida, a Southern New England Golden Gloves (156 pounds) and a King of the Ring (165) champion. “It’s the only thing we’ve been really training for all summer. It’s kind of what our summer is focused on, that big, big show. And I’m super excited about it.”
“There’s going to be a lot of people, so I’m excited to put on a show,” said PSS’s Joey Sousa, a SNEGG champ at 147 pounds.
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What the boxers will win
The boxing match winners will be given championship belts.
In what he describes as a “classy, not trashy” twist with “style and swag,” Herren said that he will not have round card girls but instead have a few females in 1940s pin-up attire working the crowd and posing for photos.
Herren said Dave Gauvin, the Fall River native and former Golden Gloves champion, will be on hand to be part of this show. There will also be a special recognition for another former Fall River amateur boxing standout, the late Lionel Frates.
Herren and Bernardo said they would like to make the Battle on the Battleship an annual happening, giving Fall River a winter event (Southern New England Golden Gloves) and a summer event.
How to buy tickets
Herren said a limited number of tickets will be reserved for walk-up purchase the night of the show. He said anyone interested in advance purchase ($50 ringside seat; $30 general admission) may contact him through his Facebook page or contact Punishment Striking Systems at 508-493-9556 or email@example.com.
A documentary in the making
Two former FRED-TV (Durfee High School television) students, Dan Keating and Sam Monteiro, are making a documentary about the Battle on the Battleship. Herren said Keating, a 2021 Durfee grad and a film major at Hofstra University, came to him with the idea. The Lord liked what he heard. Monteiro is a 2022 Durfee grad and will be majoring in film at Fitchburg State University.