PORTLAND, Maine — The Portland Exposition Building has a rich history of hosting sporting events since its construction 99 years ago.
Most recently the Expo has been best known as a basketball facility, home to teams from Portland High School as well as the Maine Red Claws, the NBA Developmental League affiliate of the Boston Celtics.
The veteran coach and trainer who runs the Portland Boxing Club said Wednesday he plans to promote a boxing show at the Expo on Saturday, Nov. 16, that includes both professional and amateur bouts.
“It’s been 21 years since the last boxing event at the Expo, and prior to that it was another 15 years before that,” said Russo during a phone interview after a press conference held at the Expo to announce the fight card.
“That was the end of a great era of boxing, 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.”
The Nov. 16 event will be the 98th card organized by Russo during his more than two decades as a promoter, with more recent shows in the city amateur-only events staged at the Portland Boxing Club or the Stevens Avenue Armory.
“The last show we had at the armory drew a couple thousand people, and the Expo is the next size up,” said Russo. “The time is right.”
Russo plans to stage “four or five” pro fights and “four or five” amateur bouts, with the pro fights to be headlined by several undefeated boxers while the amateur bouts will highlight several Portland Boxing Club competitors.
Topping the professional part of the card will be a bout featuring undefeated Ryan Kielczweski (17-0) of Quincy, Mass., who last fought in July when he scored a knockout of previously unbeaten Miguel Soto as part of an ESPN “Friday Night Fights” card.
Russo said negotiations are underway for Kielczweski to fight for the North American lightweight championship in his Expo debut.
Also set to compete on the Nov. 16 card is junior middleweight Brandon “The Cannon” Berry of West Forks, 3-0 since turning pro earlier this year when he won the first professional boxing match held in Maine since 2005.
Two unbeaten pros based at the Portland Boxing Club also will figure prominently on the card. Middleweight Russell Lamour is 5-0 after a successful amateur career that included more than 100 bouts, while former national Golden Gloves bantamweight champion Jorge Abiague is 3-0 since leaving the amateur ranks.
It’s also possible that light welterweight contender “Danny Boy” O’Connor (23-1) may appear on the card, depending on how the Framingham, Mass., native fares in an upcoming fight scheduled for next week.
Russo said that while the combat sports landscape has changed with the emergence of mixed martial arts and that may mean the Expo will never return to its previous status as a boxing haven, the Nov. 16 show there won’t be his last.