FALL RIVER – Where Meryl Streep so elegantly delivered lines on the set of “Don’t Look Up” a year and a half ago, you might soon see Axel Lopez deliver a not-so-elegant left hook to an opponent’s jaw.
In an event where venue and spectacle share the limelight, the “Battle on the Battleship” amateur boxing card is scheduled for Saturday, August 20 on the USS Massachusetts at Battleship Cove in Fall River. This show is hosted by Punishment systems from Swansea, where Lopez trains. And he’s being aggressively promoted by Mike Herren’s Hurricane Promotions.
Aaron Bernardo, owner and trainer of Punishment Striking Systems, predicts this USA Boxing-sanctioned card will feature more than 20 fights. Open class. Novice class. Man. Female. Junior Olympics (8-16 years old). Masters (38 years and over). Half a dozen of those fights 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 had so much buzz, so many people talking about it.
“We have people from out of state, flying in to try and get on this show, and just attending and watching it. It’s not every day you fight on a warship. So yeah, it was big.
The Punishment Striking leather casters were understandably excited when they heard about the show.
“I was so excited,” said Joe Brooks, youth division champion at the New England King of the Ring tournament held in April. “Honestly, it’s going to be a big crowd. I’m going to put on a show in front of all my friends and family.
“Very pumped up, honestly,” said Lopez, the 156-pound King of the Ring champion. “I’ve never been on a boat, and the fact that I’m fighting on it is crazy.”
How Mike Herren came up with the concept for the show
This isn’t Herren’s first boxing rodeo. In 2010 he promoted a successful amateur boxing card/Tribute to Dave Gauvin at the Bank Street Armory. A longtime boxing fan, Herren said he was very impressed to see the PSS boxers in tournaments earlier this year and was determined to work with Bernardo on a local show.
And it didn’t take long for him to figure out where he wanted to stage the map – on the World War II battleship Fall River. The plan is to accommodate nearly 1,300 fans, including 577 ringside seats. “You know me,” said Herren. “Go big or go home.”
Herren said he’s 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 sight, Herren said, made him determined to put on his own show in his beloved hometown.
He continued to attend shows, he said, to learn, to network, to see what works, what doesn’t. After the battleship battle was announced, Herren said, he heard people at those other shows, including a show in New Hampshire, asking where they could get tickets for Aug. 20 in Spindle City.
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More than just a boxing show
Herren points out that his show will offer more than boxing. In the open area just across from the Battleship Cove Gift Shop and on the way to the Big Mamie, Herren says ticket holders will find food trucks, micro-brew stands, artist stands, an entertainment area, and more. Harley-Davidson exhibition. These extras, Herren said, should help avoid a crowded boarding while giving ticket holders a place to explore, browse, socialize before climbing the gangway to the battleship’s deck, which served as a viewing area for see the city’s 4th of July fireworks. It has also been rented out for private functions.
“The venue is an amazing place to have a drink, watch the sunset, reconnect with old friends,” Herren said during a recent late morning visit to Battleship Cove. “In my experience, above this terrace is some of the best real estate in Fall River. That was my reason for doing the show here.
General admission fans can stand or lean against part of the enormous Big Granny, or sit at one of the picnic tables. The plan also includes mounted televisions showing the action. The show starts at 6 p.m. The footbridge opens an hour earlier.
“Oh man, I’m super excited,” said Mason Almeida of PSS, a Southern New England champ (156 pounds) and king of the ring (165). “It’s the only thing we really trained for all summer. That’s kind of what our summer is all about, this big, big show. And I’m super excited about it.
“It’s going to be a lot of people, so I’m excited to put on a show,” said Joey Sousa of PSS, a SNEGG champion at 147 pounds.
What the boxers will win
Winners of boxing matches will receive champion belts.
In what he describes as a “chic, not trashy” twist with “style and swag,” Herren said he wouldn’t have round card girls, but rather a few ladies in pin-up outfits from the 1990s. 1940s working in crowds and posing for photos.
herren said David Gauvin, the Fall River native and former Golden Gloves champion, will be on hand to be a part of that show. There will also be special recognition for another former amateur boxing standout from Fall River, the late Lionel Frates.
Herren and Bernardo said they would like to make the battleship battle an annual event, 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-in purchase on the night of the show. He said anyone interested in an advance purchase ($50 ringside seat; $30 general admission) can contact him through his Facebook page or contact Punishment Striking Systems at 508-493-9556 or [email protected].
A documentary in the making
Two former students of FRED-TV (Durfee High School television), Dan Keating and Sam Monteiro, are making a documentary about the battleship battle. Herren said Keating, a 2021 Durfee graduate and a film student at Hofstra University, pitched the idea to her. Herren liked what he heard. Monteiro is graduating from Durfee in 2022 and will be majoring in film at Fitchburg State University.