Stepping Inside The Ring

I first saw this location while scrolling through Instagram one night and I was immediately obsessed. After doing some research, I learned that this historic venue was once a famed boxing ring in my home state. It was once called the “number one boxing ring in the world” by Ring magazine and the “last great boxing venue in the country” by Sports Illustrated magazine. Not to mention scenes from the movies Rocky V and Annapolis were filmed here.

Once I saw the first picture, I started seeing pictures everywhere. I was dying to see this spot for myself, so I made the trip as soon as I had a free day. I had been advised that the ring wasn’t completely abandoned. A homeless man supposedly was charging admission to take a look around inside. I didn’t love that I had to pay for entry, but I couldn’t help thinking hey, good for him for starting his own business.

When we got there, we parked at a nearby gas station and made the walk down the block towards the venue. We then walked around the block of the building to check the place out. Construction workers were on site, and a high rise was going up right next door. There didn’t seem to be an entrance anywhere, so we made our way back to the front. The front of the building had staircases up to two sets of two doors. We walked up to the first door and knocked loudly. We waited, as people walked by on the street, sometimes looking up at us, standing on the doorstep of a clearly abandoned building. I decided to go to the next set of doors and try that instead. As I was walking up that staircase, I noticed writing on one of the boards covering the door. The note read “knock loudly or call T*” then a phone number that was impossible to read. There was a camera outside, but I decided to knock anyway. Finally, after waiting and then finally hearing movement from inside, we hear the door being unlocked.

T allowed us inside, and we paid our admission. He told us he really only likes doing this on the weekends, but he would allow us inside anyway. He closed the front door, locking the deadbolt, sliding another lock closed, and finally putting a chair back up against the handle. He then set another barricade up in front of the entryway. He then led us up the stairs, before moving around some more furniture to unblock the way to the main event.

He explained to us people were breaking in all the time in all kinds of places so he finally blocked every single way in and basically set booby traps up throughout the building. We finally went into the room where the ring was located. We were in the footsteps of many greats.

Note the chairs piled over an entrance by T

This building was constructed as three separate buildings in 1865 post-Civil War. It was first used as housing for aristocrats of the era. It was eventually bought by the Loyal Order of the Moose, a fraternal and service organization, and combined into one large building that would serve as their lodge in 1912. In 1914 they added a bar, ballroom, an auditorium, and the lodge had over 20,000 members by 1920. The number of members doubled by the late 1920s and another extension was planned, but the Great Depression canceled those plans. The first boxing fights actually took place here in 1938 when it was still owned by the Moose.

Then in 1961, the building was purchased again for $85,000. It was named after a song from the film Monte Carlo. After putting a boxing ring in the former dining hall, and doing some other renovations, the first boxing match was held in November of 1961, with weekly fights after that. The venue seated 1500 and had a very intimate feel. It was said even the farthest seats had a great view.

At first, smaller fights were hosted here due to the size, and there were larger venues in the area that larger fights were already using. In the mid-1980s, the venue was discovered by the USA cable network, who began to feature the ring on the “Tuesday Night Fight” series they had. The venue became legendary. More than 50 boxers who fought here went on to win world championship belts at some point in their career.

In 1994 the site was sold again to Vernoca L. Michael, who would go on to be the first female African American licensed boxing promoter, and be named as one of the top 50 business women in her state. In 1997 the venue hosted its first world title fight. Michael put in 18-hour days at the venue, which also hosted other events at times to help keep the lights on. However, in 2007, Michael put the property up for sale due to a deficit in the budget from a decline in these event rentals.

One of the staircases T led us up

The ring held its final fight on June 4, 2010. Immediately following the fight, The Department of Licenses & Inspections served a cease and desist order over food and drink being sold without the proper permits. This could have been resolved, however, Michael was already $60,000 behind its taxes so the doors were closed for good. Michael said “no one expected me to last 4 months. I lasted 17 years.”

In 2011 a development company bought the property. Originally its plans were to turn the building into a hotel with a bar and restaurant while trying to preserve the boxing concept. However, a demolition permit was reported to have been issued in 2013.

Section E of the seating area

In 2014, the company decided that even though it wasn’t feasible to save the inside of the building they would still save the exterior. The city had helped the developers, including giving a grant, all because they had originally said they would preserve the boxing component, but the developers seemed to have gone back on their word.

In 2014 the building was nominated for historic certification to block any type of demolition. The following year the exterior was ruled historical, however, the interior was not. The historical society stated that just because the boxing ring was legendary, that didn’t make it historical. The demolition permit had never been picked up though, therefore it had expired.

In 2016 it was advertised that items, including the boxing ring, would be auctioned off, but the ring was still there in all its glory 3 years later. As of January 2019, the current plans are for a five-story hotel featuring small rooms geared toward economically savvy young travelers to be built behind the façade of the venue. The $22 million-dollar hotel will have 140 guest rooms. At least the outside of this location will be preserved, but it will be a shame to see the beautiful interior gutted and replaced.

Overall the interior seems to still be in generally good condition. We, unfortunately, weren’t able to explore the whole building, we were only able to access the ring area itself and the balcony over it. Through one of the front doors, I could see a blue ticket booth still inside, but we weren’t able to see it once in. This was one of my favorites I’ve visited so far in my travels.

“It ain’t about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” -Rocky Balboa

Originally posted 02/02/2019

All photos used on this site are taken by myself.

For more photos or sources used for this article contact me. 

*Name abbreviated to respect privacy


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