Coyne Has Big Plans For Boxing’s Future In Wilkes-Barre
Chris Coyne is a lifelong boxing fan.
Among his earliest and fondest memories are seeing Muhammad Ali’s 1972 appearance and Larry Holmes’ handful of fights in Scranton.
In 2000, Coyne started working as a promoter. He helped bring events like a 2007 edition of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights to the Scranton CYC.
“The Catholic Youth Center in Scranton was also a good, old-fashioned fight venue with a packed house and a pit atmosphere,” ESPN’s Joe Tessitore, now the voice of Monday Night Football and then a boxing columnist, wrote about Coyne’s event.
Indeed, boxing has a rich history in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Coyne, 53, is now trying to build up the sport in downtown Wilkes-Barre with Pennsylvania Championship Boxing’s next event 7 p.m. Saturday at Genetti’s.
It is Coyne’s second boxing card at Genetti’s in the last year, following an event this past March.
“It’s not a ‘Build it and they will come’ business,” Coyne said. “It’s a ‘Build it — and work your tail off — and hopefully they will come’ business.”
Coyne said he believes the upcoming card will draw plenty of fan interest.
The headliners include Scranton featherweight Rocky Marzan (11-0), Scranton middleweight Ryan Wilczak (7-0) and Connecticut’s Tramaine Williams (15-0).
All told, the eight professional fighters on the card’s A-side are a combined 40-0. Other boxers include New York’s Travis Toledo (4-0), New Jersey’s Mike Lee (2-0) and Old Forge’s Matt Van Fleet (1-0). Philadelphia’s Anthony Carter and Kareem Whitehead are making their pro debuts.
“One of these guys on this card is going to fight a title fight eventually,” Coyne said. “There’s no doubt in my mind.”
Tickets are available at pacagefight.com. For more information, visit PA Championship Boxing on Facebook.
Coyne recently sat down for an interview about local boxing.
Q: In your eyes, what is the current state of boxing, specifically in Wilkes-Barre and Luzerne County?
A: It is a slow build, but a positive build. Because of the lack of events being held in Wilkes-Barre and Luzerne County, the mainstream boxing fan is not used to there being live events in this area, especially professional events. There’s been some amateur events. But amateur and professional boxing are like night and day. Completely different setups. Completely different events. And obviously, a completely different skill and talent level. A few miles up the road in Lackawanna County and Scranton, it’s a much, much easier sell. The fanbase expects boxing to be in Scranton, whereas 40 years ago, they expected it to be in Luzerne County also.
Q: Why is it that boxing — in the modern day and all-time — has been more successful in Scranton compared with Wilkes-Barre?
A: I think it’s because of the local fighters. It’s no different on this particular card and no different at much, much larger shows that I’ve done on ESPN. The local fighter carries the fanbase, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. I’ve got some local boys on this card who are undefeated fighters. I also have a 15-0 featherweight on this card that is one of Duva Boxing’s biggest prospects right now, Tramaine Williams. Although I would consider him to have the highest talent-level on this card, he’s not going to have a large fanbase here. He’s from New Haven, Connecticut, so the reality is, how many people are going to travel from New Haven, Connecticut? Ryan Wilczak, Rocky Marzan and Matt Van Fleet are Scranton and Old Forge guys. They are going to have a tremendous fanbase.
Q: What is your vision for the future of boxing in this area?
A: My vision for the future in Luzerne County and Wilkes-Barre is to bring in FS1 boxing, PBC (Premier Boxing Championships), or to bring in ESPN Friday Night Fights. I want to have nationally televised shows out of Wilkes-Barre.
Q: What needs to happen to get to that point?
A: The way to do that is to put on these type of shows with tremendous fan support, a big fanbase. That way, when I do those bigger shows, I handle 90 percent of the fights and the main event would be chosen by the network. If you’re a boxing fan, watching those kind of shows — it’s like going to watch the Lakers play if you’re a basketball fan. You can go watch college games or pick-up games, but if the Lakers come to town, it’s big. Everybody’s going to see them.
Q: How would you gauge the current interest in boxing around here, perhaps using the first show at Genetti’s as a barometer?
A: The first Genetti’s show was slightly deceiving because the interest was there, the ticket sales were there, the fan interest was very much building. And then we got hit with a 22-inch snowstorm the evening prior to the show. What else could possibly have gone wrong? We still had a pretty nice draw who trudged through the snow to get here. But with that said, I did lose an up-and-coming heavyweight from the Boston area who was stuck on Route 84 for literally 48 hours. We lost Hector Camacho’s son who was supposed to headline the card. He was stuck in Raleigh, Durham, with no flights coming here. So, we lost two very important fights on the card, but still had the fanbase come out.
Q: What was the attendance like for the first fight night at Genetti’s?
A: About 700-something.
Q: Provided you get some decent weather, you’re hoping to improve upon that figure?
A: Yes. I’m anticipating 1,000 to 1,200. I believe we would have hit that 1,000 mark, if it wasn’t for the weather, because (the 700) were all presale tickets. Our walkup for that event was almost zero. It might have been two dozen on the walk-up because it was 8 degrees. Wind chill. Snow everywhere. The streets were barely plowed at the time. We just grinned and beared it, and did the best we could do.
Contact the writer:
570-821-2060; @CVBufano on Twitter