GUEST ARTICLE: The closing of the Legendary A La Carte Pavilion in Tampa

By Christopher Jason Young.

We are saying a final farewell to a place that has etched itself locally in Boxing history and that’s the A La Carte Pavilion. This past Friday it has held its final event at the A La Carte.  Many greats and champions have fought at Tampa’s boxing historic site. Boxers like Keith “One Time” Thurman, Nate” Galaxy Warrior” Campbell, John “The Beast” Mugabi, James “Bone Crusher” Smith, Edner Cherry, Frankie Randall, and many more.

But the closing and demolition of this building is a little personal for me. After coming out of the Army in 2002, and becoming aware of the Pavilion, I have attended many boxing shows. They were highly entertaining and very competitive. I’ve tried my best not to miss a show. The crowd is always great and there was always a few surprise guests and local celebrities that would show up to these events. Watching these local talents get there start and seeing them achieve their dream on a larger global scale with networks like Telemundo, ESPN, Showtime, and HBO was very satisfying, because you saw their maturation and their path came through a place like the A La Carte Pavilion.

I started to get into boxing myself, but this time as a boxing official. I have judged several fights there and my first time in the ring as a referee at a live televised event was at the A la Carte Pavilion on Telemundo. So, seeing this go sort of tears at my heart strings. Turning this place in to a development of upscale luxury homes personally just doesn’t sit right with me. But I guess money talks.

Some legends and local talent have chimed in on social media about the closing of the A La Carte Pavillion. Here is what they have said.

Florida Boxing Hall of Fame Referee and Judge Brian Garry stated: I refereed hundreds of Pro bouts there, starting back in 1983, when it was the Egypt Temple Shrine…22 Alessi Promotions a year…plus 4 to 5 ABC, CBS, or NBC Shows. Then as A La Carte Pavilion, until 2008….as a Ref. The last 9 years as a Judge.. We have many memorable moments in that Dana Shores Arena Memories of years cheers and tears gone bye….even FM, “Money”, was there for one of our many ESPN2 Boxing. John “the Beast” Mugabi put many a Man asleep, in this facility. Frank “the Animal” Fletcher was one of Dr. Mugabi’s tranquillizing Right hands. “Cowboy” Donnie Shiver rolled up 18 or 20 Wins in this house. Terry Anderson, another Hwy Wt. Bomber, who attained a #4 ranking. Frankie “the Surgeon” Randall, dusted up a half a dozen or so…Frankie, first man to Drop Julio Caesar Chavez, and beat him easily. Edner Cherry, and Nate “the Galaxy Warrior”, spanked their share of contenders, under this roof. James “the Italian Stallion” Salerno shook the house, more than once with Big Name hits. “”Diamond David” Santos, “Sweet Pea” Pete Frisina, left many wishing they would have chosen, another Dance Partner. “Silky” Wilky Camfort, picking & poking his way to Victory lane. Jenna Shiver, Diedra Daugherty, Noemi Basques delivered many wobbly legged, and blurred eyed. Mauricio Rodriguez, a 1980 Marialito 147 pd. Cuban refugee took many Scalps, at the Temple. Harvey Hester, Jerry Holly, Gene Wells, all out of the “Church Street Gym”, with Hall of Fame Trainer/Coach Jimmy Williams, cracked a few noggins. Lest I forget the night 60 Minutes, with Ed Bradley, made a Sneak attack…upon COL George Porter, and the Tampa Boxing Commission. 3 camera men, coming running down the aisle, to ringside. Ed Bradley sets down next to COL Porter. Begins his query regarding the Main Event challenger’s record? I have the opening bout of the night..a 4 rounder, between Tampa’s Little League World Series Championship second basemen, Troy Davis vs. Vincent “Choo-Choo” Bell, from Orlando. Bell, born with a missing lower left leg ( A wooden Prothesis allowed him to compete). Covered with long shorts, long knee sox, and a knee brace, that his wooden leg in place. Choo choo could fight, but trying back up, he was handicapped. All I could think was: OMG, what if Ed Bradley finds out about Bell’s Oak left wheel? Geez..this could get really ugly. But, as luck would have it, Bell backed Troy up, for two rounds…with Davis finally stopping Vincent in the 4 th. The kid was tough as nails, but the Pro’s had to politely pull his license…do the inability to back up competitively. Porter handled himself professionally, and 60 minutes didn’t get the ugly showcase they were seeking. The Main fighter faired a bit better than his record, tough he was stopped late. Cornelius Boza Edwards, from Uganda, along with John Mundunga dazzled many. Livingston Bramble, with a Snake named DOG,..and a Dig named SNAKE, was a Big Hitter…destroying Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini twice. The three Gray brothers from Daytona Beach, lit up the KO Scoreboard for a few years. Bernard, Joe, and Curtis all dangerous Boxers. The ALESSI Stable was packed with Winners in the 70’s & 80’s…the Gym on Cypress, would draw a crowd for Sparring sessions..which often became Wars.

Sammy “The Hurricane” Valentin the current WBO Inter-Continental Welterweight Champion wrote: It sucks because it was the place I had my first pro fight. But I also remember doing mitts with my dad during the intermissions of the pro fight when I was little, so it’s sad for me to see the place go. But I find ironic that in this period in my life where I’ve felt so much growth, and just felt in many areas it’s been time for change, new chapters beginning.

Noemi ” No-No” Bosques former Women’s International Boxing Association International Super Flyweight Champion stated: So many Memories in this place! Even before I fought as a professional boxer, I fought there as an amateur. This has been primarily where I have boxed and have grown in. The A la Carte will be missed.

Florida Boxing Hall of Fame Ring Announcer Robert Alexander wrote: It was a great finale for a building that has seen so many great fight shows. The Ala Carte Pavilion in Tampa hosted RFC 41 Friday night. It was great to be in that arena one last time before it will be demolished. I was happy to announce many pro boxing and MMA events in that building over the last 20 years including so many of the RFC shows. It was great to be with friends and colleagues one final time doing another great RFC show there as we head to a new venue in 2018….

Florida Boxing Promoter and Matchmaker Ivan Echevarria stated: I feel like part of my life is going away After so much hard work of promoting that building and the fights inside of it… Thanks again for serving Boxing life forever.

I would like to say thank you to few boxing promoters that continued to keep boxing alive in the Bay Area, but especially at the Pavilion. Tuto Zabala (Allstar Boxing Promotions), Phil Alessi (Alessi Promotions), Pete Fernandez Productions, Fire Fist Boxing Promotions, Ivan Echevarria (Pier 6 Promotions) Chester Koener (TKO Boxing Promotions), and Aaron Jacobs (Fight Night Productions). If I missed anybody, please forgive me. I also want to thank the true hardcore boxing fans that keeps coming back and support the sport I love which is boxing.

So, I bid the A La Carte a final farewell and another historic landmark in the Tampa Bay community passes away. The physical building will be a remembrance on what it once was, but its boxing history and memory will live on forever.

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