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Wing-side boxing under the Spruce Goose

Wing-side boxing under the Spruce Goose

Nov. 13, 1986: Spectators sit ringside for a boxing match beneath the wing of the Spruce Goose in Long Beach.

This photo by Rick Corrales appeared in the Nov. 20, 1986, Los Angeles Times. Staff writer David Haldane reported:

LONG BEACH — The promoters wanted to attract an upscale crowd.

So the snack bar, spread lavishly at one end of the humongous Spruce Goose dome, featured an array of trendy delights from Cajun chicken for $5.25 to ham croissants for $3.75. And right next to the Kirin beer were ample supplies of white wine and Scotch.

What they got at the first boxing event to hit this city in 15 years and the first ever held under the wing of the famous wooden airplane, was a decidedly mixed bag of spectators. More beer enthusiasts than wine connoisseurs, reported the waitresses who circulated while dressed in uniforms with sleek red skirts. And definitely more men than women.

Within half an hour, the price of the chicken had been slashed by a dollar. And sitting next to those wearing three-piece suits with ties were die-hard fight fans in plaid shirts and baseball caps.

Organizers said they needed to sell 1,000 tickets to break even. They sold slightly more than 600. Yet the event was a success, they said, because it hailed the coming of Yuppie boxing to Long Beach.

“Next time we’ll be turning people away at the door,” predicted Frank Berglund, an advertising executive representing Kirin Beer, which sponsored the event.

Said Joseph Prevratil, president of Wrather Port Properties Inc., which manages the Spruce Goose and Queen Mary: “It’s a good crowd.”

His company, he said, hit on the idea of boxing matches as a way to make extra money by using the Spruce Goose dome during the slow winter months when it ordinarily closes at 6 p.m. “Boxing is very much Americana,” Prevratil said, “and God knows the Spruce Goose is part of Americana. We have a facility that is unique and different, and this fits our marketing strategy of promoting more special-event type activities.”

So Wrather contracted with Don Fraser — the promoter of a wildly successful series of boxing events at the Marriott Hotel in Irvine — to do for Long Beach what he had done for Orange County. And for at least the next six months, according to Prevratil, local boxing aficionados will be able to enjoy not only their sport, but a tour of Howard Hughes’ famous airplane for a once-a-month Wednesday night admission price of $17 to $27.

“Long Beach has never been considered a red-hot boxing town,” Fraser said. “Now we are going to test it to see if (the town) can support our concept. Howard Hughes was a very mysterious guy; I think he would have liked it.” …

Boxing continued at the Spruce Goose for the next couple of years. In 1992, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum purchased the Spruce Goose and moved the aircraft to McMinnville, Ore.

For more on the Spruce Goose, check out this previous From the Archives photo gallery: The Spruce Goose is moved, then moved again.

Nov. 18, 1986: Boxer Anthony Holt in corner between third and fourth round during fight held at the Spruce Goose in Long Beach. This photo was published in the Nov. 20, 1986 Los Angeles Times.

Nov. 18, 1986: Boxer Anthony Holt rests in the corner between the third and fourth rounds during a fight at the Spruce Goose in Long Beach. Holt beat Charles Wilson of Pasadena. This photo was published in the Nov. 20, 1986, Los Angeles Times. Credit: Rick Corrales / Los Angeles Times.

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