South Florida sports will never be the same now that the new Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood has opened its doors. The lavish, $250 million venue will change the way boxing fans watch fights, and the edifice is ready for its first close-up. Tonight, Warrior's Boxing Promotions presents "Hard Knocks at the Hard Rock," a seven-bout card featuring two championship matches.
The headliner has NABF heavyweight champion DaVarryl "Touch of Sleep" Williamson (20-2, 17 KOs, pictured) defending his title against former WBO heavyweight champion Ray "Merciless" Mercer (33-5-1, 25 KOs). With the retirement of Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson's defection to the K1 martial arts circuit, and the recent defeat of former champ Roy Jones Jr., the heavyweight division is begging for anyone to step up and claim the throne. "With all that has happened in the heavyweight division these last few months, it is as wide open as ever, and I believe that [I] have to be recognized as a player in the game," Williamson says. "Ray Mercer is a former world champion and is still very dangerous, but I know that I have the tools to beat him and continue my march towards a world championship." Sounds like "Touch of Sleep" is not lacking in confidence.
But Mercer will definitely have something to say about the dangers of second-guessing a 43-year-old. "Merciless" has won his last three fights and is hot on a comeback trail that he sees as taking him back to the top. "The heavyweight division is definitely weak right now, and DaVarryl Williamson is providing me with the opportunity to step right back into the top ten," Mercer says. "Williamson is going to have a lot of problems on June 8." Damn, sounds like somebody's gonna get his ass kicked. This fight is such a hot ticket that it's being broadcast nationally on ESPN2. The co-main event features cruiserweight Dale "Cowboy" Brown (30-3-1, 20 KOs) taking on former WBA cruiserweight champion Robert "Preacherman" Daniels (45-6-1, 37 KOs). Tickets range from $30 to $100. Call 954-523-3309. --Russ Evans
Mister Jones and Me
... Are goin' to the bank
Something that hasn't been accomplished since 1978 could happen again this weekend. A Pennsylvania-bred colt named Smarty Jones will run for the Triple Crown on Saturday in the Belmont Stakes. Only 11 horses have ever collected thoroughbred racing's three jewels, and only Seattle Slew in 1977 has ever accomplished the mission undefeated. Smarty has a chance to join him this weekend during horseracing's oldest continuously run race in North America, which dates back to 1867. Smarty followed up the Derby victory in Louisville with a record 11-and-a-half-length win in the Preakness three weeks ago. The Belmont track is a mile-and-a- half, 12 furlong setup, but the longer distance doesn't worry jockey Stewart Elliot. Everyone in Smarty's stable believes the horse was meant for great things. He's on such a roll that the Philadelphia 76ers borrowed one of his shoes to bring along to last week's NBA Lottery, hoping to gain the home team some good fortune. Watch and wager on the action happening in Elmont, New York, at Calder Race Course (21001 NW 27th Ave., Miami). Gates open at 11 a.m. Call 305-625-1311. -- Russ Evans
Lasso that Fish
Davie adds new meaning to the word rodeo
Usually, you think of the word rodeo and you think bulls. Guess you're not from west-obsessed Davie, where people think about rodeos all the time and sometimes associate them with the word fish. For the town's annual Take-A-Kid Fishin' Rodeo, you are encouraged to grab your favorite young angler (up to 12 years old) plus a fishing pole for him or her and come to Tree Tops Park (3900 SW 100th Ave., Davie). Kids are eligible to win prizes in categories of Longest Fish Caught, Longest Bass Caught, Most Unusual Catch, Most Fish Caught, and Sportsmanship. The event costs $7 per child and includes lunch, bait, a cap, and a goody bag. Everybody gets a container of live red worms to start, and you can buy more while supplies last or bring extras of your own. You should get to the park by 7 a.m. to register. But please, please, don't encourage the kids to try to ride the fish. That could be weird. Call 954-797-1163. --Deirdra Funcheon
Itching to get out to the beach but need a good excuse? The Florida Beach Volleyball Tour will make its lone Deerfield Beach stop of the 2004 season on June 5 and 6. The tour boasts the top male and female players from around the state. Each day, check-in begins at 7:30 a.m., with play starting at 9 a.m. Competition usually lasts until 5 p.m. Saturday's divisions include the top men's and women's groups. Sunday's play includes the lower men's and women's competition, all co-ed play, and juniors' divisions for boys and girls. Whether you're a participant or spectator, the weekend will be enjoyable. Registration costs $50 in advance, $60 on the day of the event. Fans can attend for free by pulling up a beach chair. The volleyball courts are located just north of Hillsboro Boulevard, on the east side of A1A. Call 954-316-6642. -- Russ Evans