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Hand, Peltz move boxing business to Blue Horizon

Because of contractual issues, no more professional boxing cards will be run at the New Alhambra in South Philadelphia. The Joe Hand Boxing Gym, which also is housed in the building, shuts down Friday as part of the agreement between the principals.

Reports are that the building's owner, the Center City law firm of Stein & Silverman, will lease the property to a company that intends to convert it into a health club.

But the turn of events is not entirely bleak for local fight fans.

Promoters Joe Hand Sr. and partner J Russell Peltz will move their operation to the Blue Horizon, which will substantially increase the number of boxing events that will held in 2009 at the historic location on North Broad Street. The first Hand/Peltz promotion at the Blue is scheduled for March 6, when NABF welterweight champion Mike Jones (16-0, 14 KOs) defends his title against an opponent to be named.

The Blue Horizon's owner, Vernoca Michael, presently is running six fight cards of her own under the aegis of The Legendary Blue Horizon Boxing Promotions. With Hand, his son, Joe Hand Jr., and Peltz coming aboard for six pro shows, boxing will be held monthly there at a venue that has become synonymous with the sport since 1961. This year's Eastern Pennsylvania Golden Gloves tournament also will be staged there.

The senior Hand, who is in the process of purchasing a building in Northern Liberties that will be the new site of his boxing gym, said difficulties arose when Roger Artigiani, the person who originally sublet him the facility that was then known as Viking Hall, joined Stein & Silverman. The law firm then claimed that the sublet agreement was null and void, and for Hand and Peltz to continue to run bimonthly boxing shows there, the monthly rental would have to increase from $1,000 to $6,000.

The Hands retained a lawyer to investigate their options, but the prospect of a protracted legal battle did not appeal to the soon-to-be-former tenants.

"You don't want to be at a place where you're not wanted, anyway," Joe Hand Sr. said.

A temporary agreement for a monthly rental fee of $2,300 allows the Hands to remain in the building until Feb. 28, but with the gym shutting down this week and no more boxing cards scheduled, that merely was put into place to allow the Hands time to seek different accommodations.

Hand is excited about the impending purchase of the 5,000-square-foot building, at 543 North 3rd Street, that will be the site of his new gym.

"It's a good spot for what we have in mind," Hand said of the venue, which is located just behind Finnigan's Wake.

Fight fans, of course, need no introduction to the Blue Horizon, which The Ring magazine rates as the best place in the world to watch boxing.

Peltz ran fight cards on a regular basis at the Blue Horizon from 1969 until friction between him and Michael led him to leave when his contract expired at the end of 2001.

Peltz looked elsewhere to find a permanent home in the Philadelphia area. He staged one show at Poor Henry's Brewery in Northern Liberties in 2000, another at the Arts Palace on South Broad Street in 2002. Neither location fit his needs, until he partnered up with the Hands at the New Alhambra 5 years ago.

"It'll be a little bit strange at first," Peltz said of his return to a building where he has put on only one card, a co-promotion with California-based Don Chargin in 2004. "But as long as the fights are good, we'll be fine."

Michael, whose negotiations with the Hands primarily were with Joe Hand Sr.'s daughter, Margaret, said she also is willing to let bygones be bygones.

"I'm a businesswoman and business is business," she said. "It doesn't pay to hold a grudge against anyone."

Hand said the most difficult thing for him to accept is the inability to recover all or part of the $70,000 in improvements he paid for at the New Alhambra. But he said that, for the most part, he's pleased with the way things have shaken out.

"To stay [at the New Alhambra] and not own the building would have been foolish on my part," he said. "And, to be perfectly honest, there were problems. Every time we put on a fight card there, we had to go in early to help set up the chairs. There were always issues with setting up and breaking down the ring. We won't have some of those issues at the Blue Horizon."

Don Elbaum, who serves as Michael's matchmaker, said the two promotional companies not only won't step on each other's toes, they will serve to help one another.

"Running 12 shows a year at the Blue Horizon is not only a plus for the Blue Horizon, but for boxing and for Philadelphia," he said. "We're going to help Joe and Russell, and they're going to help us. No question." *

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