Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Steps Into Ring of Big-Time Boxing

The conference hall was far from full and the show had not yet begun, but already the horde of Moscow sportswriters could tell something new was taking place in the capital.

In the foyer outside the hall, men in sharkskin suits, black silk shirts and sunglasses stood in bunches, pumping handshakes and small-talking in English and Spanish. In another corner, a pair of stout bankers with fat gold rings and wide ties - the money men - sat motionless in soft chairs with their hands folded on their laps.

And all around, big men wearing nasty expressions and $400 sweat suits drifted back and forth, trying not to notice the stares their facial scars and callused hands were attracting.

Big-time boxing had finally come to Moscow.

Friday night's title fight between International Boxing Federation cruiserweight champion Alfred Cole of the United States and ex-champion Glenn McCrory of England is the first big-time Western boxing match in the country.

This is not a hyped-up exhibition between two no-names; it's the real thing, a fight where ringside seats cost $500, where the fighters get six-figure purses, and where the hall will be packed with powerful men in suits and tuxedos who will have come just to be seen.

At the press conference on Wednesday, the fighters expressed differing feelings about being the first big names to fight in Russia.

"Obviously, it's exciting", said McCrory. "To be part of something from the very beginning is fantastic. There's no reason why Moscow can't be a major venue".

Cole, for his part, seemed more or less indifferent to the venue. Rather than talk about the impression Moscow and Russia had made on him, he preferred to make an impression on Moscow with his reserved, menacing manner of speaking.

He seemed to find being in Russia entertaining, smiling as he fumbled with the translation earphones while Russian journalists bombarded him with questions the likes of which he most likely never heard before.

"Is the gold in the champion's belt real, and do you get to keep it even if you lose? " he was asked at one point.

Cole laughed, but in the end he didn't get to answer that one; the event's Russian organizers fielded it for him (the gold isn't real).

Cole, a tall (1. 93 meter), powerful brawler from the New York suburb of Yonkers, is the person who more than anyone else gives legitimacy to the event.

He brings a 22-0 record into the fight and is generally recognized as the top fighter in the world in the 195-pound class. and with his height and speed, he is a likely candidate to someday move up a class and make noise in the heavyweight division - much like the last dominant cruiserweight, Evander Holyfield.

McCrory is a former champion who is making a comeback after an unsuccessful foray into the heavyweight class.

In recent years, he is probably best known for having been knocked out by the current WBC heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis, and for being a sparring partner for former champion Mike Tyson.

But in the 195-pound division, McCrory has been an effective fighter. Like Cole, McCrory is tall and likes to mix it up early, and his combination of reach and power makes him a tough matchup for cruiserweights.

Tickets, which range in price from 5, 000 to 500, 000 rubles, will be on sale at the Metellitsa Casino and at other casinos and ticket offices around town.

The fight is scheduled to start at the CSKA sports palace at 1 A. M. , decidedly not a viewer-friendly hour for Muscovites, who can watch on Channel 4 starting at 11 P. M. with preliminary bouts.

But that, like many other aspects big-time boxing, has little to do with Moscow. The starting time has been set to accommodate European television viewers who can watch during prime time.