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Countdown to auction of Philly’s Blue Horizon boxing ring, memorabilia

The boxing ring from the Blue Horizon arena on North Broad Street in Philadelphia will be auctioned off this weekend.

The platform, ropes, and canvas skin emblazoned with the Blue Horizon logo are appointments from the venue once regarded as the best in the world.

It’s not just the ring that is going on the block — there are original boxing match posters, the wooden bleacher seats, even the bell that started and stopped each round will be sold off at Material Culture, an auction house in Philadelphia’s Tioga neighborhood. Hundreds of items will be sold in 48 lots.

There is even the door signed by Joe Frazier.

“That was a door that led into the shower,” said Material Culture co-owner George Jevremovic, walking across his auction floor. “There it is. What does he say? ‘Great place. The Blue. Joe Frazier,’ and it’s dated 2003.”

Opening in 1961, the Blue Horizon became a legendary boxing venue, hosting greats like Bernard Hopkins and “Bad” Bennie Briscoe. It had 1,500 seats — none of them bad.

Vernoca Michaels bought the Blue Horizon in 1994, running it as a boxing venue and an education center until 2010. In 2003, she had the whole place renovated.

“There were no blemishes on the doors or walls,” said Michael. “I had said — very forcefully — to the boxers that I did not want anybody writing on or punching through the walls. I regarded these young men as part of my family.

“I told them, as you would tell your children, ‘This is your house. I don’t want anybody damaging anything.'”

One day her staff came into her office. “They said, ‘Joe Frazier signed your door.’ I was upset at the time.”

The auction includes a painting of an African-American boxer at rest, sitting on a stool. The painting was given to Michael who kept it hung in her office for decades.

“When I looked at it, it looked an awful lot like Dox Thrash,” said Jevremovic, referring the to early 20th century Philadelphia painter and printmaker. “It’s not. It’s signed Gwyne, dated 1951. If anyone remembers this painting and has a back story, we would appreciate it. There are no records for an artist of that name.”

Michael was known to put in 18 hour days at the Blue Horizon, promoting fights and running education programs for thousands of teenagers. When scenes from the film “Rocky V” were shot at the Blue Horizon, Michael stayed there around the clock.

Now, Michael is retired and the building is being prepared for redevelopment as a hotel and music venue.

“This took up a great deal of my life. I enjoyed it,” said Michael. “At the same time, I know as I continue to age I don’t need to hold onto these things that other people could enjoy having.”

The boxing ring will be sold in its entirety for an estimated $5,000 to $7,000, comparable to a new boxing ring without the historic provenance.

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