What seemed to be a regular night of fights at the Blue Horizon in June of 2010 took an ugly turn.
“The state police came in and said, “This place is being shut down, you are done at 10 p.m.,’” long-time cut man Joey Intrieri said. “There were still like two more fights to go and they were coming out and were like ‘Nope, that fight is not happening.’”
The Blue Horizon opened for the first time on Nov. 3 in 1961. Boxing legends like Bennie Briscoe, “Sugar” Ray Leonard and Arturo Gatti were common-place fighters there.
The gym was where local fighters made a name for themselves and older fighters ended their careers. Philadelphia’s Eddie Chambers fought at the Blue Horizon many times between 2002 and 2006 before becoming a top heavyweight contender.
Reportedly, the space closed due to tax problems.
“[There were] a lot of mistakes that were made, a lot of bills that were not paid,” Intrieri said.
When he was eight years old, Intrieri began attending fights at the legendary gym.
“Everybody would want to get the best seat and those were in the balcony, right at the row,” Intrieri said. “My father would send me, my brother and my cousin; we run right upstairs and get the same seats every time.”
Intrieri said that as a child he knew he wanted to fight there one day.
“When I finally turned pro I was offered to fight at Madison Square Garden and I turned it down because I had a chance to fight at the Blue Horizon,” he said. “It was like the Holy Grail to me.”
It is not just a personal obsession, but an Intrieri family affair.
“Every year at Christmas time, my two sons who were little at the time would fight each other; we called it the brotherly slug,” Intrieri said. “I would referee and my daughter who was maybe only a couple of years old would be the ring card girl.”
Philadelphia boxing fan John DiSanto said that the Blue Horizon offered an experience fans couldn’t get everywhere else.
“The balconies of the Blue Horizon on the side are basically on top of the ring,” DiSanto said. “It was a really special place.”
DiSanto said he last visited the Blue Horizon this past summer.
“I was walking downstairs into pitch black,” DiSanto said “It’s like a boxing haunted house now.”
DiSanto added the only way he could see anything was with a flashlight. He confessed he has heard many different plans for the future of the building, but there is not much to look forward to.
“They have a historical marker out front, but that does not save the building,” DiSanto said. “Its days as a boxing venue are over.”
DiSanto said people fell in love with the Blue Horizon when it was broadcasted on USA network.
“At that time, the old fight clubs were pretty much gone,” DiSanto said. “It was pretty much the last one at that time and the Blue Horizon itself became a star attraction.”
During the 1980s, a promoter and Temple alumnus J. Russel Peltz helped produce the Blue Horizon broadcasts.
At 22 years old, Peltz quit his job at the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin sports desk to pursue his dream of being a fight promoter.
In June of 1986, the Blue Horizon aired on USA network for the first time. During the time Peltz was promoting shows, attendance was at a record high. Peltz said in 1991 they had over 2,000 people inside but said a lot has changed since then.
“We were selling out on a consistent basis in the 90s regardless of who was fighting,” Peltz said. “I never thought that would happen. The Blue Horizon has not been the same since I left there in 2001.”
Although the ring will never have a boxing show again, memories remain with the people who fell in love with it.
“I have been around the world,” Intrieri said. “I have not been to a place that has been as intimate and as great as a place to see a fight.”
Connor Northrup can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org