The Legendary Blue Horizon: Philadelphia’s Mecca of Boxing
1314 N Broad Street
A dilapidated brownstone building on North Broad Street once hosted some of Philadelphia’s top boxing club shows. Before closing its doors in 2010, the Blue Horizon hosted thousands of professional boxing matches featuring local and out of town professionals, including numerous contenders and world champions. All that remains of bygone boxing glory days is a mural of beloved Philadelphia area fighters that adorns an outer wall of the building.
The building that once housed the Blue Horizon traces its roots back to three separate brownstone homes that occupied 1314-1316 North Broad Street. These homes were built in the 1860s and housed members of Philadelphia’s aristocracy. In 1912, the homes were later combined and converted into a single hall that housed the Loyal Order of Moose, a fraternal organization. Architect Carl Berger designed the building’s grand auditorium, which was completed in 1916. By the 1960s, the three-story building was in the heart of a growing African-American community in North Philadelphia and became a community center.
In 1961, the building was renamed the Blue Horizon, and hosted its first professional boxing card later that year on November 3rd. The main event featured legendary Philadelphia middleweight George Benton and Chico Corsey. Benton decisively defeated Corsey via a third round technical knockout. This show was the first of many fight cards promoted by Marty Kramer at the venue. For many years, the Blue Horizon symbolized Philadelphia boxing. The venue, which held around 1,500 people, became especially popular amongst boxing fans, because they were right on top of the action.
Two individuals who helped to make the Blue Horizon famous were International Boxing Hall of Fame promoter J. Russell Peltz and former owner Vernoca Michael. Peltz has promoted numerous boxing matches in Philadelphia for over 40 years. The first card that Peltz promoted at the Blue Horizon was on September 30, 1969. This card included a bout between Bennie Briscoe and Tito Marshall. As of 2017, Peltz Boxing Promotions still promotes boxing shows in the greater Philadelphia area. Michael and her partners purchased the Blue Horizon in 1994. She made history in 1998 when she became the first female African American boxing promoter in Pennsylvania. Michael was forced to sell the building in 2010 due to problems paying the property taxes.
A number of popular Philadelphia fighters had the opportunity to hone their skills in the Blue Horizon ring. These fighters included Harold Johnson, Len Matthews, Stanley "Kitten" Hayward, "Bad" Bennie Briscoe, "Gypsy" Joe Harris, Eugene "Cyclone" Hart, Willie "The Worm" Monroe, Matthew Saad Muhammad (Matthew Franklin), "Joltin" Jeff Chandler, Curtis Parker, "Terrible" Tim Witherspoon, Meldrick "The Kid" Taylor, Nate "Mister" Miller, Bernard "The Executioner/The Alien" Hopkins, William "The Hammer" Jones, and Ivan "Mighty" Robinson. A number of Blue Horizon fights have been televised on networks such as USA, ESPN, ABC, and CBS. The building was also used as a set for the 2015 installment of the Rocky film series, Creed.
Besides boxing, the building also hosted comedy shows, concerts and weddings. A Pennsylvania State Historical Marker was placed in front of the building on October 24, 2003. This marker explains the once elegant building’s rich social and sports history. As of 2017, the future of the Blue Horizon is uncertain. The building was originally purchased in 2010 with the intent of filling the building space with a hotel-restaurant. Plans for this hotel-restaurant fell through in recent years, as plans for the demolition of the building arose. This plan calls for the historic building to be replaced with additional parking areas. Any plan involving the demolition of this building would be devastating to not only Philadelphia’s boxing community, but would also result in the loss of a building with over 150 years of social and architectural history.