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Local boxers look for victory, attention and revenge in Saturday's Live Casino debut event

Through a kaleidoscopic tunnel of lights and cigarette odor is a new epicenter of Mid-Atlantic boxing, Maryland Live Casino.

DeMarcus Corley — better known by his fighting name, “Chop Chop” — looks like his body is a vehicle for transporting some of the casino’s color when he appears at Friday night’s weigh-in for the Hanover facility’s debut card Saturday night.

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From head to toe, the 44-year-old boxing veteran is a visible force. He dons a black apron with his name emblazoned across the front in blood-red script. He hugs a pair of real axes to his sides. Rainbows swirl around his feet — Skechers Light-Ups. It was a lot to strip down for the weigh-in early Friday night in Hanover, but when he did, he revealed another pair of axes tattooed on his ribs.

“I'm always different. I'm ‘SKD,’ Something Kinda Different,” he said. None of it is for scare factor, he said — his opponent, the young but unbeaten Mykal Fox, should know who he is.

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But Corley (51-31-1, 28 knockouts), whose long career has included bouts with fighters such as Floyd Mayweather Jr., has a motive for Saturday’s card, which is sold out. It’s more than just winning.

Championship boxing will debut on Aug. 18 at Live! Casino & Hotel in Hanover, featuring a slew of Mid-Atlantic-based fighters.

He hopes a decisive win in the co-main welterweight event on CBS Sports Network will earn the attention he needs to attract a good promoter. He needs the money to finance an old grudge on a fight he lost 15 years ago — two fights really.

“There's a rematch I wanna do with Zab Judah,” Corley said. “He won the split decision, never gave me a rematch. It's personal.”

Judah didn’t like Corley from the start. Corley’s eccentric fashion sense rubbed Judah the wrong way; then, “Chop Chop” wore “a flashy red skirt with 6 inches of white fringe (with a jacket to match) and a green, horned dragonlike mask.”

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He was also the defending World Boxing Organization titleholder.

To Corley’s memory, Judah spouted trash talk at him at a news conference, as boxers do. When Corley shook him off, to his memory, the boxer punched him and a fight broke out. The two agreed on an official fight to settle that scuffle, which resulted in Judah claiming a split decision.

“He wouldn't give me a rematch, ’cause he knows he barely won,” Corley said.

The Live Hotel, attached to the Live Casino, is having it's grand opening, showing off its new event space, private gaming space and spa, as well as 310 upscale rooms.

As Corley stepped up to Fox, he lined up a head shorter, which elicited jeers from Fox’s crowd in the seats. But that didn’t break the 44-year-old veteran’s stony stare up at his opponent, and neither did Fox’s 17-0 record. He had something the kid didn’t have.

“A lot of experience, but most importantly, it's skills that fighters got to learn how to display in the ring,” Corley said. “It's a lot that comes with experience.”

In the red corner, Fox is a skinny bird who doesn’t meet your eyes. But despite his thin figure, he exudes power. He outweighs his opponent at 142 pounds.

“Training's been intense,” he said. “We're waking up 8, 9 in the morning. We in the gym from 9 to about 2 p.m. Cardio, hitting the bag, sparring. A lot in the day for a regular person.”

Despite being only half Corley’s age at 22 years old, Fox is, too, unfazed by the his opponent’s presence. Every man he’s sparred, Fox has been able to bring down, four on knockouts. “Chop Chop” is another man.

“And it being on TV, I'm thinking, this should give me good looks around the boxing public,” Fox said. “I win, and I look impressive doing it, it opens more doors as far as my career is going.”

The Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for legalized sports betting across the nation — an outcome long sought by Maryland’s largest casinos seeking a share of a multibillion-dollar market.

In the undercard, 28-year-old Dante “Red Comet” Cox of Elkridge is still piecing together his path to boxing stardom, which includes a match with Varon “Mighty Moe” Webb on Saturday.

“I don't know anything about this guy. ... I don't care what style he has, I don't care how he stands,” Cox said. “I don't care what strengths are. It don't matter. I'm just going to go in there and do what I been doing.”

When he picked up boxing as a 20-year-old, it initially was to try his hands and polish up for his real goal, MMA. He had done tae kwon do. He’d also tried aikido. Now, eight years down the road, his gloves are vital instruments in his daily life.

“It’s just what I do. There’s no downtime,” Cox said. “It's not like we have a time where we're training for a fight; we're always training, 24/7.”

He had also tried the Olympics, flying to Tennessee for Olympic Trials Qualifier III in 2015, but lost in the first round.

“It was an eye-opening experience because we thought ... 'Do we even belong here?' You know?” Cox said. “We only have ‘x’ amount of fights and these guys have been fighting forever, they have hundreds and hundreds of fights.

After a difficult eight months that saw him squander his first world title and face questions about his focus, Baltimore-born Gervonta Davis reclaimed boxing gold with a sensational third-round stoppage of Jesús Cuellar on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

“And we watched. And we compete. And we're just like ‘Uhhh ... we're definitely supposed to be there.’ It was definitely humbling, but at the same time, reassuring that we're definitely on the right path.”

His Olympic aspirations fizzled. He didn’t want to wait an additional four years to try his luck, especially when the process for a boxer to reach that level is filled with so much uncertainty. He turned pro in 2017 and has a 2-0 record with one knockout. Around shifts as a bartender at The Prime Rib, the casino’s bar, Cox’s world is filled with boxing, strength-and-conditioning, running and even a little CrossFit.

“I'm still beginning. This so early, this is an early stage of my career,” he said. “I'm in a point now where I've been blessed to be put in a position where, now I have eyes on me. This is my chance to show out and have everybody talking, asking who Dante Cox is. Who's the Red Comet?”

Demond Nicholson, 25, doesn’t need to explain to anyone who he is but himself. Scheduled to take part in the World Boxing Council’s U.S. super middleweight bout, the Laurel resident (18-3-1, 17 KOs) needs only to dispatch Brazilian Isaac Rodrigues (25-2, 20 KOs) to claim the title.

People around the world, including in Maryland, are participating in a program called Rock Steady Boxing designed to manage the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

“Dusty [Hernandez-]Harrison was supposed to be the main fight, but I guess he fell out and they bumped me up,” he said. “This is my hometown. My family's five minutes across the street. It's only right for me to be the main event.”

This past year has been rocky for him, though. His last fight in April resulted in his losing a TKO to Philadelphia boxer Jesse Hart.

“It's been up and down. Fighting my own demons,” he said. But I came to a conclusion with myself, and it's time to move forward.”

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Nicholson threw himself into training at the Upton Boxing Center in Baltimore to prepare. Like some of his fellow boxers, he knows nothing about Rodrigues, other than that he’s Brazilian and carrying an impressive record. But like other boxers, Nicholson isn’t worried. Like other boxers, he has bigger plans, wanting to put on a good enough show that more televised fights will come back to Baltimore.

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“Just going there, knowing that I will fight the best that I can be,” he said. “And knowing I’m the best. With that mentality, nothing will go wrong.”

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