Venue: The Arena  

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On February 14, 1920, George Pawling opened the spacious PHILADELPHIA ICE PALACE at 45th & Market Streets (4530 Market Street) in West Philadelphia to serve the City as its major Entertainment and Sports Center. Pawling planned on his building being the top boxing venue with a seating capacity of 8,500 and held his first boxing show on May 19, 1920.


After running three successful cards and closing for the summer, they reopened on September 8, 1920 featuring Harry Wills vs. Sam McVey which was halted in the 6th round with the referee disqualifying both contestants for not trying. As a result, matchmaker Jack Hanlon was fired. After fulfilling their signed contract for the following week, Pawling closed down his boxing operation until that department was "restructured."  

Pawling re-opened for boxing a year later on October 6, 1921 and ran until November 17, 1922, when a new group of investors headed by Jules Mastbaum took over and renamed the building The PHILADELPHIA ARENA. The Arena would become Philadelphia's major  boxing venue for most of the next 60 years (with more than 600 total fight cards), yielding only to the outdoor ballparks in the summer and Convention Hall, opened in 1932, in order to facilitate projected bigger crowds for important title bouts or major matches.  

After a record breaking season in 1930, the Depression really cut into activity and profits at the Arena, until World War II broke out and war workers earning good wages, made watching the fights at the Arena, under the direction of Herman Taylor, and the other local clubs (including Convention Hall) a weekly staple and successful enterprise until the Network TV era of the 1950's. The Arena continued to host world class shows, but began to lose ground to the Spectrum in the 1960s and 1970s.   

Huge local heavyweight George Godfrey was probably the biggest box-office attraction in Arena boxing history, with Benny Bass, Tommy Loughran, Bob Montgomery, Ike Williams, Sugar Ray Robinson, Gil Turner, Gypsy Joe Harris, and a few others also being great drawing cards.  

On August 24, 1983, now renamed the Martin Luther King Jr. Arena, the building was destroyed by arson and eventually demolished. Some outdoor arenas may have held the biggest of the big boxing events throughout Philly boxing history, but the Arena is probably the venue that consistently the most most important venue of them all. 

The Arena
(aka: Ice Palace,
Philadelphia Ice Palace and Auditorium, Martin Luther King Arena)
Indoor Arena / 8,500 Capacity
West Philly - 45th & Market

Main Event List -
1920s, 1930s, 1940s
1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s

Poster Gallery
Program Gallery
Photo Gallery


   1920 - Opened as The Ice Palace
   1920 - First Boxing Show - May 19
   1921 - Renamed The Arena
   1944 - xMontgomery - Williams I
   1946 - xMontgomery - Mouzon II
   1954 - xSaxton - Gavilan
   1959 - xCharley Scott - Sugar Hart
   1960 - xNBA All Star Game
   1962 - xGairdello - Hank II
   1962 - xBenton - Giardello
   1963 - xGiardello - Robinson
   1964 - xGiardello - Carter
   1965 - xJoe Frazier's pro debut
   1992 - xLast boxing card - Jan. 18
   1983 - Venue destroyed by arson