One-Two Punch: Reba McEntire is excited about Fight Night’s new charge

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Celebrity Fight Night has witnessed a changing of the guard, merging with Gateway for Cancer Research.

This one-two punch has the approval of longtime emcee/country star Reba McEntire.

“We’re really excited,” she says. “They’re really creative and innovative. They come with lots of excitement and enthusiasm.”

Celebrity Fight Night is set for 5 p.m. Saturday, March 12, at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in North Phoenix. More details are set to be announced soon, but the entertainment is scheduled to include David Foster and his wife, “American Idol” veteran Katharine McPhee Foster.

“It’s really a fun event,” says McEntire, who adds that her boyfriend, Rex Linn, is looking forward to his first time there.

“It’s fun to see who shows up. I’ve met so many wonderful people there, from Shaquille O’Neal to Kevin Costner. I think that’s where I met Kristin Chenoweth.

“I met Chris Rock, Sinbad, Whitney Houston. There’s a great photo I have hanging on my wall of me with Whitney, myself, Faith Hill and Muhammad Ali at the Friday night founders’ dinner. It was a dream come true.”

The event was founded by Jimmy Walker for a variety of causes but primarily to benefit the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute.

The merger put Gateway’s chairman and vice chair, Drs. Richard J. and Stacie J. Stephenson, respectively, at the helm of Celebrity Fight Night, which raised more than $90 million in charitable funding in 27 years. Walker is putting his charitable efforts elsewhere.

“I love an organization that can attract people year after year — the same people — like (Arizona Wildcats basketball) coach Lute Olson was there religiously until he passed.

“It’s that camaraderie that makes you want to be a part of it. It’s a huge force, raising money to help not only find a cure for Parkison’s, but now we’re going with cancer.

“It’s like throwing a pebble in the pond and seeing the ripple effect. They help so many people.”

These days, McEntire is spending her weekends — Thursdays to Saturdays — on tour. She’ll take a break from the multiple costume changes, bone-chilling cold and the hit songs to helm Celebrity Fight Night.

“The people in Phoenix work so hard, like Jimmy Walker. To pass the torch to the Stephensons, it’s going to be another chapter with new blood and new ideas coming in. I’m so excited to see what’s next.” 


Celebrity Fight Night

WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday, March 12

WHERE: JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, 5350 E. Marriott Drive, Phoenix

COST: Seats start at $1,500


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