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November 29, 2014

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On fight night, singer Amanda Avila also comes away with a split decision

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Sam Morris

Amanda Avila sings the national anthem before the Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Erislandy Lara super-welterweight fight Saturday, July 12, 2014, at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mexican national team goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa is at left, and boxing legend and promoter Oscar De La Hoya is next to him.

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Amanda Avila sings the national anthem before the Saul "Canelo" Alvarez vs. Erislandy Lara super-welterweight fight Saturday, July 12, 2014, at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Amanda Avila in the Lounge at Excalibur

Amanda Avila performs with Venus Rising on Saturday, July 12, 2014, in the Lounge at Excalibur. Launch slideshow »
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NFL legend Terry Bradshaw rehearses for his stage show at SIR Studios on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. Bradshaw will star in "A Life In Four Quarters" at The Mirage. With Bradshaw, from left, are Amanda Avila, Maren Wade, Sarah Jessica Rhodes and Lily Arce.

Amanda Avila likens the experience to climbing into a roller-coaster.

“You know it’s going to be fun and scary, all at the same time,” she says. “There’s so much energy. It’s amazing.”

Avila gained national fame in the spring of 2005 as a Season 4 finalist on “American Idol,” reaching the Round of 16 among tens of thousands of singers who auditioned nationwide.

On Saturday night, she again reached a national (pay-per-view) audience — and 16,000 fight fans at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Avila sang the national anthem before the Saul “Canelo” Alvarez-Erislandy Lara super-welterweight bout.

Canelo wasn’t the only ring inhabitant to come away with a split decision that night. Avila bolted from the fight to another gig: Singing with the Las Vegas cover band Venus Rising at the Lounge at Excalibur.

Thus, Avila sang for 2 1/2 minutes for maybe half a million people on TV and several thousand at Grand Garden Arena. Then she sang for four hours for maybe 50 people at the ExCal.

If that’s a rollercoaster ride, it’s one to be enjoyed only by a Las Vegas entertainer.

“I was so excited, and when you’re standing in the ring, you look around and see all the celebrities. Oscar De La Hoya is in the ring, you know?” Avila says. “When you’re up there, you have no time to be nervous. There is so much going on.”

Avila is among many talented singers pulled from Las Vegas stages to perform the anthem. She wasn’t even the only Las Vegas singer to appear at MGM Grand during the fight. “Fantasy” vocalist Jaime Lynch was one of the ring girls. And to show the interlocking qualities of Las Vegas entertainment, Avila is a sub in “Fantasy.”

It’s all so symbiotic.

Avila also is a member of the band Fairchild, which plays Fremont Street Experience on Mondays from 8 to 11 p.m. She swings in “Fantasy” as needed and appears Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Don’t Tell Mama piano bar on Fremont Street (often joined by Savannah Smith of BBR, another singer popular all around VegasVille).

Avila also is a vocalist in Terry Bradshaw’s touring one-man show (joined by Sarah Jessica Rhodes; Nicole Kaplan Fenton, who happens to be the wife of “Jersey Boys” cast member Graham Fenton; and budding Las Vegas Weekly columnist Maren Wade).

But even in Avila’s busy schedule, performing in such contrasting forums as the Grand Garden and the Lounge at ExCal on a single night is rare. It is atypical for any performer to appear at an arena and a lounge about an hour apart, actually. Her Excalibur appearance was for four nights and likely to be her only gig with Venus Rising, subbing for the band’s regular singer, Sheena Bratt.

“It’s a part of Vegas, when you are trying to be a professional singer, to be in the lounge,” Avila says. “They might not be as glamorous as the MGM, but they keep singers and musicians working. The lounges are a staple here, and you never know who will be in the crowd at a lounge show.”

On Saturday, Avila’s mother, Debbie, was in the crowd. So was Wade, and fight officials Robert Hoyle and Max DeLuca hustled over from MGM Grand to catch part of the show.

It was a memorable night in myriad ways.

“When I got to the part that is higher, the rockets red glaaaaare, I could hear the crowd cheer,” she says. “That was really exciting.”

As exciting as reaching the apex of a thrill ride that runs only on the Strip.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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