Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009 | 2 a.m.
If You Go
- What: Autograph and photo session with the boxers fighting on the Friday card at the Plaza, including B.J. Flores and Elvin Ayala in the main event
- When: 6 to 8 p.m. today
- Where: The First Street stage area, Fremont Street, downtown Las Vegas
In an event that’s being hyped — accurately — as the first “megafight” of the year, Antonio Margarito puts his welterweight world title belt on the line against former world champ Shane Mosley next Saturday in Los Angeles.
Margarito enters the fight coming off one of boxing’s most memorable performances of 2008, an 11th-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Mosley, a future hall of famer who has won world championships in three weight divisions, insists his primary concern is combating his own overconfidence despite coming into the bout as a 4-1 betting underdog.
It’s a compelling match by any standard. Yet two aspects of the promotion are drawing enough attention to rival the ample star power of the headlining fighters: the ticket prices and the TV broadcast.
In an appeal to value-seeking fans in a time of economic uncertainty, promoters are offering tickets for upper-concourse seats at the Staples Center for $25 (prices for seats elsewhere in the arena top out at $300), about as low it gets for a major world title fight.
And in an era marked by mediocre boxing matches available only via pay-per-view, Margarito-Mosley will appear on HBO World Championship Boxing — aka “regular” HBO rather than the network’s pay-per-view arm.
Bob Arum of Top Rank Inc., Margarito’s promoter, put a decidedly optimistic spin on the developments. He characterized the moves as signs of tough times, with fans unwilling or unable to afford inflated ticket prices or pay-per-view charges.
“We’ve opened the (Staples Center) balcony and those tickets will probably be sold out by the end of the week or the beginning of next week,” Arum said. “Essentially this fight is a huge, huge box office success and it demonstrates how vital and alive boxing is if you give the public the right kind of matches at the right prices.
“This championship match is something that has piqued everyone’s imagination. The celebrity turnout is going to be enormous being as it’s L.A. Everyone is excited, including myself, and I think it’s a tribute to the champion, Antonio Margarito, coming off this great victory against Miguel Cotto, that he has cemented his status as a big box office attraction.”
The purse for the fight wasn’t immediately available, but in today’s market, fighters generally are looking at earning less.
The night before the big fight in L.A., incidentally, a card at the Plaza in downtown Las Vegas also features fan-friendly ticket prices starting at $24.50 (and topping out at $99.50). The show, with cruiserweight contenders B.J. Flores and Elvin Ayala scheduled to clash in the main event, takes place on a smaller stage, of course. Yet like Arum, Tony Bender, vice president of marketing for the Plaza, said he considers affordability a major selling point of the fight card.
Although early, unofficial speculation within boxing had Mosley-Margarito taking place on the Las Vegas Strip, it’s arguably the quintessential modern-day L.A. fight.
Margarito, a native of Torrance, Calif., grew up in Tijuana, Mexico, and claims a substantial fan base in the Los Angeles area.
Mosley, a celebrated Southern California favorite son, outpointed Oscar De La Hoya at the Staples Center in 2000 in perhaps the most pivotal fight of his career.
In fact, Mosley said his background fighting in the state could make the difference next Saturday.
“Cotto was not familiar with what Margarito brought to the table,” Mosley said. “I’m familiar with it because I’ve been brought up in California and I fought a lot of Mexican fighters and I know that type of style. I know how to pace myself, how to win rounds.
“I’m basically a California fighter myself, so I know how to go to the body as well. If Margarito is banging the body, I’m going to be banging the body. I don’t just box. I can fight as well.”
Even with his newfound status as a superstar in the sport, Margarito expressed a desire to return to his roots.
“If there’s an opportunity to fight in Mexico it would be great,” he said. “I would love to fight in Tijuana. I haven’t fought in Mexico in a long, long time.”
Presumably such a fight would essentially serve as a treat for his longtime supporters and occur on a smaller scale — not unlike the card at the Plaza, scheduled for a ballroom with a capacity of 1,571.
Back to basics. More intimate venues. Cable TV rather than pay-per-view. They’re signs of the times in boxing, at every level.