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April 20, 2019

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In the end, Mayweather Jr.-Pacquiao was destined for Las Vegas


Chris Farina / Top Rank

Boxers Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao face off during a news conference at Nokia Theater on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, in Los Angeles. The welterweights are scheduled to fight Saturday, May 2, at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Mayweather-Pacquiao Media Day

Boxer Manny Pacquiao shadow boxes during a commercial shoot in Los Angeles Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. are scheduled to fight Saturday, May 2 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.  ---  Chris Farina - Top Rank Launch slideshow »

LOS ANGELES — Before Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao swap leather, as they say, on May 2 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, let’s explore the other locations considered for this grand event:

There’s Las Vegas, naturally. Also, Las Vegas was seriously discussed.

And, as a dark horse … Las Vegas.

“I am always proud to fight for the great city of Las Vegas,” Mayweather, a native Las Vegan, said during Wednesday’s media event at Nokia Theater in downtown L.A. announcing the May 2 bout at MGM Grand. “MGM Grand is the best hotel on the planet.”

Mayweather remembered his first fight at Grand Garden Arena in a 1994 junior amateur tournament pitting the U.S. and Mexico.

“The first time I fought there, I was 17 years old,” Mayweather said. “I lost the fight, actually.” He was indeed outpointed by Mexico’s Martin Castillo in his MGM Grand debut, but Mayweather has since turned Grand Garden Arena into his home venue, fighting there 11 consecutive times. Pacquiao has been busy in Las Vegas, too, and his promoter is famously Las Vegan.

“Understand that I am a resident of the state of Nevada, and I live in Las Vegas," Top Rank Boxing founder and chief Bob Arum said during his turn in front of the media. “This fight is going to bring tremendous revenue, not only to the hotels and the properties, but also for the cab drivers, the bartenders, everybody in the hospitality industry. These are my neighbors.”

When Arum made those comments, I noticed his wife, Lovee, smiling as she stood near the seated media members.

“I would have been put in a terrible position to have moved, or tried to have moved, this fight out of Las Vegas,” Arum continued. “When we understood the Mayweather camp wanted the fight to be in Las Vegas, we were more than happy to go along. Really, truly, this fight belongs in Las Vegas.”

Arum went on to note the obvious: MGM Grand Arena is not terribly big for what he himself said would be “the fight of this century.”

“True, we only have a 16,000-seat arena, but there will be 30,000 closed-circuit seats. Thousands and thousands of people will be in Las Vegas just to be on the scene,” he said. “Hotel rooms are going for more than $1,000 a night. It’s a great, great bonanza for Las Vegas — probably the biggest event and the biggest night in the history of the city.”

Point here, obviously, is that Las Vegas was the first, last and only locale considered for the long-awaited Mayweather-Pacquiao mega-bout. The event will be broadcast live on HBO and Showtime pay-per-view packages, with 30,000 fans invited to watch the fights at various closed-circuit locations in Las Vegas at a reported cost of $100.

Incidentally, you can pretty much forget trying to get a ticket to Grand Garden Arena to watch the fight live. Ticket prices have been set at $1,500-$7,500, but very few — maybe less than 1,000 — will be made available to the public, who are largely priced out of the arena anyway. The rest of those seats are held for high rollers or the mega-famous, and online brokers also have reserved a significant amount of those seats.

They’ll make a killing, too. At this writing, so-called secondary-market tickets are going for $5,000 to $18,350 apiece.

The word “staggering” has been used, rightfully and repeatedly, to describe the amount of money surrounding this fight. Mayweather did not deny questions that his take on the fight would exceed nine figures, or $100 million. That’s the low end; don’t be surprised to see him take home $120 million from this fight, with Pacquiao (in a 60-40 percent split) making $60 million to $80 million. Again, that’s a conservative estimate, if that adjective can be tagged to such an event.

But many more millions would have been raked in if this fight had happened in 2009 or 2010, and back then Las Vegas was not a cinch to host the fight. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was all jacked up to stage Mayweather-Pacquiao in the earliest days of Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium), saying in March 2010 that he could fill 110,000 seats with Pacquiao-Mayweather.

A typical quote from Jones: “I wanted that fight between those two fighters worse than my next breath.” Five years ago, Arum seemed to find a kindred spirit in the master marketer who owns the Cowboys. As Arum said at the time of the Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey bout, “As far as (comparing it to) a Las Vegas fight, this is much more exciting. I live in Las Vegas, and I love Las Vegas, but fight tickets are limited by the size of the arena and generally go to high-rolling casino customers. Here, the sales pitch is for the public.

“I believe going to these large venues and moving big boxing matches around the country will certainly help in making it what it always should have been — a major sport in this country.”

But the timing for a Mayweather-Pacquiao bout in Dallas was never right — not for Jones, Arum or Pacquiao. In December 2009, Jones missed a chance to begin talks for a Mayweather-Pacquiao bout when Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, who represented Mayweather, canceled a trip to the stadium.

Instead, Jones hooked into Pacquiao for Pacquiao’s bouts with Clottey in March 2010 and Antonio Margarito in November of that year, and seemed to be in position to make a serious bid for a Mayweather-Pacquiao mega-bout until those preliminary talks unraveled as the fighters could not agree on a drug-testing policy for the bout.

Away from Las Vegas, Pacquiao relished fighting for more than 40,000 fans in his two of bouts in Dallas, and also had a blast fighting near his homeland of the Philippines, at Venetian Macau’s Cotai Arena, in his dominance of Brandon Rios in November 2013 and Chris Algieri last November.

But in losses to Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao lost bargaining leverage (and, against, Marquez, his consciousness) in negotiating a match with Mayweather. And Mayweather is driving this party bus, no doubt. He is being delivered the majority of the purse and also fighting in what is, in essence, his home arena.

As is customary, Arum, who once promoted Mayweather, took the final word on the topic.

“Would we consider moving the fight to a site outside Las Vegas?” he asked the media, and himself. “The answer is no.”

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