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Manny Pacquiao fight week means big business for struggling Las Vegas


Steve Marcus

Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao makes his way through the crowd during fighter arrivals in the lobby of the MGM Grand Tuesday, May 3, 2011. Pacquiao will defend a WBO welterweight title against Shane Mosley of Pomona, Calif. at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday.

Pacquiao Mosley Arrivals

Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao, center, waves to fans during fighter arrivals in the lobby of the MGM Grand Tuesday, May 3, 2011. Pacquiao will defend a WBO welterweight title against Shane Mosley of Pomona, Calif. at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday. Launch slideshow »

Boxing in Vegas

Sun Sports Editor Ray Brewer discusses the future of boxing in Las Vegas on KSNV, May 6, 2011.

Pacquiao vs. Mosley preview

KSNV coverage of the run-up to the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley fight Saturday at the MGM Grand, May 5, 2011.

Boxers arrive at MGM

KSNV coverage of arrival of boxers Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand, May 3, 2011.

Manny Pacquiao was in no rush. After all, Las Vegas is more than accustomed and willing to wait for boxing’s biggest star.

Already 45 minutes late Tuesday for his formal arrival at the MGM Grand for his fight Saturday night against Shane Mosley, Pacquiao patiently sat in the front of his bus as his trainers and family exited at the casino valet.

With sunglasses covering his eyes, he barely moved as he calmly took in the scene. With an estimated 3,500 fans chanting “Manny, Manny” and desperately maneuvering to get a glimpse of the welterweight fighter, he playfully broke out his trademark smile, stood up and walked down to greet his supporters.

They were taking pictures and videos with their mobile devices, holding up homemade signs of support and screaming to get his attention.

Las Vegas is more than familiar with trying to attract the popular Filipino fighter. This is his first time fighting in Southern Nevada since November 2009, with his two most recent fights at the $1.15 billion Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. He had fought six consecutive times in Las Vegas dating back to 2007.

Cowboys Stadium, which has all of the bells and whistles of a new venue, can accommodate up to 110,000 people for boxing, dwarfing the 16,800-seat layout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

But nothing beats fighting in Las Vegas, the boxing capital of the world and home to several of the sport’s most memorable fights.

“It is nice to be back here in Vegas again,” Pacquiao said. “I miss Vegas. It has been a long time.”

Pacquiao, a congressman in the Philippines who is involved in several projects outside of boxing, plans to retire at the end of 2013. That leaves about five more fights, which leads to the obvious question: Is this the last Las Vegas will see of Manny Pacquiao?

Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum, president of Southern Nevada-based Top Rank, quickly answers with a resounding “No.”

“I’m sure a good number of those fights will be in Vegas,” Arum said. “Even though there is some enticement from other places, his fans love to come to Las Vegas because there is so much to do here.”

The town desperately needs the revenue generated from the weekend.

Arum estimates a Pacquiao fight weekend brings in $200 million to $300 million to the Las Vegas economy, with hotel rooms nearly three times their normal weekend rate at MGM Grand. Rates are high at other properties, too.

More than 500 media members applied to cover the fight, coming from major markets such as New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Only 260 could get credentials. Additionally, the Nevada Taxicab Authority approved an additional 80 cabs to be on the roads this weekend.

“It will be a bonanza for everyone, not just at MGM but also at other properties,” Arum said. “From the car parkers to the cabdrivers to the people at the airport, everyone is going to have a good weekend.”

The fight sold out five weeks ago, but MGM has 30,000 seats at its various properties for a closed-circuit telecast. They also expect those to sell out.

“There is no question this is going to be one of the biggest fights of the year,” said Richard Sturm, president of Sports & Entertainment for MGM Resorts International. “An event of this magnitude creates a tremendous demand for tickets and media coverage for boxing fans worldwide. It is for this reason that this one-time event becomes far more important to both MGM Grand and Las Vegas and is evident by the fact that the MGM Grand Garden Arena sold out immediately.”

The 32-year-old Pacquiao, an eight-division champion riding a 13-match win streak dating from to 2005, is equally successful in his other ventures.

As a politician, he’s a humanitarian who has given millions to improve the way of life in the Philippines, championing efforts to upgrade education, unemployment, housing and food distribution for the poor. Arum jokingly calls Pacquiao the welfare system of the Philippines for his generosity.

“He is truly dedicated to helping poor people, not only in his country but throughout the world,” Arum said. “And, of course, he is a pretty damn good fighter.”

He also has his own Nike shoe, just released a CD single, has his own clothing line and cologne scent and appeared last week on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

“Manny has really become the face of boxing,” Arum said. “He’s an athlete followed by people everywhere of every ethnicity and gender. That is why he draws so well.”

That is why everyone wants to host a Pacquiao fight. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will surely try to lure Pacquiao for his next fight — which, if he wins Saturday, is believed to be against Juan Manuel Marquez in the fall. But Arum appears adamant in making sure Las Vegas lands more Pacquiao fights.

“My first preference is Las Vegas. I live here and I want to do my share in making the economy better,” Arum said.

Arum isn’t alone in hoping Pacquiao enjoys his stay this week. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman welcomed both fighters Wednesday before a news conference and presented each a commemorative casino chip.

“This is a great day for Las Vegas, it really is,” Goodman said. “Vegas is back as far as the fight game is concerned. It gets no better than this.

“We love to have this fight here,” he continued. “This is going to be one the great weekends in Las Vegas’ history. Las Vegas is the boxing capital of the world and this brings us back into the prominence we once had with what I feel is one of the great fights of the century.”

When it comes to Pacquiao, as witnessed by the masses of die-hard fans following his every movement this week, every fight is the fight of the century.

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