Saturday, April 18, 2015 | 2 a.m.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. was walking through the retail shops at the Bellagio when a piece of jewelry caught the fighter’s eyes.
The bling, a Rolex watch with green emeralds on the face he says was valued at $400,000, would soon be on his wrist.
But “Money” Mayweather didn’t have to dip into the millions he’s made as the world’s best-paid athlete to make the purchase. Being boxing’s biggest draw has its advantages.
Officials at Bellagio, an MGM Resorts International property, gifted him the item —he says just seven were made — to show their appreciation for years of a win-win relationship.
Mayweather sells out the MGM Grand Garden twice annually and other MGM properties on the Las Vegas Strip burst at the seams with patrons hoping to be part of the fight weekend. The economic impact is easily north of eight figures, if not more.
The Las Vegas resident Mayweather fights Manny Pacquiao May 2 at the MGM Grand in the fight of the century, never wavering in his loyalty during negotiations for a fight literally five years in the making. Tickets, if they ever go on sale, will be impossible to come by for a fight that will easily shatter gate and pay-per-view records.
When it was suggested to bring the fight to much-larger AT&T Stadium in the Dallas area, Barclays Center in New York and even the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Mayweather wouldn’t budge: The Grand Garden Arena is his home. The other venues, such as the 80,000-seat facility near Dallas, would have netted a bigger payday.
Jeter’s home was Yankee Stadium and Kobe plays at Staples Center. Mayweather is no different.
“I tell my driver to take me down the street (to the MGM),” Mayweather said.
The loyalty between fighter, city and property can’t be underestimated. Locals — those waitresses, bartenders, table game dealers, cabbies and adult entertainers — will see a healthy spike in their income in two weeks because of the Mayweather-MGM relationship. Regardless your opinion on Mayweather — you are either part of the Money Team, or despise Mayweather because of his legal troubles and cockiness — you have to appreciate Mayweather the entertainer and what he brings to our city on fight weekend. There’s a certain buzz on the Strip where most want to be part of the action.
But is Mayweather’s loyalty enough to extend his career for MGM?
After Pacquiao, Mayweather has just one fight remaining on a six-fight contract with Showtime. The 38-year-old plans to retire after fulfilling his part of the deal, reaffirming this week his final fight would be in September. There’s just one problem: The MGM/AEG arena project behind New York-New York isn’t scheduled to be completed until April 2016.
The only way for fighting to make its debut at the $375 million venue, one with all the bells and whistles of a modern facility that will likely host Las Vegas’ first professional sports team, would be with a Mayweather fight. Quick, name another fighter that would fill the near 20,000-seat arena? Exactly, he’s the only one. Tickets would sell out within hours of being released.
“If it’s open in September,” Mayweather said of booking his final fight there.
I just don’t believe what he’s saying.
Mayweather smiled when asked about the new arena to show the thought of being the first to fight there is attractive. And fighters notoriously come out of retirement more than any other sport, including Mayweather a few years ago. So maybe, just maybe, we’ll get a few more of those nights where everyone flocks to the Strip for this generation’s greatest boxer.
It might take some more bling from MGM to flip Mayweather’s decision, or a Pacquiao win May 2 to bring a rematch in September, and then the third fight in May 2016 at the new arena.