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Cinco de Mayo weekend in Las Vegas will have plenty of parties — just no boxing

MGM lowered quarterly margin expectations after Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s six-month suspension

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Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

Boxing fans try to take photos during the weigh in for Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin’s fight Friday, September 15, 2017, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

A major boxing match on the first weekend of May has become a tradition in Las Vegas, bringing excitement to Strip’s Cinco de Mayo festivities and helping provide a notable boost to the economy.

But a scheduled bout for May 5 between middleweights Gennady Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was canceled, meaning there won’t be a marquee fight in the boxing capital of the world on arguably the sport’s most important weekend. T-Mobile Arena has no plans to fill the date, according to Scott Ghertner, executive director of public relations for MGM Resorts.

Resorts could feel the effects because fans who booked stays for the fight weekend are likely to cancel their reservations. But because of Cinco de Mayo’s popularity there is some uncertainty to what extent the fight cancelation will affect hotel occupancy and other industry performance metrics, said Jeremy Aguero, lead principal at Applied Analysis.

“We have not specifically analyzed the Canelo-Golovkin boxing match; however, our research on tourism and special events would suggest the impacts are not immaterial,” Aguero said. “Major special events tend to attract visitors who stay longer and spend more than an average Las Vegas visitor.”

On an earnings call Thursday afternoon, MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren cited the fight falling through as one reason why the company lowered its second-quarter margin expectations.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said the weekend has been such a consistently busy time to visit the city that they don’t have specific data on how a fight affects room occupancy. But their data does show that May 5 weekends are among the top draws annually, as they’ve averaged a 94.8 percent occupancy rate over the last five years.

The weekend will still have plenty of parties at multiple properties, including discounted drinks and food. And significant crowds are expected. There just won't be a boxing match to attend Saturday night or other events like the Friday weigh-in.

The Nevada Athletic Commission will miss out on a sizable payday, too. While the state gets 6 percent of the live fight gate, the commission claims 2 percent of its own. Ten Cinco de Mayo weekend boxing matches cracked the top 35 all-time grossing live gates over the last 12 years, according to the commission. Those 10 events grossed a total gate of $171.7 million.

Based off the first bout between Alvarez and Golovkin, the commission will miss out on a payday of around a $541,000 payday because of the canceled fight. Bob Bennett, executive director of the commission, said the safety of fighters trumped financial losses.

“As far as making 2 percent of the tickets, that goes right off the table,” Bennett said. "We don’t even consider that. Somebody could make the argument … what if we get both fighters to test clean come fight night … what’s the sense in having a program testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug and we don’t do anything about it?”

The super fight, a rematch of a split draw between the two fighters last September, was pulled after the Nevada Athletic Commission upheld a regulation stating any fighter ingesting any banned substance, knowingly or unknowingly, will be suspended. Alvarez tested positive for clenbuterol, an anabolic agent, on Feb. 17 and Feb. 20, blaming it on tainted meat in his native Mexico.

The commission suspended Alvarez for six months, which is half the standard suspension for a positive test because he flew to Las Vegas and fully cooperated with the investigation, Bennett said.

With the suspension prorated to the date of Alvarez’s first failed drug test on Feb. 17, the rematch with Golovkin could occur during the Mexican Independence weekend in September. Golovkin will first fight Vanes Martirosyan on May 5 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

Bruce Trampler, a Hall of Fame matchmaker for Top Rank Boxing, said the loss of the bout would not have a major impact on the overall sport of boxing.

“The holiday has traditionally featured a Mexican hero for the most part, but there is no actual magic to May 5 — or the September (17) holiday, either,” Trampler said. “Those months’ work well within boxing’s loose rhythm, coming just before and after our (Las Vegas) hot summer months, along with the end and start of school years.

“But hotels always have concerts and shows that also coincide with those Independence days. So, it would have been nice to have a fight, but no big deal.”

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