Bob Arum had some harsh words for the casinos' handling of Manny Pacquiao's fight. Is it a lover's quarrel, or could Vegas be on the outs as the fight capital of the world?
It started simply enough, as Top Rank and Golden Boy scrambled to book venues in the wake of Pacquiao/Mayweather collapsing. Arum wanted the MGM Grand for this Saturday, but was told Mayweather's camp had reserved it. Of course, Mayweather's fight with Mosley was pushed back until May, but Arum had already chosen Cowboys Stadium.
Arum was probably just venting his frustration with MGM when he went off on Vegas:
If boxing is to be big league - and it's not now - we have to put on these kinds of big events around the world," he said. "We can't be big league by putting on the same old casino fights.
"I look at these Vegas fights and I look ringside and all I see is people from Hong Kong. Nothing but guys from China. You aren't going to grow boxing's brand like that. The casinos don't give a damn about anything other than their customers, and it becomes a circus act."
Okay, a little racist, but he's got an interesting point. A big match might still be the hottest ticket on The Strip, but boxing can't continue to cater to only the high rollers and big spenders. You can cram 17,000 into the MGM, but you could get six times that many people into Cowboys Stadium (though Saturday's fight will seat only 45,000). Why? That screen, oh, that screen, says Michael Buffer.
You put 50,000 fight fans in a stadium, and maybe 25,000 don't have a good enough view of the ring to see is really getting in clean shots. But with this, you really do feel like you're part of the action."
Buffer said that fight fans still are eager to be part of major championship fights, even if just to soak up the atmosphere.
"You had fights at places like Yankee Stadium, 50, 60, 70 years ago," he said. "Thousands of people wouldn't be able to see the fighters very well at all, but there were there just to be part of the action."
Of course, Yankee Stadium is getting in on the fight action too, with Foreman/Cotto. Arum is also returning to Cowboys Stadium later this year, and promising the first fight at the new Meadowlands Stadium next spring. There's a growing sense that big stadium fights are the wave of the future.
It's always been this way, to some extent. The big bouts have always considered Las Vegas, but for the really special fights, there's a need to go one better. Consider Manila, or Zaire.
Consider an SI list of the top ten fights in history: only three were held in Vegas. In fact, two of the top five were at the Polo Grounds, and we know boxing can survive without the Polo Grounds.
Boxing and Las Vegas are forever linked, and I'm sure Arum will eagerly return to the MGM Grand when it makes financial sense for him to do so. But the fact that the biggest fighter in the world can take his business elsewhere, and the fight seems more important because of it, doesn't bode well for Vegas's monopoly on the sport.
Once upon a time, the Strip meant the biggest of the big. Through decades of attempts to make even middling fights seem big time, they became commonplace. Now the true megafights are the ones that don't need the cachet of Vegas.
Promoter Bob Arum gets in his shots ahead of Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey fight [LA Times]
Promoter's anger at MGM/Mirage could keep Manny Pacquiao out of Las Vegas [LA Times]
From the rumble seat: Michael Buffer impressed by the magnitude of it all [Las Vegas Sun]