You know how it is in Las Vegas. One moment you’re bickering with an Oscar-winning actor over ringside seats to a title fight. The next, you’re grooving in an uber-VIP party where Paul Anka is singing “Diana” with a mariachi band.
And at some point, challenging the actor to a $1 million boxing match seems a good idea, so you do that, too.
That is the story, or the brunt of it, from high roller and self-styled philanthropist R.J. “Robin Hood 702” Cipriani. The high-stakes professional gambler estimates he’s given away “way over” $1 million to needy families in his 40-plus years playing in Vegas.
But Robin Hood 702 was not about to give away his seats to Denzel Washington just before Saturday night’s Canelo Alvarez-Gennady “GGG” Golovkin bout at T-Mobile Arena.
Cipriani held a pair of tickets close enough to the ring that anyone occupying them would likely be seen on the HBO pay-per-view broadcast of the bout. He received a pair for he and his actress/singer wife, Greice Santo.
But, as Cipriani said Tuesday afternoon, when he arrived at those seats he found Washington seated in an area where such stars as Will Smith, LeBron James, Dave Chappelle and Norm Nixon were in the also in the neighborhood. (The first version of this saga, which did not name Robin Hood 702, appeared in New York Post’s Page Six)
“I said to Denzel, ‘I have some bad news, but you are in my seat,’ ” Cipriani said. “He says back to me, ‘I don’t think so, let’s take a look, maybe you need glasses.’” The back-and-forth escalated, with Cipriani, a brazen, tough-talking individual originally from Philadelphia, telling Washington, “This is no movie. There is no stuntman here.”
Finally, an associate of Washington’s broke in and said, “He’s right. We gotta go.”
“I’ll tell you, everyone was cheering,” Cipriani said. He added, “If Denzel Washington wants to settle this in the ring for $1 million, I’m in. Let’s put the gloves on. If he wants headgear, we’ll use headgear.”
Careful. Washington did portray boxer Hurricane Carter in “Hurricane” …
Calls and e-mails to the actor’s public-relations representatives to talk of the incident have not been returned. Page Six quotes an unidentified Washington rep as saying of the dispute, “I don’t know a thing about it.”
Two figures who saw it all happen were Mexican business tycoons Carlos Bremer and Carlos Slim. The two multi-billionaires invited Cipriani and Santo to the VIP after-party they were hosting at the Mansion at MGM Grand.
“They were so warm and gracious to me, and I was a total stranger to them,” Cipriani said. “Donald Trump wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, but these rich and powerful Mexicans showed more hospitality than 95-percent of VIP parties I’ve been to.”
Canelo himself showed up, shaking hands chatting up the well-heeled crowd.
Anka, a bonafide entertainment legend, was brought to the stage by a crack mariachi ensemble. He soared through such classics as “My Way” and “Diana.”
Cipriani was more excited about the event — the entertainment, the food and the revelry — than any dispute he’d had with Washington.
“Denzel was one thing,” Robin Hood 702 said, “but the invite to the party and the party itself is the amazing part of this story.”