Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has a net worth of $4.2 billion, is fairly accustomed to getting whatever he wants. In November, he wanted the fight of the millennium: undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. against fellow boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao. Mr. Jones would have staged the megafight at his glitzy palace, the 100,000-seat AT&T Stadium, arguing that he could produce the largest gate in boxing history.
But that offer lacked something important, something he couldn’t provide: Las Vegas.
So now we’re one day away from the long-anticipated Mayweather-Pacquiao bout, and of course it’s here. The two wildly popular boxers will square off Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden.
Las Vegas is the only place that can provide the buzz required for an event of this magnitude, and the only place that can attract and accommodate hundreds of thousands of visitors for a fight weekend.
For an event this big, yes, you could sell more tickets in Dallas. But where would all those fans go to bet on the fight? Where would all those fans go to party, eat, drink and be entertained before and after the fight? This is what Las Vegas was built to handle, and Mr. Mayweather, of all people, knows it. In each of the past three years and four of the past five years, he has fought at the MGM on the first weekend of May — which happens to coincide with the Kentucky Derby, another big draw for the sports books, and Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
Last May, Mr. Mayweather held off Marcos Maidana on a majority decision at a sold-out MGM Grand Garden. Room occupancy in Las Vegas that weekend was 97.3 percent, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. No disrespect to the capable Mr. Maidana, but this weekend’s fight is bigger by several orders of magnitude. ESPN’s “SportsCenter” has been airing live from Las Vegas all week. The fight is sold out, despite ticket prices ranging from $1,500 to $7,500 (and far more than that on the secondary market). The Review-Journal’s Steve Carp reported the bout is expected to generate a record live gate of more than $70 million, 3½ times the previous record of $20.03 million set Sept. 14, 2013, when Mr. Mayweather fought Canelo Alvarez at the Grand Garden.
While the LVCVA cannot project visitation or the economic impact for the weekend — the megafight is a one-property event, as opposed to Super Bowl weekend or a major convention with attendees staying all along the Strip — officials are bracing for a big number. Along with the fight and the Derby, Sam Boyd Stadium will be close to a sellout for the Supercross season finale. “All indicators point to this being huge. We just don’t know how huge,” LVCVA spokeswoman Heidi Hayes said. Indeed, the fight’s closed-circuit feed — restricted to 10 MGM Resorts International properties — offered approximately 50,000 more tickets at $150 apiece, and Mr. Carp noted those sold out as well.
Even today’s weigh-in at the Grand Garden is sold out — 12,000 seats at $10 a seat, with all the funds donated to the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. When you can sell out two guys standing on a scale in their underwear, you know it’s a huge event.
Did we note that the fight is expected to draw record-setting betting?
All this goes to show that as long as there is star power, boxing isn’t dead. Yes, the sport has lost a lot of its glamor over the past two decades. There are fewer legitimate boxing superstars, and mixed martial arts, especially the Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship, has more than filled that void.
But Saturday’s event proves that nothing beats a fight night in Las Vegas. Dallas, and anywhere else, can’t deliver the same punch.