Two world title fights will be held tonight at the MGM Grand’s Marquee Ballroom, headlined by Toshiaki Nishioka defending his WBC super bantamweight belt against Rafael Marquez.
But from Bob Arum’s perspective, that’s not the story.
The Top Rank chairman sees tonight as an opportunity for the Las Vegas economy to get a much-needed boost. According to Arum, approximately 100 Japanese high rollers are in town for the fights and prepared to gamble millions this weekend.
“That’s the kind of thing we need for the economy,” Arum said. “A lot of these guys have million-dollar lines of credit, and the MGM’s potentially going to have a big weekend.”
An MGM spokesman confirmed that a higher number of big players are expected on property this weekend, though he couldn’t say exactly how many.
The MGM Grand Garden is not available because of the NHL preseason game between the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche. Instead, the Marquee Ballroom, which will seat 3,000, will be used.
“Will we do thousands at the gate? Of course not,” Arum said. “But we’ll get a decent crowd.”
The card is part of the 20th anniversary celebration of WOWOW, Japan’s largest cable network. Arum said WOWOW wanted to do something big and, if it was going to do a boxing card, it wanted it in Las Vegas.
“The Japanese network could have done it at home, but they wanted it to be special, so they came to Las Vegas,” Arum said. “Las Vegas is still in the gaming business and has to have events that attract high rollers. Nishioka won’t attract many Vegas fans, but he’s bringing hundreds of affluent Japanese fans.”
Nishioka (38-4-3, 24 knockouts) has held the title since January 2009, and the 35-year-old will be making his sixth title defense. Marquez (40-6, 36 KOs) is a former WBC super bantamweight champ, having won the belt in 2007.
The other title fight has Roman Gonzalez (29-0, 24 KOs) defending his WBA junior flyweight belt against Omar Soto (22-8-1, 15 KOs). Gonzalez, who won the belt in March with a 12-round unanimous decision over Manuel Vargas, will be making his second title defense. He stopped Omar Salado in the seventh round July 16 in Cancun, Mexico.
Arum also is attempting to lure local fight fans to the MGM tonight. He has undefeated local super bantamweight Jesse Magdaleno and Las Vegas super lightweight Anthony Lenk on the card. Magdaleno (5-0, three KOs) will face Isaac Hidalgo (8-7-2, one KO) in a six-round bout. Lenk (12-1, six KOs) will fight Winston Mathis (7-4, two KOs) in a six-round bout.
The first bell is scheduled for 4:15 p.m.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.