With the economy continuing to nose dive, boxing in Nevada might be looking at major changes in 2009.
Hotels are going to be more selective about the number of cards they bring to their properties, and it might force promoters to lower their expectations, not to mention their ticket prices. Ultimately, it might mean the fighters taking home less money.
Richard Sturm, the MGM’s president of entertainment and sports, said the plan is for his properties to remain in the boxing business. But he said MGM Mirage might become more discriminating as to what events are brought in.
“The economy is something we have to really be concerned about,” Sturm said. “Ticket prices are something both the promoters and the hotel have to be conscious of. If we do that, we’ll be OK.”
For the promoters, it might come down to paying the fighters less money so they can charge less for tickets, then hope the public can afford to go so they at least can break even. Saturday night’s Ricky Hatton-Paulie Malignaggi fight at the Grand Garden had a live gate of just more than $3 million. That didn’t even cover the two fighters’ purses (Hatton made $2.5 million, Malignaggi $1 million).
Richard Schaefer, chief executive officer for Golden Boy Promotions, which put on the Hatton-Malignaggi card, said changes must be made.
“Everybody is going to have to become more realistic,” Schaefer said. “Fans are losing their jobs. Money is tight. Everything has to be adjusted, from what we pay the fighters to what we charge for tickets.”
The cheapest ticket for Hatton-Malignaggi was $150. The most expensive ringside seat was $1,000. Lou DiBella, who promotes Malignaggi and didn’t have a say in the pricing of tickets, said that’s too much.
“When I saw the ticket prices for this fight, I called Richard Sturm and said, ‘You’re going to get hurt,’ ” DiBella said. “There was enough warning about the economy during the summer to make prices more reasonable. Richard (Sturm) is right. It’s on the promoters to make tickets affordable. As promoters, we can’t justify nothing more than $500 right now for a ringside seat.”
Sturm said if good fights are available at reasonable prices, fans will attend. That’s why the MGM is staying in the fight game for now.
• MOSLEY-BERTO? — The first big fight of 2009 in Las Vegas might be between welterweights Shane Mosley and Andre Berto, who would meet Jan. 24 at Mandalay Bay.
Schaefer and DiBella confirmed negotiations have been ongoing, and both said nothing has been signed. Berto probably would have to relinquish his WBC title, which he won in June, to fight Mosley.
DiBella, who promotes Berto, said his fighter is not sure he wants to do that.
“He just won the belt, and he’d like to hang onto it for a bit,” DiBella said. “We’re talking. If the money’s right, maybe.”
• DUNKIN OK — There was a scary moment before Wednesday’s final Hatton-Malignaggi news conference at the MGM Grand when fight manager Cameron Dunkin collapsed and was taken by ambulance to a hospital.
Dunkin, who has diabetes, had a low blood-sugar count that caused his distress. By Friday, he was fine and attended the weigh-in and Saturday’s card.
• DE LA HOYA-PACQUIAO UNDERCARD — Two title fights will highlight the undercard for the Dec. 6 bout between Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand.
Victor Ortiz (22-1-1, 17 knockouts) will defend his NABO junior welterweight belt against Jeffrey Resto (22-2, 13 KOs), and Juan Manuel Lopez (23-0, 21 KOs) will put his WBO junior featherweight crown on the line against Rocky Medina (33-1, 18 KOs).
Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.