After watching boxing stage a bit of a renaissance last year, Robert Earl decided it was time for Planet Hollywood to become a player in the fight game.
Earl, the company’s founder and chief executive officer, said the property’s first boxing venture, the April 19 light heavyweight title fight between Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe, won’t be its last.
"I intend for this to be the first of many," Earl said Thursday after the two fighters completed their four-city promotional tour on the casino floor of Planet Hollywood Las Vegas. "We’re in this for the long haul."
Earl, who is from England, hopes to corner the market on fighters from the United Kingdom. He would like to bring Ricky Hatton back to the United States and said he’s looking to bring British lightweight Amir Kahn to Las Vegas this summer.
Calzaghe is the start for Earl, who denied reports he paid $11 million to land the fight away from MGM Mirage. But he refused to say how much he paid Golden Boy Promotions and Frank Warren’s Sports Network to deliver the fight to the 18,000-seat Thomas & Mack Center.
Whatever he paid, Earl said he thinks it will be a worthwhile investment, short term as well as down the road. Especially with HBO showing the fight.
"We’re using boxing to help build the Planet Hollywood brand," he said. "We’re going to get great exposure from this. … I do expect a sellout."
Earl is counting on Calzaghe’s fans to carry the day at the turnstiles. The ticket prices are high, with ringside seats going for $1,500 and the cheapest seat in the end balcony costing $250. The Thomas & Mack had nothing to do with pricing for the fight, and Earl said he set the prices after conferring with the promoters.
Earl said he thinks as many as 20,000 fans will make their way to Las Vegas from the United Kingdom to see Calzaghe. The popular Welshman is 44-0 with 32 knockouts and has had 21 successful title defenses as the WBO super middleweight champion. Now, he moves up to 175 pounds and has his eye on Hopkins’ Ring Magazine light heavyweight belt.
"He talks a good fight," Calzaghe said of the 43-year-old Hopkins, who is 48-4-1 (32 KOs) and has been talking trash since December when the two almost came to blows the day before the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Hatton world welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden. "But from what I’ve seen lately, he doesn’t fight much."
Unlike the previous promotional stops, in London, New York and Los Angeles, Hopkins on Thursday played the red, white and blue card. Before, he had berated Calzaghe and his father, Enzo, who is his manager and trainer.
He came down an escalator to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," then announced to the assembled crowd, "Come April 19, every red-blooded American will be happy because I’m gonna kick his British butt."
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 387-2913.