Megafight dealt major local blow

Forget about not hosting Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito in Las Vegas.

What could this mean for Pacquiao against Floyd Mayweather Jr. fighting here?

One local boxing expert posed that question when news came Friday that Top Rank and Bob Arum had decided to take the organization’s ball and go home, or at least in the direction of that small nation called Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

It’s a big-picture view, one that should cause many here worry.

Think about it: Eight days ago, Arum said he didn’t know how the Nevada Athletic Commission could turn down the opportunity to bring millions of dollars in revenue to Las Vegas by not awarding Margarito a one-fight license to oppose Pacquiao on Nov. 13 at the MGM Grand Garden.

Now, Arum is saying there is no time to await a decision by the NAC and properly market a fight between the pound-for-pound king and a proven cheater who in January 2009 was caught with a hardened substance in his hand wraps before fighting Shane Mosley in Los Angeles.

I’m not buying the timeline part.

Ninety days. It’s how much a promoter usually prefers to build and execute a marketing campaign for a big fight. It can be done in 75. When a popular fighter such as Pacquiao is involved, maybe less. It doesn’t matter that Margarito hasn’t been relevant for some time.

It’s Manny fricking Pacquiao.

Margarito goes in front of the California Athletic Commission on Aug. 18 in a state where he was suspended for a year following PlasterGate. His case for a license here could have been heard soon after, certainly in time for Top Rank to properly market a Nov. 13 fight. There is precedent for such a quick hearing (see Mike Tyson post-bite fight).

Translation: Top Rank could have waited and been fine. If it really cared about the economic impact Pacquiao-Margarito would have on Las Vegas, it could have taken a deep breath and played the hand out and probably received the desired result.

Margarito would have been licensed here. There is no side to what happened in Los Angeles where he doesn’t resemble a fraud — he either knew about the attempt to cheat or didn’t, the latter being worse — but he served his time.

If Pacquiao-Margarito lands in Texas and the fight draws in the 60,000 range or more (they certainly will give away enough tickets to try to assure such a gathering), what do you think a venue that can fit 110,000 might draw for one of the biggest fights in history between Pacquiao and Mayweather?

And how bad could that be for Las Vegas?

Answer: Really bad.

If you believe Arum, such a fight was close to happening in November. If you believe Team Mayweather spokesman Leonard Ellerbe, never once did negotiations begin. If you believe Oscar De La Hoya, well, no one believes that guy because he essentially admitted to lying about how far along talks were.

That fight, though, needs to be in Las Vegas.

But so did Pacquiao-Margarito.

Jerry Jones isn’t a gazillionaire because he makes bad business decisions, and the Dallas Cowboys owner, should he secure Pacquiao-Margarito and draw the sort of massive crowd such a fight could bring, would own some serious leverage if Pacquiao-Mayweather happens.

This isn’t just on Arum. The NAC in July tabled making a decision on Margarito’s license by a 4-1 vote, telling the fighter to first handle his business in California before a final decision could be made here.

But the suspension had been served, so even if the NAC wanted to honor another commission’s decision, it had no reason not to license Margarito in July.

I’m not sure how much the promise of a large economic boost should or does play into the minds of commissioners — it obviously doesn’t in New York, one of the few states that needs more money than ours, when it comes to sanctioning the Ultimate Fighting Championship — but the only person looking good in any of this is chairperson Pat Lundvall, the lone dissenter in the vote who understood what Pacquiao-Margarito could mean here.

Maybe the stars never align and Pacquiao-Mayweather never happens. But if they do, Friday’s decision could have a direct result on where the fight is held.

Eight days ago, this was Arum talking Pacquiao-Margarito: “This is a big-money fight. I want the fight in Vegas. The town needs this fight.”

Eight days later, he headed in the direction of a certain small nation in Texas.

What that might mean for Las Vegas if the day for Pacquiao-Mayweather arrives is anyone’s guess.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618.

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