IS Las Vegas still the fight capital of the world? It sure didn’t feel like that last weekend, despite “Sin City” hosting not one but two cards on the same day (Saturday December 13).
At the MGM Grand Garden Arena you had the Golden Boy promotion topped by Amir Khan versus Devon Alexander and televised on Showtime. On the other side of the Strip, a bit further north, there was the Top Rank show at the Cosmopolitan, with another welterweight non-title fight as main event: Tim Bradley v Diego Chaves. This one was televised on HBO.
I was ringside for the Bradley-Chaves bill and ventured to the MGM Grand only to pick up a fight programme on the Friday evening, shortly after attending the Cosmopolitan weigh-in. All over Vegas there was just wasn’t the buzz that goes with a major fight weekend, that imperceptible something in the air brought by a boxing crowd.
Last weekend was far from producing the attendances that turn up for major Vegas events. The Bradley v Chaves bill was an official sell-out at 2,414, but then The Chelsea venue shouldn’t be that hard to fill for top class boxers (and many fans didn’t show up until the later fights – something that is true all over the world).
Over at the MGM Grand, the announced attendance was 7,768, which sounds pretty good until you remember this venue can hold 16,000 (and usually does for Floyd Mayweather fights). And only when the Nevada State Commission publishes an official report will we know how many tickets were actually purchased and how many were given away (standard practice for major shows in Vegas and elsewhere).
The crowd size at the MGM was no surprise given that Alexander is from St Louis and has no great drawing power anywhere else, while Bolton’s Khan cannot persuade fans to follow him from the north of England in anything like the way Ricky Hatton could do nearly a decade ago.
Whatever the explanations, the fact is that Las Vegas did not feel like a fight town the three days I was there last week. In fact, the bigger sporting event appeared to be the National Finals Rodeo (NFR), a 10-day affair at the Thomas & Mack Center that merited a special pull-out in the local Review-Journal newspaper and led to huge numbers of Stetsons being worn all over town.
All of this matters if Khan gets his wish and challenges Floyd Mayweather next time out. The “Pretty Boy” has declared his willingness to box in the UK but the fact is that his appearances in recent years have all been in Vegas, and specifically at the MGM Grand. The feeling here is that if Khan is next, it will happen in Las Vegas – and there will be a lot more boxing fans than Stetsons in town that week.