LAS VEGAS – Staging two boxing cards at the same time on the same night in the same city in different venues doesn’t seem to be an exceptionally wise business strategy for promoters.
But one only needs to take a stroll through Las Vegas to squash any doubt.
At the MGM Grand, where Canelo Alvarez will headline a Showtime-televised card against Josesito Lopez on Saturday, the sports book was filled with boxing fans who were trying to decide whether it was worth it to lay money on 14-to-1 favorite Alvarez.
Restaurants were crowded, bars were hopping, the parking garages were overflowing and the valet attendants were sprinting to keep up with the crush of cars.
At the Wynn, scores of people wandered the ornate casino with Chavez's name plastered all over their clothes. This is a place where the normal customer's watch goes for at least five figures, and suddenly it's being inhabited by a bunch of slovenly boxing fans.
Locals are even getting excited. At a sports bar off the beaten path in the city's Northwest part of town, the fights dominate conversation.
It would appear two big fight cards in the same city at the same time can coexist after all.
There have been many negatives and it gets wearying to hear the promoters constantly take digs at each other. Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer, who is putting on the card at the MGM, is a perfectly reasonable guy until Bob Arum's name is mentioned. Arum is the founder of Top Rank and is putting on the Chavez-Martinez fight at the Thomas & Mack Center.
When Arum’s name comes up, Schaefer turns into the world's most eloquent two-year-old. In various interviews, he’s referred to the 80-year-old Arum as a dinosaur, a fossil and as 100 years old. That's just low brow, ignorant stuff that demeans the speaker.
Arum, though, is no better. When Schaefer and an MGM Grand spokesman told Yahoo! Sports that ticket sales for the Alvarez-Lopez card were brisk and could sell out, Arum couldn't contain himself.
"That's total bull [expletive]," he said. "They're [expletive] dying over there. The MGM people are not happy. But who gives a [expletive] what they do?"
Arum ignores the fact that such talk minimizes his sport and makes him look small. His stepson, Top Rank president Todd duBoef, has tried and failed for years to get Arum to adopt the broader view that whatever is good for the sport is good for their company. The more boxing fans there are, the better the odds for their company to succeed.
Arum insisted that Golden Boy is papering the house, but even if that is true, there will still be nearly 15,000 fans inside the building. Schaefer insists they're paid, but whether they are or not is immaterial. The fans are turning out.
Promoters were dying to give tickets away to Amir Khan's fight in July and couldn't find many interested in taking them.
It's hard to remember the last fight in Las Vegas headlined by someone other than Pacquiao or Mayweather that had an attendance of more than 14,000. On Saturday, though, there will be two of them.
That's why having two opposing events isn't a good thing – it's a great thing.
Despite the inane bickering between the promoters, the week has been a home run, both for boxing and for Las Vegas.
The only ones truly negatively affected are the hardcore fans, who would prefer to see both men fight live. Fortunately, a DVR will make certain they see both events.
Beyond that group, though, there are few who could be even remotely unhappy by what is going on in Las Vegas. At the Thomas & Mack, Chavez-Martinez will eclipse a 13-year-old attendance record. Having another show in town didn't hurt Top Rank's ticket sales. Its $3-plus million gate is already in the bank.
The Golden Boy card is on Showtime, so it could cost Top Rank a few pay-per-view sales, but it seems headed for about 400,000. That's a number that would have been seen as a home run for a pair of first-time pay-per-view fighters even if there hadn't been a competing show.
For years, boxing has been derided as an old man's sport. Reporters who don't care to research almost by rote label the sport dead.
It's not dead when Pacquiao and Mayweather fight, but they are moving toward the homestretch of their careers. Saturday will afford a look at the two men, Alvarez and Chavez, who are likely to replace Pacquiao and Mayweather as boxing's next big stars.
The sport, to be sure, has its problems. But having the dueling shows going head-to-head at the same time in the same city surely isn't one of them.
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