Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Vegas fighting to keep Mayweather-Pacquiao

As boxing promoters Bob Arum and Richard Schaefer have begun the process of hammering out a deal for a 2010 showdown between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, officials in Las Vegas are scrambling to keep the fight on the Strip.

Las Vegas has been hit harder than most cities by the recession and, with 13 percent unemployment, is in need of major events to bolster tourism and invigorate its economy. A potential Pacquiao-Mayweather bout would likely be the largest-grossing boxing match in history. Predictions for the pay-per-view sales alone have reached as high as 5 million.

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Predictions for PPV sales alone for the potential Pacquiao-Mayweather bout have reached as high as 5 million.

(Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Pacquiao is the top-ranked fighter in Yahoo! Sports’ ratings of the world’s best boxers with Mayweather sitting at No. 2. They’re each in their prime – Pacquiao is 30 and Mayweather is 31 – and each fights at welterweight.

Pacquiao, who is 50-3-2 with 38 knockouts and holds the World Boxing Organization welterweight title, has been named the Fighter of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 2006 and 2008 and is almost certain to win it in 2009. Mayweather, who is 40-0 with 25 knockouts, was the BWAA’s Fighter of the Year in 2007.

Arum, who promotes Pacquiao, and Schaefer, on behalf of Mayweather, met in Las Vegas on Monday and agreed not to speak to the media.

“We’re under a gag order until this gets done,” Arum said Tuesday prior to a news conference at the Las Vegas Hilton to announce a middleweight championship bout between Kelly Pavlik and Miguel Espino.

Schaefer declined to speak about any aspect of the Mayweather-Pacquiao talks. But powerful Las Vegas political consultant Sig Rogich is leading a group that is exploring the possibility of erecting a 30,000-seat outdoor stadium on a Las Vegas Boulevard site once occupied by the New Frontier Hotel.

The majority of the most lucrative boxing matches in the past 15 years have been held in Las Vegas either at the MGM Grand Garden Arena or the Mandalay Bay Events Center, both of which are owned by MGM Mirage. Officials of MGM Mirage would be interested in the fight and would likely be the frontrunner to land it for the MGM Grand if the bout is made.

Rogich, who worked in the George H.W. Bush administration, said Las Vegas officials are discussing a plan with El-Ad Properties, which purchased the New Frontier Hotel and the 36 acres of Strip-front property it sits on for $1.2 billion from Phil Ruffin in 2007, to have the site serve as the location for the lucrative fight. The plan would be to have the fight sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, with a consortium of Las Vegas casinos contributing money toward the cost.

Though Las Vegas has landed the majority of the major boxing shows in recent years, interest from venues outside Las Vegas in acquiring a Mayweather-Pacquiao megafight is very high. Arum has received inquiries from many venues, including New Orleans, and Democratic political strategist James Carville has phoned Arum about trying to broker a deal to bring the fight to the Superdome in New Orleans.

One advantage Las Vegas officials will have in landing the bout is that Mayweather resides in the city and Pacquiao has fought his last six fights, and nine of his last 12, there.

“We’re aware of the interest from all over the country for this bout and our goal is simply to keep it here in Las Vegas,” said Rogich, who was once the chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. “We’re just exploring the possibility of doing something [at the New Frontier site].

“We’ve reached out to the owners of the property to see if we can do something that makes economic sense. This is such a big fight and we are doing all we can to keep it in Las Vegas amid competition from many other places.”

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