STEVE MARCUS / LAS VEGAS SUN FILE
Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009 | 2 a.m.
- Dana White talks Mayweather-Pacquiao, says Brock Lesnar still sick (12-10-09)
- Pacquiao-Mayweather fight on, March date likely (12-4-09)
- Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao: The only fight fans want to see (11-15-09)
- Mayweather badmouths MMA, Pacquiao’s promoter (7-21-09)
- Mayweather-Pacquiao seems inevitable (5-3-09)
Three cities are believed to be in the running to host what many consider the Super Bowl of professional boxing, the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight on March 13.
Probably no one wants to host it more than Las Vegas, hungering for the millions of dollars the fight will generate for a city starved of its diet of tourists in a mood to have fun.
The fight may prove the most lucrative ever for Las Vegas in terms of filling rooms and restaurants with the big-spending followers of the sport, not to mention the wagering that comes with any high-profile sporting event.
Granted, such prize fights aren’t the town’s biggest moneymakers.
Pacquiao-Mayweather has the potential of topping $13 million in nongaming revenue generated for the city, experts say. By comparison, last year’s Las Vegas Bowl that pitted Arizona against BYU and which drew 42,350 people, 75 percent of whom were from out of town, generated $14.2 million for the city.
Last year’s National Finals Rodeo — a 10-day event — brought $49.8 million to the city, and the 280,000 people who celebrated New Year’s Eve here contributed $189 million to the local economy plus what they left behind at the tables.
Still, Las Vegas has benefited from the economic punch that comes with being the Boxing Capital of the World.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has tracked the economic effect of most of the major boxing matches in Las Vegas. Although there’s no established formula for predicting how much nongaming revenue would be generated for the community by Pacquiao-Mayweather, the total could be among the highest ever.
Coming up with a hard prediction is difficult because of the many variables that determine how robust the fight-centered spending would be. Among the factors considered by LVCVA analysts are the size of the venue hosting the fight, the appeal of the boxers involved, how well their supporters travel and the economic climate at the time of the fight.
The run-up of the hype and the media coverage preceding the match also figure into the equation.
In this case, fans of the sport have long awaited a battle between the Filipino Pacquiao, considered by Ring magazine to be the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter, and Mayweather, who is ranked No. 2 pound-for-pound and is undefeated in 40 matches.
Both fighters have legions of loyal fans; Mayweather is considered one of the top Americans in the sport, while Pacquiao is a national hero in his native country.
The three cities most often mentioned hosting the fight are Las Vegas, Dallas (on the strength of the new, 100,000-seat, giant-screen Cowboys Stadium) and New Orleans, with its 80,000-plus seat Superdome. Yankee Stadium in New York and the Staples Center in Los Angeles were considered and dismissed because of the high tax rates in New York and California.
The Los Angeles Times has reported that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has offered a $25 million guarantee to host the fight, citing a source close to the negotiations, exceeding the $20 million guarantee that Staples Center offered fight promoters this week.
Promoter Bob Arum has said he expects to make a decision by next week, and Rossi Ralenkotter, president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, says the town can make a strong argument for bringing the fight here.
“We’ve hosted some of the biggest boxing matches in history and we have an international reputation,” he said. “Las Vegas works well for the promoters because it has such an electric, 24-hour atmosphere.”
The major fights in the past five years in Las Vegas have been sponsored or hosted by the Thomas & Mack Center, MGM Grand Garden Arena or the Mandalay Bay arena. They’ve usually drawn more than 8,000 fans to the gate and generated more than $6 million for the community.
One of the biggest fights by estimated nongaming economic impact in the past five years was the Nov. 18, 2006, match between Pacquiao and Erik Morales — the third meeting between them. That fight, staged at the Thomas & Mack Center, drew 18,276 to the arena and generated an estimated $12.9 million for Las Vegas.
Mayweather has been in two matches at the MGM Grand, each drawing about 16,700 fans and each bringing in more than $12.5 million in revenue to town along with gambling — his May 5, 2007 fight with Oscar De La Hoya and his Dec. 8, 2007 bout against Ricky Hatton.
All three of those fights occurred before the economy tanked and involved boxers with legions of followers willing to travel to support their man.
One of the sport’s most notorious Las Vegas fights drew 16,331 fans to MGM Grand, but the economic impact to Las Vegas was only calculated at $9 million. On June 28, 1997, heavyweights Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield battled in “The Sound and the Fury,” as the bout was promoted. In that fight, Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield’s ear, touching off a near riot that spilled into the casino.
For the upcoming fight, negotiations between fight promoter Bob Arum and the potential venues have been close to the vest, but typically a company like MGM Mirage will present a package that guarantees hotel rooms, food and beverage, special side events and other incentives in addition to a financial commitment.
Las Vegas and Dallas both have airports with hundreds of flights from cities across the country and both airports are easy drives to the arenas.
The biggest downside for Las Vegas is the size of the house — five times as many tickets could be sold at Cowboys Stadium than at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. But promoters also have to ask whether Dallas could serve up the same sideshow atmosphere and provide enough hotel rooms for fight attendees. And, of course, there’s no gambling — legal wagering anyway — in Texas.
Mayweather trains in Las Vegas and has a home here. Some say that could result in a “home-field advantage” for him, even though both boxers have staged their past five bouts here.
The decision is likely to come down to whether Arum wants to rely on a proven host with a solid reputation for big events or a newcomer with lots of upside but no track record on an event of this magnitude.