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Bright Lights and Big Cities – Boxing’s New Horizons

Manny PacquiaoBy Mohummad Humza Elahi: – Twitter @MHE_1985 There are many reasons why people head to Las Vegas, the neon oasis in the desert is a haven for the new dreams of wide-eyed individuals that believe the world is theirs for the taking, looking up at the glitz and the glamour as others have their gaze firmly fixed to the pavement, pockets empty after betting the house and losing it all in the highest of stakes.

So to it might be said of boxing when it reaches Nevada, pugilists come with dreams, after all, fight weekends in Vegas are legendary (it’s a bucket list item for me) and a chance to perform in the limelight in front of thousands of fans for millions of dollars. As the saying goes, you can’t be a true star unless you fight in America. It’s where the biggest bouts are made, the biggest paydays earned and who can resist the wealth and women that come around during a fight weekend?

By the end of 2013, we could see a shift away from the dominance of Las Vegas and just like economies, witness a shift towards the East where China’s insatiable thirst to both be like and more powerful than America may lay claim to another institution. In November, Macau (China’s own response to Vegas glitz) will host to what could possibly be the ultimate game-changer in boxing promotion. Some quick maths: Zou Shiming had a reported 300 million people tuning in. Let’s say that’s nonsense and it was really closer to 100 million (that’s still roughly 30% of the entire population of the United States).

Pacquiao is a huge star in the East and continues to be a massive crowd pleaser, so his fight with Rios will be available on PPV. Top Rank will only need a 2.5% uptake to eclipse De La Hoya vs Mayweather Jr in number of PPV buys. In revenue terms, it would need a 10% uptake at $10. All this serves to mean one thing.

If this event does anywhere near the numbers above and it will for all intents and purposes do better, Top Rank has hit the ultimate jackpot and a lot of other promoters, including Golden Boy will have to seriously consider their business plans over the next 3 years.

China may be the newest, but the one of the oldest still has a few tricks up its sleeve as well. This past weekend, London hosted a dazzling spectacle at the O2 Arena, sold out in less than 3 hours, with 18,000 people bellowing under a closed roof. I was lucky enough to be there and my vocal chords still hurt from all the shouting, it was an incredible atmosphere. And it seems that those visiting from overseas were impressed as well.

As I understand, Vegas fights don’t really have the type of atmosphere or partisan crowd that makes shows like this memorable, even if the fight doesn’t live up to expectations. I’m sure Mayweather Jr. still has “Walking in a Hatton Wonderland” ringing in his ears after all these years. The Klitschko’s regularly sell out stadiums in Germany and the revenue generated combined with a favourable forex rate means that they will earn far more money fighting in their comfort zone then trying to venture out into the desert in search of contenders to try and please a fickle fanbase.

So has the boxing landscape changed? Has a more interconnected and globalized world made it easier to reach fans far and wide and created the potential for the savviest promoters to earn even more money? It may very well be the case. I’m sure that in the years to come, we could buy complete PPV cards that start in the morning with a fight from China and end 18 hours later with fights from Vegas.

That would be getting your money’s worth. In spite of all this, as a fight fan, there’s something about boxing and Vegas that make them made for each other. There’s a deeper connection between those that have the dream and the canvas on which it’s painted on and as long as that remains, no amount of money or PPV stats will replace it.

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