THE NEW LAS VEGAS ARENA – THE RETURN OF A SURE HALL OF FAMER

Courtesy of Arena Las Vegas

Gary Mushrow

April 2016 sees the opening of the “New Las Vegas Arena” backed by entertainment and gambling powerhouse MGM Grand Resorts International.

The $350 million facility has envisaged staging world leading events in music, boxing, UFC, basketball and NHL, seating a whopping 20,000 people, making it the single biggest arena in Las Vegas.

Just one month later lands the prestigious Cinco de Mayo weekend in Paradise, Nevada. A weekend normally playing host to a flood of celebrity royalty from around the globe. Waves of private aircraft clamour for accommodation at Las Vegas’ McCarran airport, enduring a brief weekend respite as their owners attend a talk-of-the-town boxing match headlined by Floyd Mayweather.

Not this May.

September 2015 saw Mayweather headline his final fight, a twelve round unanimous decision victory against former champion Andre Berto. Not the glamorous finale envisaged for such a revered character and shoe-in Hall of Fame fighter.

But alas, the former five-division world champion headed off into the sunset, embarking on a luxurious round-the-world tour, accompanied by his famed “Money Team” and several accounts filled to the brim with cash – sounds heavenly, right?

One question remained of Floyd Mayweather, four words which could spark eternal hours of debate, ‘What could have been?’

Many fans fought ferociously on forums and message boards online – could Mayweather do the unthinkable? Could he go up in weight again, way beyond his comfort zone and challenge Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin for his world middleweight title? Could he capture the hearts and minds like former heroes Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran? Taking a further step, taking more risk in pursuit of greatness?

The answer from the Mayweather camp was no. Floyd wasn’t nearly big enough to compete at 160 pounds. The consensus pound-for-pound number one had already climbed out of his favoured welterweight division on three occasions before in tough fights with Oscar de la Hoya, Miguel Cotto and a one-sided affair with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez at or below the 154 pound limit. Each of the aforementioned contests earning him huge paydays in the process, often shattering pay-per-view and sports revenue records.

The scale of the task seemed too great, until the boxing outlook changed on November 21st in Las Vegas. Former foe, Canelo Alvarez wrenched away the WBC and lineal middleweight titles from underpowered Miguel Cotto at a catch weight of 155 pounds.

Chasing the glorified ‘50 not out’ record of former heavyweight world champion Rocky Marciano didn’t seem to appeal to Mayweather, at least not in the media interviews he gave immediately after hanging them up for the second time against Berto in September. But what about now?

Suddenly the scale of the task didn’t look so grand. Suddenly a lineal world championship in a fifth weight class didn’t seem so out of reach. Suddenly a return from retirement for the former “Pretty Boy” didn’t seem all that ludicrous.

A world class arena is due to open on his beloved Las Vegas doorstep in April 2016, one month short of his usual bi-annual Mexican boxing extravaganza. A newly crowned Mexican champion looms on the horizon once more, holding a potential fifth lineal championship, huge pay-per-view numbers and an event big enough to massage even the ego of Floyd Mayweather.

A dangling carrot big enough to grab at? Maybe so.

Kindling was added to the fire last week, as the World Boxing Council (WBC) announced champion Canelo and mandatory challenger Golovkin were contracted to allow for a voluntary defence each, to take place prior to the start of purse bids May 31st 2016. That announcement certainly got the senses stirring.

A dubious scorecard in their first fight, Canelo promoter De la Hoya’s ongoing public feud with Mayweather, as well as citing Canelo was ‘too young and weight drained’ to compete to his ability in their first fight – the back story is already there.

A two-acre adjacent outdoor entertainment space named “Toshiba Plaza” will accompany the New Las Vegas Arena down the aisle in April 2016, a venue accommodating 650 digital entertainment displays, VIP luxury suites, boxes and clubs – a perfect fit for a mega fight week to accommodate the return of a modern boxing great. A new entertainment complex bringing all the luxury, vigour and exclusivity only a Floyd Mayweather fight weekend can bring.

Nobody does a Las Vegas fight week like Mayweather, maybe in April 2016, he will come back and show us exactly how it’s done.

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