From Arlington, Texas — Here we are, in Texas, of all places, for Saturday's Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito fight. We should be in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas was made for pro boxing. Vegas is lots of bright lights and lots of dim bulbs losing the rent money. It is noisy, garish and loose with the truth, same as boxing. If they put them in eHarmony's computer, they'd end up married.
Right now, thousands of Southern California fight fans should be doing as they always do for big fights — exceed the speed limit on Interstate 15 to rush to the weigh-in, that Friday afternoon prefight ceremony that remains one of the stupidest exercises in all of sport. Two men stand on scales in their underwear, flexing biceps.
Pacquiao-Margarito doesn't work best in a big stadium. Cowboys Stadium can seat 100,000 and will probably have 60,000 for this one. That means you pay up to $700 for a seat and the only way to see the blood is on a huge TV screen. In Vegas, if you aren't close enough to see the blood in the ring, you'll probably see some a few rows in front of you. Fights for aisle seats are often better than those for title belts.
To be clear, this may be the last of this for a while. Expect the planets to get back in alignment and the big shows to return to Las Vegas. If you are unhappy that you had money budgeted for losses at the blackjack tables, rest easy that big-fight weekends in Vegas will return.
This is what happened this time.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, needing to get his superstar, Pacquiao, back in the ring once more in 2010, reserved the Nov. 13 date at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He then reasoned that, though the world wants to see Pacquiao fight Floyd Mayweather Jr., Las Vegas law enforcement seems to want to see Mayweather more, and so that fight couldn't happen. Arum knew that as sure as the sun will rise, Mayweather will run his mouth and run afoul of the law.
Arum's next best sales-worthy product was Pacquiao-Margarito. But he had a problem.
Margarito had been caught with a hard substance in his glove wraps before a January 2009 fight with Shane Mosley at Staples Center. They took the stuff out of his gloves, then Mosley beat the stuffing out of Margarito, and in the aftermath, Margarito lost his license to box.
Arum, no fool when it comes to keeping options open, proclaimed Margarito's innocence. It was the rotten, cheating trainer who did this and poor Antonio didn't have a clue. Antonio, of course, had some value to Arum. The rotten, cheating trainer was easily replaced.
Arum then spent an estimated $500,000 in various legal proceedings on Margarito's behalf, and kept his fingers crossed that, with time, state boxing commissions would relent and relicense him. Most important was the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which was known to lean toward upholding the original ruling of the California commission. Arum's first choice for Pacquiao-Margarito remained the MGM Grand.
Texas was a fallback, and a reasonable one, because Pacquiao had fought there in March, drawn 50,994 to the new Cowboys Stadium and pounded on Joshua Clottey, apparently there merely to collect a paycheck.
Even though it was a boring and lopsided fight, Texas fans who don't get to see lots of big-time fights got to see 12 rounds of the great Pacquiao and all seemed to be OK. Arum's buddy, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, had the spotlight he loves. Pacquiao had another high-paid workout.
That was supposed to be a one-and-done thing.
But then the Nevada commission continued to balk. Its chairwoman, Pat Lundvall, was on board, but the four other members would not relicense Margarito. It was pointed out to them that Las Vegas, long the land of plenty, was now in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Numbers such as $300 million in direct and indirect revenue from a Pacquiao-Margarito fight were tossed around. Mentions were made of how Pacquiao attracts large numbers of Asian gamblers.
But the majority of the Nevada commission held fast and Arum had to look to Texas. He did, and its commission licensed Margarito.
So here we are, back in Jerry Jones country, although Jones, having just fired his football coach and suffering through a 1-7 NFL season, has not been around yet this week. Speculation is he knows there are lots of reporters here and he would end up spouting off about his team, so he stayed low and protected himself from himself.
Interestingly, there was a Jones sighting this week.
In Las Vegas.