SBJ/May 4 - 10, 1998/No Topic Name

Vegas ready to get off mat as boxing venue

Las Vegas boxing was knocked down last year, but it may not be out for the count.

The city hosted seven major fights in 1997, including the infamous match in which Mike Tyson took a bite out of Evander Holyfield’s ear, but has not had a major bout this year.

Boxing revenue for the Nevada Athletic Commission likely will be down more than 50 percent when its fiscal year ends June 30.

"This is the slowest it has been for title fights in the last 15 years," said Marc Ratner, executive director of the commission.

But a turnaround may have started last month when boxing promoter Bob Arum, announced the first major fight of 1998, a rematch of Oscar De La Hoya vs. Julio Cesar Chavez set for Sept. 18 at the Thomas and Mack Center. Caesars Palace will sponsor the fight the weekend after Mexican Independence Day. It is expected to draw a large Mexican-American, Mexican national and Hispanic crowd.

Arum plans to air the fight on HBO Sports pay-per-view for $39.95, said Todd duBoef, executive vice president of Arum’s company, Top Rank Inc. The goal is to hit 1 million pay-per-view buys.

Meanwhile, Tyson could fight again in Las Vegas before the end of the year. The Nevada Athletic Commission will vote on whether to reinstate his boxing license this summer.

"The return of Mike Tyson will be huge," said Dino Duva, boxing promoter. "Mike Tyson is by far the biggest draw in boxing, and he always will be."

Ratner said past Tyson fights brought in about $14 million just at the gate, and the average ticket price for the Holyfield-Tyson fight was $850. The top De La Hoya-Chavez fight tickets will be about $800, he said.

Duva said the melee that followed the Tyson-Holyfield fight in June might be one reason for the lull in Las Vegas boxing.

"When the Tyson-Holyfield ear-biting thing happened, that temporarily put the MGM out of business," he said.

But Ratnez said he thinks the MGM may be planning to hold a fight again soon. MGM Grand officials wouldn’t answer questions for this story.

Ratner said Circus Circus is building a resort called Mandalay Bay, which will include an arena that could stage boxing events. Mandalay Bay officials have been talking to boxing promoters, a spokesman confirmed.

Royce Feour, boxing writer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, said the Hilton is planning to announce a fight card in late May that will include a number of title fights among lower-weight division fighters. "It’s not mega-fights, but it’s fairly good."

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