By Daniel Matthews For Dailymail.Com
13:26 08 Feb 2024, updated 13:26 08 Feb 2024
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There was a time, not too long ago, when Floyd Mayweather Jr would take over the town. His face would light up the Strip, his fights would draw all the A-Listers to Las Vegas.
The likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Conor McGregor became supporters of Mayweather’s twice-a-year stint in Vegas over 12 minutes of a three-minute round. For a while, Vegas made him the richest gamer in the world.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Mayweather – now 46 – chose this as the latest step in his retirement campaign. It also shows that the war seems to be over. But the clearest sign of all that has changed and how quickly? No one seems to notice.
Mayweather is expected to face John Gotti III again in Vegas this weekend. His first fight with the grandson of the boss of the Gambino gang ended in chaos. The second war, meanwhile, seems to have been strangely removed from the calendar. Fortunately for the greatest striker of his generation, each eye had already been trained elsewhere.
Las Vegas has long been boxing’s partner: the gymnasium and the bright lights, a backdrop within the traditional sport. Not anymore. The arrival of the Super Bowl to this desert region is the latest sign. And the great interest that took over the city.
‘Sports Town USA’ is how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell described Vegas in December. This weekend is expected to attract more than 330,000 visitors and generate $600million.
To think that not long ago, as one local official put it, ‘professional sports teams in Las Vegas were just a dream.’ The first football game didn’t take place here until 1964. It was a game between the Oakland Raiders and the Houston Oilers at a modified baseball stadium – with only about 8,500 fans in attendance.
No team from the American major leagues made it to Vegas until 2017. Now the Golden Knights are reigning Stanley Cup champions. The Las Vegas Aces, too, have won back-to-back WNBA titles.
The Raiders (NFL) have played at Allegiant Stadium – across from The Strip – since 2020. The A’s (MLB) are due to arrive soon. LeBron James has spoken openly about his desire to bring an NBA franchise to Vegas. Inter Miami owner David Beckham wants the MLS team to come back here.
There were a few – ahem – teething problems, admittedly, but Formula One is now full of desert wasteland. Just this week, LIV Golf brought its Saudi-sponsored tour to The Strip for the first time. And, starting on Sunday, the place will be crawling with celebrities.
There is boxing this week. Teofimo Lopez, one of America’s brightest young fighters, will defend his world lightweight title at Mandalay Bay on Thursday night.
On Monday, he went down to the casino floor to practice with his team and the camera around. But only a few eyes were drawn to the tables and the recording machines. And it would be kind to say that the fight has thrown the sport of boxing into disarray.
‘Did someone say there’s a boxing match here tomorrow?’ one reporter — in town for the Super Bowl — was heard asking Wednesday.
Since the head start of Mayweather’s career, only a handful of fights have caught fire. At that time, boxing seems to have found itself as a new wilderness.
Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk has been delayed for now but arguably nothing shows the shifting sands of the sport more than the Super Bowl coming to Vegas a week before the first heavyweight fight in Saudi Arabia. If only the show would have looked like it was made for Sin City…
Now, after taking the punch, Saudi Arabia hopes to take a new position. Many events are drawn there every year, but Vegas seems to have established its place at the center of American sports. Goodell said earlier this week that this won’t be the last Super Bowl.
Leagues and advertisers are starting to make money. Now, as the official says: ‘The world has embraced Las Vegas as the capital of gaming.’