IT'S official: The biggest fight in pro boxing this year will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada, when the T-Mobile Arena hosts on September 16 the highly-anticipated showdown between middleweight (160 lbs.) champion Gennady Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
The last time Las Vegas hosted a middleweight contest of such stature was April 6, 1987, when Sugar Ray Leonard emerged from retirement to score a huge upset win over defending middleweight king ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler at the Caesars Palace Outdoor Arena. Leonard bucked inactivity and relied on his handspeed and boxing skill to score a close 12-round decision win.
The bright lights, high rollers and all the razzmatazz prevalent in Las Vegas makes it the ideal city to host a mega fight. But that was not the case in the early years of boxing, when most of the big fights were held either in New York or California. The Olympic Auditorium, opened in Los Angeles in August 1925, held weekly boxing shows during the 1920s, ‘30s and 40s’ and was the favorite fight venue during that span of time. Believe it or not, when the Olympic Auditorium hosted its last boxing card in 2005, it featured a Filipino, Davao City native Vernie Torres, who won over Salvador Casillas.
New York City’s original Madison Square Garden, opened in December 1925, competed head-to-head with the Olympic Auditorium and hosted its share of big fights. So popular and influential were the two venues that, at one point in time, the boxing commissions of New York and California recognized their own world champions. The world middleweight title that Filipino Ceferino Garcia won over Fred Apostoli in 1939 was actually for the New York State Athletic Commission’s version of the world middleweight crown. A year before, November 1938, Filipinos Small Montana and Little Dado battled for California State’s version of the world flyweight diadem.
As a major fight venue, Las Vegas started making some headway in the late 1960s, when Caesars Palace began promoting outdoor boxing matches. By the 1980s, Caesars Palace in Las Vegas had become the “mecca of boxing,” hosting some of the biggest stars in boxing like Leonard, Hagler, Roberto Duran, Larry Holmes, Alexis Arguello and Julio Cesar Chavez. In October 1980, Muhammad Ali’s last title fight took place at Caesars Palace where he lost to heavyweight champ Larry Holmes. Five years later, on 15 April 1985, middleweight champ Hagler and challenger Hearns treated Caesars Palace fans to the greatest three rounds of boxing.
Las Vegas remains the main hub of pro boxing today, with additional venues like the Thomas & Mack Center and the MGM Grand. In May 2015, the MGM Grand played host to the richest fight in boxing history, the 12-round welterweight tussle between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The T-Mobile Arena, opened in April 2016 along the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada, is the newest fight venue in the city. Sparks figure to fly in September, when T-Mobile plays host to Golovkin-Alvarez.