Times boxing reporters Kevin Baxter and Lance Pugmire will be filing reports throughout the day from Las Vegas leading up to the welterweight title unification fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.
Famed director William Friedkin will be providing The Times with dispatches from inside the VIP ropes of the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Friedkin, the director of such hits as "The Exorcist" and "The French Connection," will be providing updates before, during and after the fight.
Read the Los Angeles Times’ special edition Flipboard digital magazine Mayweather vs. Pacquiao.
Here are their dispatches:
Remember that record for pay-per-view buys? Well, hold the thought.
The Associated Press reported many cable and satellite customers nationwide were complaining they can't watch the fight. From the AP story:
Scores of angry tweets directed at various television providers complained of problems ordering or watching the Floyd Mayweather- Manny Pacquiao fight on Saturday night. Some users said when they tried to order, the fight wasn't available. Others complained of picture problems or an inability to tune to the pay-per-view channel.
Customer service Twitter accounts for Dish Network and Cox Communications asked users whether they ordered standard definition or high definition feeds of the fight, indicating there may be issues with the standard definition feed. A similar account for DirecTV referred users toward a troubleshooting website.
The bout is expected to be the most popular in pay-per-view history, with an estimated 3 million households buying the fight at nearly $100 each.
"We're seeing and gracefully managing a lot of demand -- which is a good thing," Dish Network spokesman Bob Toevs said.
It's getting close
Now the tension, the excitement and the anticipation begins to build.
And expect the promoters to give it plenty of time to simmer.
There was hope the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao superbout might begin around 8:30. But the final undercard bout just ended so closer to 9 might be a better estimate for a start time.
Inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the ring sits empty and bathed in light. The seating area is nearly filled though. Among the celebrities already on hand are Jimmy Kimmel, Denzel Washington, Charles Barkley, Mark Wahlberg, Reggie Miller, Jake Gyllenhaal, Justin Bieber, Clint Eastwood and Jon Voight. That’s just who we’ve managed to confirm so consider that a very partial list.
And whatever happens in Vegas tonight, don’t expect it to stay there. More than 1,000 media credentials were issued for the fight, which will also be broadcast to a global television audience.
He's a knockout
Vasyl Lomachenko has accomplished so much already.
Two Olympic gold medals. A world title in his third pro fight. And now a dominant triumph with the expected largest pay-per-view audience in history watching.
The Ukrainian opened the pay-per-view broadcast tonight of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao card by knocking out Puerto Rico’s Gamalier Rodriguez in the ninth round of their featherweight title fight.
Lomachenko (4-1) ended the bout 50 seconds into the ninth with a devastating right uppercut. Rodriguez (25-3-3), the top World Boxing Organization contender, acted like he would rise, but then thought better of it.
Lomachenko out-punched Rodriguez, 227-55. One of those punches was a hard left to the chest.
“A fighter never expects a punch like that,” Lomachenko said afterward.
He began to assert control in the third round, flashing a speedy combination, then whipping Rodriguez with the left to the chest and a hard short right to the face.
In the fourth, he jarred Rodriguez’s head back with a right uppercut and continued in the fifth with unanswered body combinations. Rodriguez tried to tug on Lomachenko’s right arm, so the champion smacked him three times with a left.
Lomachenko knocked Rodriguez down with a hard left to the gut in the seventh. The challenger then had a point deducted in the eighth for a low blow.
After the showing on a stage that will later star two aging champions, Lomachenko hopes to fill the void once they retire.
Among the celebrities who elected not to show up fashionably late to the MGM Grand Garden Arena were Denzel Washington, Charles Barkley, Mark Wahlberg, Reggie Miller, Jake Gyllenhaal and Jon Voight.
Among those expected later were Mike Tyson, Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood.
Oh, if you can’t see them from your $2,500 nosebleed seats at the top of the arena, you can rent binoculars for $10. There is a $20 deposit though.
No movie can capture the suspense and tension of a championship fight. Anxiety and every kind of emotion is in the air. Fear, anticipation.
And that's just the audience. The notion that something historic is about to happen runs through the crowd. Many are certain of the outcome, but nobody knows. These fighters are the best in the world.
The fight was rumored for years. Many thought it would never take place and now here it is ... will it live up to the hype?
The party starts
In the arena ... it's jammed. Confusion reigns ... pickpockets ... Charles Barkley ... Denzel ...
at the Showtime party at Puck's.
Fans, and celebrities, arrive
The MGM Garden Grand Arena is less than half full, which is understand because Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather won’t climb into the right for another couple of hours. But the celebrities have already begun arriving -- hard to tell who because of the bodyguards -- and the electricity is building.
And there has been some boxing.
In bouts that weren’t included on the pay-per-view broadcast, Philadelphia’s Jesse Hart ran his record to 17-0 by stopping Mike Jimenez of Chicago at 2:31 of the sixth round of their super middleweight championship bout. Jimenez came into the fight unbeaten in 17 fights.
The middleweight fight between Dayton’s Chris Pearson and hometown favorite Said El Harrak of Henderson, Nev., went the distance with Pearson (12-0) winning a unanimous decision. El Harrak fell to 12-3. And in the super-middleweight fight that started the day, Brad Solomon of Lafayette, La., ran his record to 25-0 with a split-decision win over Adrian Granados (13-4) of Cicero, Ill.
A scheduled junior-cruiserweight bout between Andrew Tabiti and Anthony Smith was scratched.
Delivering the punch
In his last 13 fights, Floyd Mayweather Jr. has connected with nearly half his punches while ducking 81% of those thrown by his opponents, the greatest difference between punches landed and avoided of any active fighter with more than five bouts.
According to CompuBox, boxing’s chief statistical service, Mayweather is landing an average of 17 punches each round, a percentage of 43%. Only two other top fighters -- Adrien Broner and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., at 41% -- have landed more than 40% of their punches.
Meanwhile Manny Pacquiao, his opponent in tonight's welterweight title unification fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, landed just 35% of his punches in his last dozen fights while his opponents connected with one of every four they threw. Pacquiao’s plus-minus number of 10% doesn’t rank in the top 10.
Also from CompuBox, Pacquiao averages nearly 66 punches a round, 26 more than Mayweather, and lands more than 23 punches a round -- also more than Mayweather. Both throw more power punches than jabs, but when they throw jabs Mayweather connects more than twice as often as Pacquiao.
The MGM Grand’s casino is packed this afternoon and getting through it felt a little like trying to run the ball against the Seahawks, with people ducking and darting and seemingly appearing out of nowhere to block your path.
Only a lucky few had tickets for Saturday’s much-hyped Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. title fight, but thousands more apparently wanted to be close to the action.
A pair of police officers were making the rounds with two bomb-sniffing dogs, as they have been with increasingly frequency all week. Fans turned a wall-size advertisement for the fight into a photo op, with a long line forming for people who wanted to make their own souvenir.
The resort’s massive main lobby was also packed – mainly with people waiting, cameras at the ready, for the celebrity arrivals.
In the MGM Grand Garden Arena, site of the fight, three Tecate ring girls were schooled on the proper technique for walking around a boxing ring while holding a huge card with a number on it.
The ring girls practice? Who knew?
Once the girls surrendered the ring, the first bout of the day, a super-middleweight bout between Brad Solomon and Adrian Granados, went off at about 3:15 between a largely empty arena. All of the ringside seats, which sold for $10,000 were empty.
At the overcrowded MGM Grand Race and Sports Book this afternoon, the line of bettors seeking to get in action on both the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao fight and the Kentucky Derby caused a long, roped-off line to be formed.
As of 2:30 p.m. Pacific time, Mayweather was bumped to become a minus-210 favorite, with Pacquiao a plus-175 underdog.
That means a bettor needs to bet $210 to win $100 for Mayweather, and that a $100 bet on Pacquiao will earn $175.
Jay Rood, the head of the MGM Grand Race and Sports Book, said he’s received pretty sharp action supporting Mayweather on Saturday.
The book, overall, has received "several" bets in the $800,000 range, but no million-dollar bets yet, he said.
Rood, who opened the odds for a draw at 22/1, dipped that number again today to just 5/1.
Many bettors are buying into the conspiracy theory that a draw is likely because it will ensure a rematch.
Rood said if the bout ends in a draw, MGM Resorts’ sports books will take a "seven-figure loss."
With tonight's main-event fighters aged 38 and 36, boxing needs the next big thing to arrive soon.
Featherweight world champion Vasyl Lomachenko of the Ukraine has two Olympic gold medals. He won a world title in his third professional bout. Now, in his fifth, he'll fight on the card that's expected to generate a record amount of pay-per-view buys.
"I really am tremendously high on this kid," Lomachenko promoter Bob Arum said.
Arum, who also promotes Pacquiao, signed Lomachenko (3-1) to a five-year contract Thursday at the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao undercard news conference.
Lomachenko will open tonight's pay-per-view broadcast on HBO and Showtime by defending his World Boxing Organization belt against Puerto Rico's Gamalier Rodriguez.
"He's going to be a superstar," Arum said of Lomachenko. "They're teaching him English. Once he learns it, he has a charming personality. Great talent. Acrobatic as anyone I've seen."
Within five years, Arum forecast, Lomachenko could have an anticipated mega-pay-per-view bout with the promoter's Puerto Rican talent, Felix Verdejo.
"I bet you the over/under will be two million homes," Arum said.
"Now, the audience for this fight and around the world will be absolutely huge. And he will have been seen now by more people than any other platform we could've put him on. This is an audience that's willing to watch a fight on pay-per-view. It's going to a target audience ... down the road, he'll be a pay-per-view star."
As herds of visitors have descended or the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao fight at MGM Grand, the city’s police department has bolstered its presence both in uniformed and undercover manner.
Jesse Roybal, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, told The Times that officers will blanket the "entire Strip area, not just the MGM Grand, to address any threat that may come into play."
Amid concerns that counterfeit tickets will be sold and there will be illegal scalping of tickets, police also will monitor disorderly conduct, prostitution and other illicit activity.
Fans from each of Mayweather’s last two fights have scuffled as they exited, including a loud bang last May that was mistakenly confused as a gunshot. Another fight caused a swarm of fans in one section to rush toward the exit.
"We work hand-in-hand with the property itself to enforce laws … whatever might be going on with the property" Roybal said. "Many officers will not be in uniform. So you don’t know who that person next to you is.
"That helps cut down incidents before they come to pass."
The police department has in place a "real-time crime center," with multiple cameras positioned in and around the Strip to"locate issues before they arise," Roybal said. "We’re using all our resources that we use for big events … this is Las Vegas, so large-scale events are something we deal with routinely."
Ticket-holders hoping to making a killing on the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight by reselling their seats on the secondary market are likely disappointed today, with demand for tickets lagging well behind supply.
StubHub listed 457 available tickets early today, with the cheapest selling for $2,462.25, half of what sellers were demanding when the tickets went on sale last week and more than $250 lower than the asking price this morning. The most expensive ticket was listed at $40,955.25, although there were reports of prices nearly eight times that amount earlier in the week.
“The sellers overpriced the tickets,” said StubHub spokesman Cameron Papp. “People are now selling them for nearly face value.”
Papp said one of the biggest factors affecting sellers was the fact that promoters did not put any tickets on sale until nine days before the fight. As a result, fight fans who had hotel and flight reservations canceled them last month because they were uncertain they could get tickets -- and at one point, were even unsure the fight would happen.
Those cancellations also impacted the price of hotel rooms, which soared to more than $1,000 a night shortly after the May 2 date was announced, but plummeted below $200 last week.
“This was supposed to be the Fight that Saved Boxing,” said Papp, whose site originally had an inventory of about 1,000 tickets, half of which were still available Saturday. “[Buyers] who waited until the last day did well.”
The highest-priced ticket StubHub sold was a floor seat that went for nearly $41,000, although Papp said he has seen media reports of ticket prices soaring beyond $300,000 on the resale market. Papp said sellers asking that much might have been more interested in the attention than actually selling the ticket.
“I assume that person is going to the event,” he said. “If a seller wants to list a ticket for $1 million, God bless him.”
But he’s probably not going to sell it, Papp added.
Counting the receipts
The box-office take and pay-per-view proceeds from Saturday night’s Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao title fight are expected to set records, although the accounting could take a week or more to prove that.
But Matt Pinal, vice president of retail for MGM Grand, the site of the fight, said he won’t have to wait for the math to declare the bout the biggest moneymaker in terms of merchandise sales in the resort’s history.
“This is definitely the largest fight we’ve had here on property,” Pinal said, standing amid piles of T-shirts and boxes of programs in a storage area in the center of the resort’s lobby gift shop.
An MGM Grand spokeswoman said the company does not release figures for merchandise sales, but said the figure as of Saturday morning was in the millions -- a number Pinal considered conservative.
The best-selling item was a full-size boxing glove featuring the likeness of both fighters. Pinal said he ordered “tens of thousands” of the $75 gloves but sold out “in days.” T-shirts and fight programs were also popular.
Pinal credited the media build-up for the long-awaited bout between the sport’s best pound-for-pound boxers for driving the sales. And the majority of the merchandise is being sold to guests who aren’t planning to see the fight.
“The awareness, the energy, just the excitement about this,” he said. “A lot of them aren’t going to the fight or watching the pay-per-view. [They] just want to spend time on the property. And obviously take away a souvenir.”