The bidding to host the May 5 rematch between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin is pitting the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Strip with the classic elegance of the Big Apple.
The fight, formally announced Monday, will be decided by money and a healthy dose of backroom politicking, but the tug of war for home-arena advantage has begun.
“The Garden is synonymous with the biggest and best events in sports and entertainment and the Golovkin-Alvarez fight certainly fits into this category,” said Joel Fisher, Madison Square Garden’s executive vice president for marquee events whose legendary New York venue has hosted Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier I and the Grammys.
Alvarez’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, originally said at the launch of the middleweight-title showdown that he envisioned a trilogy that would take the fighters on a tour of the nation, from The Strip to New York’s bright lights and on to Jerry Jones’ massive AT&T Stadium outside Dallas.
That sounded good at the time, but with Mexico’s former two-division champion Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 knockouts) seeking to settle the debate that spawned from his Sept. 16 draw with Kazakhstan’s three-belt middleweight champion Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs), Cinco de Mayo on Las Vegas Boulevard is in his comfort zone.
Unlike Golovkin, who built up the majority of his U.S. fan base by winning five bouts at MSG since 2013, Alvarez, 27, has never fought there.
Nine of Alvarez’s last 12 fights have been in Las Vegas, and he starred in the first sporting event at T-Mobile Arena two years ago on Cinco de Mayo weekend, scoring a thunderous sixth-round knockout of England’s Amir Khan.
Alvarez is the greater draw, assuring his wishes on the location will carry the most weight.
AT&T Stadium is unavailable this time because it is hosting the NFL draft April 26-28.
Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler said this week that MSG submitted a proposal to stage the bout that was more lucrative than the T-Mobile Arena package in September.
That bout generated live-gate sales in excess of $27 million with more than 17,000 tickets sold, standing as the third-most successful gate in the sport’s history behind Floyd Mayweather’s victories over Manny Pacquiao and Conor McGregor, with nearly $80 million in total revenue once pay-per-view buys were tallied.
This rematch is expected to be even more lucrative because of the competitiveness of the first bout and the fact that fans won’t have invested so many dollars on boxing three weeks earlier, as they did for Mayweather-McGregor in August.
Although New York could likely produce better live-gate sales, Las Vegas holds some key trump cards.
The fighters will avoid any state income tax on their purse money in Nevada.
Accommodations are also more affordable for the large entourages that accompany the fighters, and several nearby boxing gyms available for fight-week workouts. There is also easy access to the arena and the venues that host the news conferences and prefight weigh-ins.
The presence of high rollers in town allows T-Mobile operators MGM and AEG to effectively top any figure MSG can offer.
However, the Garden’s strong pitch provides Golovkin significant leveraging after he was clearly left disenchanted by the judges used by the Nevada Athletic Commission last time.
While respected veteran Las Vegas judge Dave Moretti scored the bout 115-113 in Golovkin’s favor, Don Trella was the only judge to award Alvarez the seventh round while scoring it even 114-114, and Las Vegas judge Adalaide Byrd turned in a widely panned 118-110 scorecard (10 rounds to two) in Alvarez’s favor.
Byrd has had a decreased workload since, with no title-fight assignments by the commission’s executive director, Bob Bennett, who assured that Byrd and Trella will not be used in the rematch.
Email records obtained by The Times through a public records request last year showed Loeffler approved of the selection of Byrd, Trella and Moretti before the first bout.
Trella, ironically, gave Golovkin the nod 115-112 in his March 2017 victory over Daniel Jacobs at MSG.
This time, Loeffler is pressing for the use of only one Nevada judge and two from other areas of the U.S.
Speaking generally about judge selection, Bennett said he is willing to consider the opinions of promoters during the process, assuring his recommendation to the commission for final approval will be in the sport’s best interest.
“If we feel we can accommodate what they’re asking for and still give them A-plus judges for the fight, I talk to my chairman and let them know we will if we can,” Bennett said. “I’ll address any and all concerns about the judges. This is the biggest fight. I’m going with the best judges I can find in the U.S.”
The site decision is expected to be made by mid-February.
“We knew this fight would be hot and in demand,” De La Hoya said in a prepared statement read by a publicist. “We are getting so many texts, emails and requests for tickets like we’ve never had before. Even my fights didn’t have this kind of response.
“Now, we have to get a location to sell all those tickets.”