- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com traveled to Las Vegas for Saturday's megafight between Floyd "Money" Mayweather and "Sugar" Shane Mosley. This is his diary of the scene in and around the MGM Grand for one of the biggest fights of the year.
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Welcome to Las Vegas
It's fight night in Las Vegas. That means that for one night, the recession, empty casinos and $50 hotel rooms take a back seat to decadence, mile-long taxi lines and $400-a-night rooms on The Strip. This is the good old Vegas you used to know, love, loathe and leave in the morning, and for one night it's back, baby. I'll be here over the next 12 hours (or until I do something to make my editor pull the plug on this thing) chronicling the scene in Vegas for Mosley versus Mayweather, which promoters have titled, "Who R U Picking?" I think it marks the first time a megafight was named after some teenager's text.
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Fight night always brings out athletes from all sports. Just ask Santonio Holmes, who was on his way to Sin City before he got, um, sidelined. Last night I ran into Chris Bosh at the roulette table at the Bellagio while a few Lakers fans tried to recruit him to L.A. Bosh smiled but didn't tip his hand as to where he was leaning toward going as a free agent. When I asked him what he wanted to do, he said he wasn't sure but was open to suggestions. (He wasn't joking, if you haven't checked out his Twitter account lately.) I'd be willing to go to the sports book now and bet that he's leaving Toronto, with the smart money on Miami.
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Chris Bosh wasn't the only one wheeling and dealing at the Bellagio late last night. Former Lakers great (well, at least I thought he was great) Eddie Jones was at the $500-minimum-bet tables playing blackjack past 2 a.m. I'm glad he's still doing well long after his days running "The Lake Show" with Nick Van Exel, Vlade Divac, Cedric Ceballos, Anthony Peeler and George Lynch.
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The sports book at the MGM Grand gave sports fans the opportunity to lose money and throw back $5 mint juleps just like they were at Churchill Downs. I opted to save my money and splurge on a mojito.
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Name from the past
The self-proclaimed "Kobe Stopper" himself, Ruben Patterson, is playing craps at the MGM before the fight. I know there's an easy joke in there but I'll pretend I'm above that for the moment.
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One of the highlights of fight night is seeing boxing historian Bert Sugar with his loud pants and chewed-up cigar. Sugar is currently chilling at the Zuri cigar bar at MGM and likes Mosley tonight.
"I'm picking Mosley," he said. "I'm not sure how much Floyd has lost having fought just once in two years. Mosley has equal if not better hand speed, and I just don't know what Mayweather has or has not lost in his defensive genius in two years. Mosley in a decision."
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Another NBA reference
I just walked past Planet Hollywood, which has something called the Gregory Popovich Pet Theater. The man at the box office assured me it has nothing to do with the San Antonio Spurs' coach, but how amazing would it be if it did?
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Another Sugar and a Hitman
"Sugar" Ray Leonard and Tommy "Hitman" Hearns were at the Media Center yesterday making their way around Radio Row and chatting with us media members without radio shows. "Sugar" Ray, who looks as though he could still go 12 rounds, wouldn't make a prediction but at least didn't say the outcome would come via decision, as most everyone has done this week. "I had a premonition the other night and saw a knockout by someone," Leonard said. "I am not a guru, I am not a psychic, but I did see a knockout."
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Quiet an event
I caught up with ESPN's ace boxing writer Kieran Mulvaney, who brought up a great point about the rather tame atmosphere surrounding this megafight. He pointed out there was no nationalistic pride involved, as is usually the case when fighters such as Manny Pacquiao, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto or Juan Manuel Marquez are involved. Those fights create an almost World Cup-type atmosphere in the casino with fans wearing, waving and flying their country's flags; banging drums; and blowing horns. It seems that although this fight is one of the best we've had on paper, it might not create the same European-soccer-like hysteria on The Strip we've become accustomed to for past fights.
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So after watching Super Saver win the Kentucky Derby inside the Media Center, I've made my way inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena for the undercard of Mayweather-Mosley. I got in just in time to see Dion Savage beat Tommie Speller by unanimous decision. I'm guessing that if you're not related to Savage or Speller, that result did absolutely nothing for you. I know it didn't get much of a rise from the 20 or so early birds inside the arena.
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Not so Grand Garden
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer recently called the MGM Grand Garden the Yankee Stadium of the fight game, and when you look at the list of boxing and MMA matches it has held since opening in 1994, it's hard to disagree with that assessment, although I have a hard time believing this quaint arena was patterned after New York's Madison Square Garden, as the official site says. It looks more like the L.A. Sports Arena or the Great Western Forum than MSG. There's probably no need for a Staples Center-like facility to be in Las Vegas, but it would be nice if some of the biggest battles in the fight game were held in a nicer facility. In fact, I'd love for big fights to be held outdoors as they were back when Caesars Palace used to hold the megafights. Not only was it nicer aesthetically, but also there was always the chance for another "Fan Man" incident.
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R U kidding me?
Everyone on media row is passing the time during the undercard thinking up alternate taglines for the Mayweather-Mosley fight, which for some reason was called "Who R U Picking?" Some of the ones we came up with: "Better Later Than Never, 10 Years Later ," "It's Not Manny But ," "Boxed In, Finally" and "It's About Time."
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De La Where?
Oscar De La Hoya just made his way to his seat at the MGM Grand Garden. De La Hoya has been surprisingly absent this week in terms of media events and news conferences. In fact, his appearance at the fight was the first time I've seen him in Las Vegas this week. Not sure what that means, but it's certainly noteworthy considering this is the biggest fight Golden Boy has put on in some time.
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The fight between Mosley and Mayweather has been billed as a classic matchup between two future Hall of Famers, and a quick glance at ringside reveals an impressive list of boxing's living legends who have come out to see the fight firsthand. Muhammad Ali just made his way to his ringside seat and is seated near "Sugar" Ray Leonard, Thomas "Hitman" Hearns and Oscar De La Hoya. Many of the seasoned boxing writers seated beside me were shocked to see Ali at the fight, as they haven't seen him sit ringside for a fight in years.
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Not quite a sellout
There are huge pockets of empty seats in multiple sections of the arena right now, and we're less than 30 minutes away from the main event. I was told this fight was a sellout but unless a massive number of people are planning on coming in the next 15-30 minutes, this is far from a sellout, at least visibly. We'll see how it looks once the opening bell rings.
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This is probably the best celebrity turnout in a decade for a Vegas fight. I'm just looking from my seat and I see Will Smith hugging Muhammad Ali and giving him a kiss on the cheek, Magic Johnson shaking hands with Mike Tyson, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger talking to Mark Wahlberg, Jamie Foxx, P. Diddy, Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, Chris Brown and Michael J. Fox -- and, of course, what would a party be without the gratuitous picture of Nicky and Paris Hilton bobbing their heads to the prefight music. Oh, and those empty seats I spoke of earlier have now filled up. This one looks like a sellout. The only thing left to do now, in the immortal words of Mills Lane: "Let's get it on!"
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Mayweather wins by decision
In the end we got the result everyone had predicted -- Mayweather by decision. Mosley looked as if he had Mayweather on the ropes after winning the first two rounds and taking Mayweather through the toughest round of his career in the second, nearly dropping one of the best pound-for-pound fighters ever for the first time. After the second round, however, it was all Mayweather, who took the crowd out of it and went to work on Mosley. As the fight progressed Mosley grew more tired and frustrated, while Mayweather smiled and talked his way through each round.
Well, that's it from ringside. Make sure to check out my post-fight column on ESPNLosAngeles.com later tonight.
Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.