Cin­na­mon, GGG the toast of Ve­gas

Sunday Tribune - - NEWS&VIEWS - Clin­ton van der Berg On Twit­ter: Clin­tonv

FOR true box­ing fans, the real fight of the year was the one that took place early this morn­ing be­tween Gen­nady “GGG” Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Al­varez for the world mid­dleweight cham­pi­onship.

Las Ve­gas loves a good thrash and to be in the mid­dle of the whirl­wind this week, as I was, gave a strong in­di­ca­tion of how ro­bust and pop­u­lar the sport con­tin­ues to be in the US. De­spite the head­lin­ers be­ing for­eign – Golovkin from Kaza­khstan, Al­varez from Mex­ico – the buzz was re­mark­able. All 20 000 tick­ets were sold out in a day, the cheap­est for R4 800.

It’s dif­fer­ent in other US cities, but it’s easy to tell when there’s a big fight in Las Ve­gas. The box­ers’ faces were plas­tered ev­ery­where, not least on the side of the MGM Grand, the big­gest ho­tel in the city (5 700 rooms), and the sports books pushed it hard. In­evitably, high rollers dropped huge dol­lars on the su­per fight. I wasn’t one of them, my puny $10 (R132) on a Golovkin win the clos­est I came to risk­ing a punt.

The fight was also broad­cast on close-cir­cuit tele­vi­sion in bars and casi­nos, so the pro­mo­tional push was strong there too. Ev­ery­where you turned, there was the bearded Mex­i­can and his Kazakh ri­val, their faces beam­ing down on thou­sands of tourists.

Golovkin has boxed all over the world, but, re­mark­ably, this was his first time in the City of Sin. His broad smile as he forced his way through a crowd seven-deep at the “grand ar­rival” in the ho­tel lobby on Tues­day in­di­cated that he loved every mo­ment. De­spite be­ing the so-called B-side in the fight, the en­ergy and ex­cite­ment swirled around him, not­with­stand­ing it em­a­nat­ing mostly from Lati­nos in sup­port of Al­varez, nick­named Canelo (Span­ish for cin­na­mon), be­cause of his red hair. The hype was ramped up even more, with it be­ing Mex­ico In­de­pen­dence week­end.

Ten-time world cham­pion and for­mer Olympic gold medal­list Os­car De La Hoya was the chief pro­moter and he knows how to give the pub­lic its juice.

His fa­mous mil­lion-dol­lar smile re­flected his hap­pi­ness at how the fight, al­most two years in the mak­ing, elec­tri­fied box­ing fans. The press con­fer­ence a day later was thrown open free to the pub­lic, who flooded the David Cop­per­field The­atre in the MGM Grand.

Such events are de­signed to be over the top, with box­ers get­ting in each other’s faces, but there was none of that. There’s no warmth be­tween the pair; they let their box­ing do the talk­ing and couldn’t pull off smack talk if they tried. Once, when Cur­tis Stevens threat­ened to put Golovkin in a cof­fin, he gave an icy stare and said, “we shall see”. Days later, on the verge of a knock­out over the brash Amer­i­can, Golovkin was im­plored to knock him out. “Just a few more rounds,” he said coldly. He wanted to draw the pain out.

The slick­est line was from his trainer, Abel Sanchez: “The sky is blue, wa­ter’s wet and Cin­na­mon’s toast.”

A prom­i­nent box­ing writer once called Las Ve­gas “the big­gest toi­let bowl in the world that can’t flush” be­cause of the many seedy things to have oc­curred around big fights here. In­deed, the 21st an­niver­sary of Tu­pac Shakur’s death by shoot­ing, in the wake of a mad Mike Tyson fight week­end, was this week. But Las Ve­gas has cleaned up, de­spite some box­ing judges still turn­ing in du­bi­ous cards.

Tyson him­self con­tin­ues to be prom­i­nent in the city, where he ex­pe­ri­enced some of his best (and worst) mo­ments as a fighter.

He lives here, too, where his one-man show, The Undis­puted Truth, is a hot ticket on the strip. To hear him talk about life af­ter box­ing, not least his role in movies which has ex­tended his wild pop­u­lar­ity, was R1 000 well spent.

For $300 (R4 000), fans could line up, have a box­ing glove au­to­graphed by Tyson and a photograph taken with the for­mer cham­pion at a lo­cal sport shop. It was a place burst­ing with peo­ple and mem­o­ra­bilia, in­clud­ing one of Shaquille O’neal’s size-22 Ree­bok shoes.

There was also a signed pic­ture of Tyson with Muham­mad Ali. “Ali was the great­est, but I was the bad­dest,” Tyson scrawled.

What hap­pens in Ve­gas stays in Ve­gas isn’t strictly true. For a box­ing fan, what hap­pens in Ve­gas is what makes the sport so com­pelling and elec­tric.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.