LAS VEGAS — Tickets are at such a premium to see Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao’s long-awaited matchup that all of those seated at ringside will be the recognizable, the rich — and the very lucky.
There should be no lack of celebrities. TV cameras will likely find Mayweather’s sidekick Justin Bieber, actor Jamie Foxx, who will sing the national anthem, and other artists in town for appearances at Vegas nightclubs for fight weekend — including Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg and Nicki Minaj.
But even in Las Vegas where VIPs and high-rolling gamblers, the “whales” as they’re often called, are routinely “comped” with free hotel rooms and tickets, don’t assume most of the 16,800 or so ticket-holders got a free ride.
The fight will be one of the most exclusive boxing events the destination has ever hosted. Only 500 tickets were offered to the public, and they sold in seconds.
Even two U.S. senators who had their boxing fan hearts set on seeing the matchup won’t be ringside.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, a former boxer who reportedly helped nudge negotiations for the fight along when a dispute about ticket distribution issues threatened the event, is going to watch from Washington.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, an ardent fight fan who would have loved to go, will be watching from afar.
With the face value of ringside seats at $10,000, “It’s just a little pricey,” said McCain spokeswoman Julie Tarallo. And boxing fan or not, he’s still a member of Congress — no freebies allowed.
Those with a lucky streak have had a chance to win tickets, airfare and an extra $10,000 from fantasy sports betting site Fan Duel. If that didn’t work, one could pony up for a good cause. One charity on eBay was auctioning a seat next to boxing legend Evander Holyfield along with airfare, hotel and dinner at a price that had already exceeded $40,000 Monday. Another, FanBacked.com, offered tickets for two via a contest offered by celebrity news host Mario Lopez with proceeds benefiting a children’s foundation in Orange County, California.
Those tickets all had to come from somewhere, namely fight host MGM Resorts, the two fighters’ promoters or cable channels HBO and Showtime, which have deals with the boxers. On the secondary market, brokers were trying to re-sell tickets for as much as $344,000 each.
HBO says it’s taking care of its business partners with tickets. Expect to see plenty of the cable channel’s stars at the fight, but the network isn’t talking.
The cable channel bought a trove of some 600 tickets from Pacquiao’s Top Rank team to hand out.
“Top Rank was very gracious to us. We know there is incredible demand so we kept our requests reasonable,” said Ray Stallone, HBO’s vice-president of media relations.
Showtime hasn’t said who will get its tickets from Mayweather’s camp.
Neither has MGM Resorts, the fight’s host. Rooms at its flagship MGM Grand were being offered for as much as $1,600 on fight night. It would be a safe bet to assume at least some of MGM’s tickets will go to its big-spending gamblers.
Competitors, too, including Wynn Resorts bought tickets for their VIPs, although spokesman Michael Weaver wouldn’t say how many or for whom.
At the highest grossing Nevada fight in history, the $20 million 2013 matchup between Mayweather and Saul Canelo Alvarez at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, just 50 tickets were comped, according to the Nevada Athletic Commission. About the same number were handed out free last year in each of Mayweather’s two bouts against Marcos Maidana, hardly enough for a healthy entourage.
Ticket revenue records are expected to be pummeled this weekend. And there might be no better indication of that than one person who will sit ringside after paying his own way: Pacquiao’s own promoter, Bob Arum.
Arum said he paid $10,000 for his front-row seat. And Pacquiao is footing the $3 million to $4 million bill for 900 tickets to pass out to his entourage, Arum said.
“The tickets are out of the atmosphere,” said Los Angeles publicist Sandy Freidman who represents musicians and athletes. He’s asked around but so far none of his clients have asked about getting a ticket or planning to go.
“I think everyone is going to pay DirecTV,” he laughed.
AP Boxing writer Tim Dahlberg contributed to this report.
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Kimberly Pierceall, The Associated Press