Fight Club

Return with us now to boxing’s Las Vegas glory days, when not every match was for the title

Boxing’s rich tradition in Las Vegas is highlighted by glamour bouts of the past, when names such as Ali, Holmes, Tyson, Hagler, Leonard and Hearns filled in marquees on the Strip. But for every star-studded megafight, there have been hundreds of less-heralded bouts in which fans could watch up-and-coming boxers work at becoming title contenders.

There were weekly fight cards at the Silver Slipper and the Showboat in the ’70s and ’80s, featuring names such as Greg Haugen and Freddie Roach. It was an exciting time for local boxing fans, long before an alphabet soup of boxing organizations splintered the sport and paved the way for the emergence of mixed martial arts.

But the Cosmopolitan is trying to recapture some of that lost glory with its own boxing series, which debuts March 25 inside the Chelsea Ballroom and will be televised as part of ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights. Lisa Marchese, the Cosmopolitan’s senior vice president of brand marketing, says the resort is seeking to embrace Las Vegas’ boxing heritage but also stay true to its hip, youthful image, with VIP seating for the bouts complete with bottle service.

“It’s like the next generation of what boxing used to be, with a modern interpretation,” she says. “It’s going to be an intimate experience. It’s almost a mash-up of a fight and a nightclub at the same time.”

There are eight fights set for the first card, with five featuring unbeaten Cuban boxers, including super welterweight contender Erislandy Lara (15-0, 10 knockouts) in the main event. Some future cards, including one set for April 29, will take place at the Cosmo’s Boulevard Pool, with the fights broadcast live on the resort’s 65-foot-tall marquee. Tickets for the March 25 card, presented by Warriors Boxing Promotion and Blue Wave Group, are $50, $75 and $250 (for VIP seats).

Marc Ratner, executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission from 1992-2006 before taking a front-office position with UFC, says he is excited to see the Cosmopolitan embrace boxing on a level that most fans can afford. Smaller bouts are invaluable for boxers to build name recognition, he says.

“It’s great for the local fight fan because most of the major fights … you’re not going to be able to buy a ticket,” he says. “They’re almost corporate fights. These are people’s fights, where the locals can come watch. And that’s how you build up the sport.”

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