Latest word out of Las Vegas is that current negotiations between the Pacquiao Mayweather camps have become unsettled with a serious Abu Dhabi versus MGM Grand fight brewing. M. Akbar Muhammad, a principle in and representative of an Abu Dhabi-based group claims that a $120 million offer has been made to Floyd Mayweather and Mayweather Promotions for the prospective May 2 fight. The fly in the ointment however is the demand that the fight take place in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.
For many the Abu Dhabi group and the country it represents remain a bit of a mystery. Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates known by its acronym UAE. An oil-rich country with a population of some 9.2 million people, 7.8 million of which are expatriates, UAE was established in 1971 as a federation of seven emirates or principalities. Arabic is the official language with Islam the official religion. UAE is seeking to heighten its international profile and sees the Pacquiao fight as a fast-track.
The MGM Grand Hotel and Casino has been the exclusive home to Mayweather since his split-decision win over Oscar De La Hoya on May 5, 2007. The business relationship has produced millions in profits for Mayweather, MGM and for the city of Las Vegas. This past spring the hotel, in appreciation for services rendered and in hopes of procuring his services in years to come, gifted Mayweather a $1.6 million luxury Bugatti and a $400,000 limited edition Rolex watch. Word is that Mayweather is feeling the pressure from both the MGM Grand and the city of Las Vegas to keep the fight in Vegas. As both corporate entities have a vested interest in keeping the fight in Vegas insiders are suggesting a serious tug-of war with Abu Dhabi is beginning to materialize.
In negotiations that are already complicated and strained this new twist could mushroom. Elements within the Mayweather camp are keen to pursue the Abu Dhabi offer while others feel a sense of loyalty to the MGM Grand and to Vegas generally. While a native of Grand Rapids Michigan, Las Vegas has become Mayweather’s adopted home. Since his first pro fight at the Texas Station Casino against Roberto Apodaca in 1996 well over half of Mayweather’s professional fights have been in Las Vegas. His fights have become a cash-cow for a city whose life-blood is the gambler Mayweather fights bring in. The choice of venue thus becomes, in terms of revenue, a war worth fighting.
This is ultimately good news for both Mayweather and Pacquiao alike. As this plays out it looks as if Vegas players will up their own ante in order to procure the fight and keep it in Vegas. As the Pacquiao Mayweather fight is increasingly unsettled with an Abu Dhabi MGM Grand fight brewing, the financial stakes are increasing. What is currently considered, in prospect, the biggest fight in the history of boxing, is getting bigger. Muhammad claims that the Abu Dhabi group he represents gave him marching orders to do whatever it takes to make the fight happen. With the latest upping of the Abu Dhabi offer from 110 million to 120 million one might assume that the bidding war may well continue to escalate.
Adding intrigue to the negotiations is Bob Arum’s open disdain for the MGM Grand and its management team. The longtime Pacquiao promoter feels that for all the good his fighters have done for the Grand it has been returned with disrespect. Arum has openly mocked not only MGM’s seeming preference for other promotion’s fighters but its general business acumen claiming that the MGM Grand is always “hustling to pay its debt.” In the world of gaming those are fighting words. Arum may have an inside agenda however as his business partner Sheldon Adelson is owner of the Vegas and Macau China Venetian Hotel and Casino where the Top Rank promoter has been doing much of his business of late.
Meanwhile Freddy Roach, Pacquiao’s erstwhile and vocal trainer is still high on the fight hoping that not only does the May 2 fight take place, but that Arum and Mayweather can somehow negotiate a multi-fight deal. At the very least a two fight deal could materialize and if those fights are split then a third would seem a natural progression.
That said, and with massive figures being bandied about, the fight yet appears to be as precarious as ever. With the late news that an Abu Dhabi MGM Grand Fight is brewing, and that Pacquiao Mayweather negotiations have been unsettled as a result, fight fans wait on pins-and-needles for a bit of good news. In the end, despite appearances, this is boxing after all and as a business it has always been a blood sport both inside and out of the ring. Seen in that vein, the bleeding out of Vegas this week should be seen as good news.
Commentary By Matthew R. Fellows
Photo By: Leonardo Pallotta Flickr License