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How Las Vegas Became the Home of Boxing

Las Vegas is one of the most legendary cities in the world. It’s the place to go if you want to have a flutter in some of the world’s most famous casinos.

It’s also got the world’s highest proportion of Elvis Presley impersonators and small wedding chapels. When you’re hungry, Vegas also has many of the world’s best Michelin-Starred restaurants, many run by celebrity chefs. 

Just like Las Vegas has become home to casinos and their many versions of poker, each with their own rankings and variations that are very useful to know, the city has become the home of many other forms of entertainment. Vegas has been host to many A-list celebrities who have been resident in one of the big casino resorts, including Elvis Presley, Celine Dion, and Lady Gaga. 

When it comes to entertainment, it’s also the home of boxing. Many of the world’s top boxers compete in venues located on the famous Las Vegas Strip, including several Asian boxers like Bektemir Melikuziev, Meiirim Nursultanov, Romero Duno, and of course, Manny Pacquiao.

The Home of Boxing

Las Vegas has become the home of boxing. Fighters like Tyson Fury and other top pros regularly step into the rings of the MGM Grand, Caesars Palace, and the Las Vegas Convention Center. 

Whenever two legends of boxing are going toe to toe, it’s almost always in Las Vegas. But it wasn’t always this way.

New York 

Before Las Vegas began to dominate the hosting of big-name boxing matches, New York’s Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, and St. Nicholas Arena were the places to host a bout. In the US, boxing really took off in the late 1940s when the three biggest TV networks were airing weekly boxing shows, attracting as many as 8 million viewers which was around 30% of the entire TV owning population at the time. 

Professional boxing matches were held in New York from the 1920s before Las Vegas was even built. Even back then, bouts were earning more than $1 million in ticket sales with crowds of around 25,000 people. 

A New Desert Home

Boxing’s move to Las Vegas began in the 1950s. This was partly due to a fall in the quality of fighters taking part in bouts in New York, and the growing appeal of Las Vegas. Being able to spend the day playing in the casinos, and the night watching some of the biggest stars in boxing battle it out in the ring made Vegas the ideal location.

The Greats

Fights like those between Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks in 1978 helped to cement Vegas’ position as the home of boxing. If fighters like these were stepping into Las Vegas rings, then the fighters who followed in their footsteps.

The following generation of leading boxers did exactly that. Mike Tyson took on Evander Holyfield in Las Vegas in 1996. Lennox Lewis fought Vitali Klitschko there in 2003, while Floyd Mayweather went toe to toe with Manny Pacquiao in 2015. This last bout earned $500 million for its organizers, more than any other fight in the sport’s history. 

Johnny Tocco

Johnny Tocoo is another factor in helping to make Las Vegas the home of boxing. He traveled to the city in 1953 to watch Nino Valdex take on Archie Moore. He loved it so much that he stayed in the city and opened the legendary Ringside Gym.

It was here that some of the biggest names in boxing trained. Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, and Sonny Liston were all trained by Tocco at the Ringside Gym. 

What’s in it for Las Vegas?

Las Vegas is a city built around the casino industry. Everything that happens in the city is designed to attract people there in the hopes that they’ll spend some time in the casinos. Many of the people paying to attend a big boxing match will be betting on the fight, so they’re likely going to be interested in wagering at the tables and slot machines too.

While the fights make plenty of money themselves, they’re a marketing tool that brings many high rollers to Nevada at one time.