LAS VEGAS, USA - An estimated 11,000 fans filled the MGM Grand Garden Arena, but it wasn’t to see Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr trade punches in the ring. The crowds were there to see the two fighters step on a scale for a total of 20 seconds each, then stare at each other for about a minute before disappearing back to their quarters.
Some fans paid up to $150 each for that honor, lining up with fan signs, Philippine flags, TMT hats and shirts to show who they’re rooting for.
They came from other parts of the United States, like Stan from Miami, Fla., who is picking Pacquiao to win by knockout in nine rounds. Others, like Juan Vasquez and Bugarini from Mexico, came from other countries just to take in the atmosphere in Las Vegas.
Few could dream of even getting a ticket, with the few being sold at face value snatched up within seconds when they went on sale in mid-April, and ones available on the secondary market being marked up from $3,047 to $117,005.
Both Vasquez and Bugarini wore Mayweather’s TMT hats, though Juan says he’s not particularly a Mayweather fan. “I just bought it because Manny doesn’t have a hat.”
They still haven’t figured out where they’ll watch, with bars like Crush at the MGM Grand charging $1000 for a seat at a table.
“Manny has to knock Mayweather out to win,” Bugarini analyzed.
Some lucky fans managed to get tickets, like Billy, Clifford and Foster from Manchester, England. Decked out in Money Team gear, they cheered wildly for every Mayweather gesture.
Their 7-man crew says they paid £465,000 ($703,940) for tickets and expenses to cheer vociferously for the current pound-for-pound best fighter in the world.
‘We come from Manchester to see my man Floyd smash this man,” said Foster. “When has Mayweather ever been beat? When you think of boxing, you think of Floyd Mayweather.”
Others, like Las Vegas-based Filipina Carmen, says she was inspired by Pacquiao’s messages of faith. “Pacquiao will win, absolutely. We trust in the Lord,” said the Laguna, Philippines native. She and her dozen of coworkers and friends will watch on pay-per-view at home.
“It is so expensive to watch it.”
The MGM Grand, where the fight will take place, was a circus unto itself, with fans like King David (decked out in a fur coat and crown with a guitar scepter) and a faux Don King making the rounds at the casino floor.
The Lobby Bar was packed and the Tecate flowed freely at Hecho en Vegas. There were pre-fight parties hosted by P. Diddy, Snoop Dogg and Mayweather's BFF Justin Bieber.
The iconic MGM lion at the main entrance was covered in fight fans, and there were fights and arrests on the casino floor.
Boxing is a sport that attracts the rowdy and the demure alike. And with a boxing match that has more accompanying hype than any in recent memory, a bit of insanity is par for the course.