Plenty of fight left in MGM

Feb 15, 2005 9:51 AM

The heavyweight division in boxing has shifted from human to corporate form, which should guarantee some big-money fights in Las Vegas before summer.

"If the merger with Mandalay Bay goes through, it will provide two great arenas to host boxing matches, concerts and whatever we want," Scott Ghertner, director of sports and promotions at MGM-Mirage, told -GamingToday in an exclusive interview.

Ghertner is sitting on a big announcement regarding a May 14 bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena between IBF junior middleweight champ Winky Wright and Felix Trinidad.

A Feb. 4 copyrighted story in the Puerto Rico Herald said the Wright-Trinidad fight is on, with Trinidad to receive $9 million and Wright $5 million. Ghertner said the bout wasn’t quite 100 percent assured, but the world’s largest hotel is confident enough to post odds (Trinidad -165) in its sports book. Wright is an inviting +145 underdog.

"We plan on making the Wright-Trinidad fight public in the next couple of weeks," Ghertner said. "It’s not officially confirmed, but all things are headed that way."

Unless something drastic occurs, Ghertner would be halfway toward his wish of a Trinidad-Bernard Hopkins fight later this season.

"Trinidad-Hopkins, along with Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales 4 would be the two biggest fights to market," Ghertner said. "I think either bout would be good for MGM-Mirage whenever they meet."

MGM has been on hiatus from boxing since Barrera-Morales 3 last Nov. 27, but will return in grand style March 19 with a high-octane featherweight battle between Morales and the exciting lefty Manny Pacquiao. If Morales defeats Pac Man, the stage could be set for a fourth Barrera bout.

"I think we as promoters are getting away from the heavyweight one-punch battles and into the wars that go eight to 12 rounds, like the ones with Barrera and Arturo Gatti. Both are attractive competitors, who fight great every time. The public knows to expect a great fight."

Less fights, better shows.

With the lack of a top drawing card in the heavyweight division, MGM cut back its annual fight promotions last year.

"Some years we have had from 8-to-10 fights here, and others 4-to-5," Ghertner said. "It’s just a matter of Richard Sturm (President and CEO of MGM-Mirage sports entertainment) determining what makes sense for the resort. We have a great venue that is world renowned for restaurants, shows and nightclubs."

Ghertner promised some great fights in the coming months and even offered an up and coming heavyweight the fans should get excited about.

"I really like Jeff Lacy, who is 18-0," Ghertner said. "He doesn’t fight potato cans. I could see him featured in some of our major bouts."

Believe it or not, with all the baggage Mike Tyson has caused in past MGM bouts (like the ear-biting debacle with Evander Holyfield) over the years, Ghertner would not rule out Tyson for a possible fight.

"If Tyson fight again, we might take a look at that opportunity," he said. Mike would have to get his license back first. We’ve seen him fight some unbelievable fights at MGM Grand. I don’t think he his washed up, but I also don’t know if he has the desire to fight."

Ghertner smiles when you mention Oscar de la Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr., or Lennox Lewis ("he could always make a comeback"), while explaining that MGM is more than just boxing.

"They appeal to us because they are entertainers as well," he said. "We are a venue that loves hosting the best performers and sporting events in the gaming industry.

"MGM Grand Garden seats 17,000, Robert Walker is the top linesmaker in the country and our properties (Bellagio and Mirage) are sites for three major poker tournaments during the year," he said.

LOOKING AHEAD

Ghertner would really like to see either or both of his two big fights occur this year. If not?

"Our biggest goal is to help promote and entertain our guests," he said. "We want to guarantee their safety, make sure they have a great time, and hope they will come back and visit us in the future."