Ghertner: Boxing remains Grand attraction in Vegas

Jan 22, 2002 4:11 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE: Scott Âí­Ghertner has been director of sports and promotions for MGM MIRAGE for six years. The 29-year-old Tucson native has coordinated all sports events and concerts at the Grand Garden Arena for three  years. Âí­Ghertner worked with the Las Vegas Sting of the Arena Football League and the Las Vegas Dust Devils of the Continental Indoor Soccer League before coming to MGM. He is single and a graduate of the University of Colorado.

GT: What are the long range plans for boxing this year?

SG: I think the city and its individual venues are anticipating a fair amount of strong boxing events in the next six months to a year. We are hosting a great event (Barrera/Morales) on March 2.

GT: Has it become more difficult for Vegas to secure big-time boxing cards?

SG: I think the opportunities abounding for the city are second to none. As we saw this past weekend, Cox Pavilion hosted Chris Byrd’s victory over David Tua as well as the Freitas victory over Casamayor. Mandalay Bay has a great event May 4 with De la Hoya/Vargas. Hopefully one of us might secure Lewis-Tyson.

GT: Has boxing lost some of its popularity in Las Vegas?

SG: Not at all. Vegas has allowed the local fans as well as visitors the opportunity to see boxing matches as a source of entertainment. Don’t think there could ever be too much of something. Las Vegas is known as the boxing capital of the world. Some of the biggest fights in boxing championship history have been held here.

GT: Did the Tyson biting episode set boxing back?

SG: No. The biting episode was a separate incident. Boxing should be judged on a case-by-case basis. Showtime and HBO continues to bring the sport to its top status. I don’t think Vegas lost much with Tyson going abroad. It was just a matter of him getting his license back in Nevada.

GT: Is MGM MIRAGE concerned that Las Vegas could lose the big money fights to Madison Square Garden, which has climbed back in the picture?

SG:  I think Madison Square Garden has always been an option for fighters. I don’t see them as a top competitor, just a factor. Caesars and Mandalay are our competitors. I think Mandalay is our biggest challenge, but we all get along.

GT: How big an advantage is it to have a facility like Grand Garden Arena?

SG: Having an arena of our size works allows us to host the best championship boxing and major concert events. We can book the Rolling Stones, Britney Spears or Aerosmith. This makes us the top arena in the city.

GT: Can the gaming industry be a hindrance?

SG: No. Gaming is a help, not a hindrance. You are able to place a wager on a fight, which provides fans another option and adds more excitement. It’s like watching a football game. It doesn’t affect the outcome of an event.

GT: Could you see odds on entertainment events, such as the Academy Awards, being wagered?

SG: Some hotels put up Academy Awards for betting, but that’s just for entertainment purposes. I don’t think that would ever happen as far as actual betting is concerned.

GT: Can a pro franchise make it in Las Vegas?

SG: It would be difficult. There are so many entertainment options here, whether it’s a movie, casinos or bowling. We have hosted LA Kings exhibition games the last five years and they will be back again in September for Frozen Fury 6. We have had great attendance, but it’s different for one night as opposed to a 41-game season. As a huge sports fan, I would love to see a pro team, but it would be difficult to sustain.

GT: How would you rate the boxing coverage in Vegas?

SG: The local writers do a great job of covering boxing. Kevin Iole, Dean Juipe and Royce Feour have created the opportunity to know the fights, the historical information and background to the sport.

GT: Is Caesars becoming a player again in boxing?

SG: I wouldn’t want to comment on Caesars. They have been in it for so long. With the construction of their pavilion, it only shows that they want to be part of it. They have hosted Shane Mosley fights. Hagler/Hearns was there. It will only provide tourists and out of town fans another venue to see championship boxing.

GT: Is Sam Boyd Stadium a viable option for a Lewis/Tyson bout?

SG: Definitely.  Will it happen, I don’t know.

GT: What fights would you like to see booked?

SG: Personally I would like to see some matchups that haven’t been made, but I can’t pinpoint one. Like watching Lewis, Trinidad, Mosley, Mayweather. I wouldn’t mind us getting Hopkins/Jones.

GT: How often can MGM MIRAGE book fights?

SG: We could do a fight a month, but we have to take fights as they come. We know what’s out there. We haven’t had an arena or concert event since New Year’s. Boxing drives a lot of our casino business. Guests want to see major fights. We like hosting major events, whether it’s concerts, the Agassi foundation, wrestling or rodeo.

GT: Las Vegas used to host big-money tennis exhibitions. Why has tennis faded?

SG: The demand just isn’t there. We hosted some tennis exhibitions in ’94 (Agassi/Âí­Connors, Agassi/Chang).

GT: Could you see the Grand Garden being a home for an NBA franchise?

SG: We would always be interested in an NBA opportunity, but we would have to consider the gaming situation.

GT: How much has Sept. 11 hurt MGM MIRAGE?

SG: I would prefer not to answer that. I don’t discuss the business side. Sept. 11 hurt us. Business went down, but we’re slowly seeing a return. The travel and convention business is picking up. Hopefully we are seeing the city get back to where it was.