Boxing museum touted for Vegas Strip

Jul 15, 2003 9:50 PM

Las Vegas has long been considered a boxing Mecca, so a museum or Hall of Fame containing the world’s largest collection of boxing memorabilia on The Strip would seem a perfect fit.

"We feel we have the magnet that can draw 300,000 to 400,000 people a year to a casino," said Steve Lott, part of a boxing group pushing the project. "That’s a lot of gamblers."

Lott is one of three partners working to establish a boxing museum in Las Vegas. The group’s collection of boxing memorabilia is the largest in the world, he said.

Much of the memorabilia was collected while Lott worked with Bill Cayton. Together they edited and produced fight films for more than 30 years.

Cayton, best known for handling the business affairs for Mike Tyson early in his career, eventually sold the film and broadcast library, Big Fights Inc., to ESPN for $100 million.

Cayton’s extensive collection included the first boxing "talkies," which involved the 1929 bouts of heavyweight legends Jack Sharkey and Joe Louis. There was also a 3-D film of the 1953 title fight between Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott in Chicago.

"It is extraordinary how well the films hold up, even from the earliest days," Lott said. "They were mostly on 35 mm. and played in movie theaters. The camera can get right into their faces, unlike other sports where you tend to see shots from a distance. Customers would go to theaters and see the fights for a nickel."

The library consisted of 18,000 boxing films dating from 1897-1998, but did not include the thousands of pieces of memorabilia that could be used in a boxing museum, hall of fame or any other public venue here in Las Vegas.

"Las Vegas is our first choice," Lott said. "Yes, we could have it on 42nd Street in New York or the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, but there is no gaming and that would mean having to pay rent. Las Vegas could be a real money maker and a great tourist attraction in a city that historically loves boxing."

Lott said the collection includes Hollywood movie posters of famous boxing films dating back to City Lights with Charlie Chaplin, along with championship belts, boxing gloves and other boxing equipment used over the 100-year span.

"Bill Cayton is enthusiastic about the idea," Lott said. "It’s one reason why he entered into that agreement with ESPN. He wanted to have a spotlight for fighters and to give fans a feel for boxing from a ringside prospective."

Gary Diamond, the third partner in the venture, is the Las Vegas connection. He said he is ready to begin the process of negotiating with casino resorts to bring Cayton’s boxing collection to Las Vegas from New York, where it is currently kept.

"I owned an ad/marketing agency in New York, sold it and retired," said Diamond, who moved to Summerlin two years ago. "I am dedicated to this project. It goes with Las Vegas like air conditioning."

Diamond said the project would provide boxing fans with the means of always being able to see their favorite fighters up close.

"Other than shows or signings, there’s no way to meet former champs," he said. "We want to create a big event every day. This attraction can be in the form of a hall of fame, museum or restaurant. We just want prominent people in boxing to be involved."

Diamond said museum would also include exhibits or displays that would allow fans to experience virtual boxing match-ups against their favorite fighters, or test their punching power with an arcade-like punching machine.

"We can create a situation where you can test the speed of your jab with that of Larry Holmes or Sugar Ray Leonard," he said. "There is so much we can do that boxing fans would really take to. It’s just a matter of finding the place in Las Vegas that is interested.’’

The only existing Boxing Hall of Fame was created in 1989 in Canastota, New York, a suburb of Syracuse. Even though it is only a "hole in the hall" with hardly any displays, Diamond said he would hope they would want to be part of the Las Vegas project.

"The key is having a facility here that can reap the benefits for spotlighting Bill’s collection," he said. "I know the boxing writers would like a real institution and we want the prominent people in the sport to be part of it."

Las Vegas, the glove has been dropped. It’s your move.