Even Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman can’t get a Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao ticket.
Neither can Joe Maloof, a Vegas bigwig whose family used to control the Sacramento Kings and Palms Casino Resort, or Michael Buffer, whose signature “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” is as much a part of boxing as vitriolic press conferences and egomaniacal promoters.
“It’s complete chaos,” said Maloof, noting that his brother, Gavin, somehow scored a pair of nosebleed seats from a pal at MGM, which is hosting Saturday’s welterweight championship bout at its MGM Grand Hotel & Casino.
Next to the participants themselves, the biggest fight going on in Vegas this week is the behind-the-scenes jockeying, cajoling and horse-trading by the rich and famous for the chance to say they were a part of what’s being called the biggest fight in Vegas history. Former HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg had a different word for it:
“It’s begging, that’s what it really is,” he said. “There were times I felt more like a ticket broker than a studio president.”
The arena seats 16,800, and the less than 1,000 tickets made available to the public sold out in 60 seconds. The average sold resale ticket price was $6,268 as of Thursday, according to StubHub.
MGM controls 40 percent of the remaining tickets, while the fighters’ promotion companies evenly split the rest.
Buffer, who’ll introduce Pacquiao and stay as a credentialed media member, wasn’t given tickets or the right to buy them as part of his agreement to lend his big-fight feel to the event. Even so, he’s heard from more than just a few old friends with dinner invitations as a pretense to what they really want.
“I’ve got a few contacts, but I still can’t touch those tickets,” he said.
Ted Fikre can.
The AEG vice chairman knows a few folks at MGM Resorts International. The companies are partnering on a new 20,000-seat multipurpose arena in Vegas, which might house a National Hockey League team part-owned by the Maloofs.
“We will manage to score some seats, but only by calling in a big favor or two,” Fikre said, noting that he would probably pay full price.
Fikre might sit next to Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil, Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage or Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, all guests of the World Boxing Council, the sanctioning body for the event, said its president, Mauricio Sulaiman.
Or there’s a chance he’s elbow-to-elbow with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Masters Tournament winner Jordan Spieth or World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who said he’ll be “on the floor.” Pressed for details on how he got prime seats, McIlroy was vague.
“Where did I get my ticket? I don’t know. I do know, but I’m not sure I want to say. Definitely don’t want to tell you how much I paid for it.”
Mayor Goodman, whose husband, Oscar, is the former Vegas mayor, wasn’t offered a free ticket to the fight, said spokesman Jace Radke, meaning she’d have to pay in order to attend.
“She said the tickets were a little out of her price range,” Radke said.
While the mayor couldn’t score a ticket, Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, flexed his muscle in the name of international diplomacy.
Reid called Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum seeking four tickets for France’s ambassador to the U.S. He got them. “That’s never happened before,” Arum said. As for Reid himself, he said on the Senate floor that he isn’t going because the good seats cost too much.
While McIlroy wouldn’t say how much he paid, Joe Maloof estimated that anyone seeking ringside seats from a broker would have to fork over more than $100,000 for each ticket. That means fight fans probably won’t see the usually comped celebrities sitting in the first few rows.
“There’s no free ride,” Maloof said. “A lot of them are too cheap. They won’t pay.”
That’s a relief to HBO Sports President Ken Hershman, whose network bought its allotment from Pacquiao promotion company Top Rank.
Hershman said he knew ticketing would be the worst part of the run-up to the event. But there’s a secondary headache for folks like Hershman, who’ll have to figure out where to sit those HBO chose to accommodate.
“There’s going to be a lot of people who are disappointed with their seat location,” he said.
Greenburg, the former HBO Sports head who oversaw the 2002 Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis fight -- and the demand for ringside seats -- said it’s tricky saying no to someone who is used to getting whatever he or she wants.
“We used to have a thing -- if we get you in the building be happy,” he said. “But it’s tough to tell Denzel Washington that, or Jay Z and Beyonce.”
Like Fikre’s AEG ties, it helps to have a business connection to MGM.
Pacquiao, who is from the Philippines, has twice in the past two years fought at The Venetian Macao, which is owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp, whose Chief Executive Officer, Sheldon Adelson, has a net worth of $27.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
“If they ask for 100 good tickets, we’re going to accommodate them at face value because they’re a good customer,” Arum said.
Even a Hall of Famer has ticket limits.
Sugar Ray Leonard will be on the floor with his wife and two of his kids. He was unable to fulfill any of the more than 100 requests from friends and family.
“I said ‘I’ll try,’ and I tried,” he said.
Joe Maloof is still trying, too, though he isn’t confident about scoring a seat. He’s still deciding whether to concede defeat and call a broker.
“Never has anything struck Las Vegas this big,” he said. “Nothing is even close.”