Whatever its artistic accomplishments, or lack thereof, tonight's Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran fight at the Mirage Hotel figures to be the richest bout in boxing history.
Promoter Bob Arum of TopRank, Inc., estimates a total gate to exceed $60 million - with proceeds coming from the live gate, from an estimated 13 million par-per-view TV customers, and from approximately 1,200 closed circuit outlets around the world (one of which will be at the Salt Palace)."I get goose bumps thinking about these numbers," says Arum. "Not only will this be the last great fight of the '80s, but it should be the biggest grossing fight of all time."
Fight fans will be paying anywhere from $800 on down to see the third meeting between Leonard, 33, and Duran, 38, who have met twice before, in 1980, when they split decisions.
The $800 price tag is for a seat at ringside. From there the seats in the 16,175-seat arena are scaled at $600, $500, $300, $200 and $100. That's as cheap as it gets live. In Las Vegas, even closed circuit locations - at a number of hotel/casinos - are charging $40 a seat.
The reason for the burgeoning gate has more to do with the evolution of pay cable television than with the historic standard of a fight pitting two boxers past their prime. More and more areas of the country are offering pay-per-view cable, allowing viewers to buy a ticket to an event such as Leonard-Duran III and watch it in their own TV room. As Arum explains, when Leonard fought Thomas Hearns just six months ago there were about nine million pay-per-view customers. Now, the estimate is 13 million.
Two and a half years ago, when Leonard fought Marvelous Marvin Hagler, the pay-per-view audience was just 3.5 million.
For their part, Leonard and Duran will make at least $12.6 million and $7.6 million, respectively.
With the bout, Leonard's attorney, Mike Trainer, said Sugar Ray will exceed the $100 million mark in career earnings. Much of that has come in the last three years in a total of four fights, all held in Las Vegas - Leonard-Hagler, Leonard-Donny LaLonde, Leonard-Hearns, and now Leonard-Duran.
Leonard comes into the fight a 2-1 favorite. In a 35-1-1 career his only loss is to Duran. Duran has a career record of 85-7.
The weather could be a factor in the fight. Forecasts call for temperatures to possibly drop into the high 40s by fight time - estimated to be around 8 p.m. local time. This will be the first major fight held outdoors this late in the year in Las Vegas. As a result, all pre-fight introductions and preliminaries will be done before Leonard and Duran come into the arena. They are expected to be boxing within two to three minutes after they've entered the ring.
Officialy, the World Boxing Council's super middleweight championship is at stake. That's the title Leonard won by beating LaLonde.
The title could very possibly go into quick mothballs - no matter who wins. It will be no surprise if both Leonard and Duran announce retirement after the bout. For that matter, it wouldn't be that much of a surprise if Bob Arum did, too.