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Macao packs a big punch

Updated: 2013-12-04 07:23
By Murray Greig ( China Daily)

Macao, which long ago eclipsed Las Vegas as the world's No 1 gambling destination, is now poised to usurp Sin City as the planet's premier stage for big-time boxing.

"It's no stretch to say that the future of boxing is China; we have found a new home in Macao and we couldn't be happier about it," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said on the eve of the Nov 24 'Clash in Cotai' card headlined by Manny Pacquiao vs Brandon Rios.

The fight, which aired live in more than 120 countries and regions, not only showcased Pacquiao's re-emergence as a global superstar - it spotlighted how and why the 15,000-seat CotaiArena at the Venetian, the flagship casino of Sands China Ltd, is fast becoming boxing's equivalent of Caesars Palace, the MGM Grand and Madison Square Garden all rolled into one.

"Macao has become the capital of the boxing world, and a lot of that is because of this venue," said Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach.

"I don't know if I've ever seen a more perfect place to hold a big fight. There's not one bad seat in the place, and when the crowd gets worked up it sounds like the roof is going to come off."

Arum was so impressed with the Venetian's commitment to the three cards it hosted this year that he pulled the trigger on announcing that CotaiArena will be the site of another international fistic extravaganza on Feb 22.

"We are calling it 'Ring of Gold' and it will resemble the first two shows we did here that were built around (two-time Olympic gold medalist) Zou Shiming," said Arum.

"We will have three gold medal winners from the London Games, headlined by Zou in his first eight-round bout. The others will be Ryota Murata, the middleweight from Japan, and Egor Mekhontsev from Russia, the light heavyweight champion.

"There will also be a couple of world title fights on the show."

According to official estimates, Macao raked in a staggering $38 billion in gambling revenue last year - six times more than the Las Vegas Strip.

With that kind of money floating around, anything is possible ... particularly when partners like Top Rank and the Venetian combine their expertise.

"Here at the Venetian there is never any question when you ask for something to be done," Arum told the Las Vegas Sun. "Money is virtually irrelevant, even when you say something is going to cost a lot extra."

Eventually, of course, Arum would like to pioneer pay-per-view boxing in China, where the profit potential figures to be astronomical. But even if that never happens, Macao will continue to attract the biggest names in the sport.

"Boxing is coming back into the mainstream of Chinese sports in a big way, thanks to Zou Shiming and a new generation of homegrown talent," said Arum.

"We think Macao and the Venetian will be the focal point for that growth for many years to come."

(China Daily 12/04/2013 page23)

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