“Fight-week atmosphere at MGM Grand couldn't be better for Wilder-Fury II - - Las Vegas Sun” plus 1 more

“Fight-week atmosphere at MGM Grand couldn't be better for Wilder-Fury II - - Las Vegas Sun” plus 1 more

Fight-week atmosphere at MGM Grand couldn't be better for Wilder-Fury II - - Las Vegas Sun

Posted: 22 Feb 2020 02:00 AM PST

Wilder-Fury weigh-in


Fans sing during weigh-ins for Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, of England, for the Saturday WBC heavyweight championship boxing match, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas.

Tyson Fury playfully feigned punches in the direction of executives and commentators as he drifted toward the right side of the stage Friday afternoon at MGM Grand Garden Arena before getting swarmed by the venue's red-jacketed security team.

The guards led the "Gypsy King" the other way, getting him away from the half of the stage reserved for heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, who was entering the building and approaching the platform.

As the Nevada Athletic Commission demanded, great lengths were gone to ensure Wilder and Fury stayed a safe distance from each other at the weigh-in ahead of their heavyweight championship bout tonight. But not even a tame final pre-bout event could diminish the all-encompassing enthusiasm Wilder vs. Fury II has provoked from fight fans all week.

Despite the state-issued mandate barring the fighters from another traditional faceoff following a shoving match at Wednesday's news conference, an over-capacity crowd showed up to watch Fury weigh in at 273 pounds and Wilder tip the scales at 231 pounds. The arena was only scaled about halfway, and all the seats were taken nearly an hour before the undercard fighters started to weigh in, leaving police to stand at the doors and turn everyone else away.  

Heavyweight championship boxing's full-fledged return to the Las Vegas Strip has been an overwhelming hit. The big fight-week environment that had been bubbling all week positively exploded on Friday.

The first fight between Wilder and Fury, which ended in a split draw in December 2018, reportedly sold 325,000 pay-per views. Today's event — which is priced at $74.99 with the broadcast starting at 6 p.m. — is expected to quadruple that, and based on the scene on the strip, might do even more than that.

It felt like 325,000 people were at MGM Grand alone on Friday, or at least scores more than will be able fit into the roughly 17,000-seat venue for the fight. Ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. implored fans at the weigh-in to consider buying entry into MGM Resorts' closed-circuit viewing parties, which was no wonder considering the cheapest available fight ticket on StubHub Friday evening was $787.33 including fees.

The casino appeared flooded with people who just wanted to be close to the action. While seats were filling in the arena, a nondescript middle-aged man holding a Budweiser in the sports book on the opposite side of the property called out to a shift supervisor.

"Who do you like," the patron asked.

The suited employee overseeing the ticket writers didn't need to ask which of the many sports on the betting board was being inquired about.     

"I'm thinking Fury," he responded.

Nearby, another man wearing a bedazzled Wilder T-shirt and inquiring about signing up for a mobile betting account with a $500 deposit surely disagreed.  

Similar scenes played out everywhere.

The food court outside the arena was predictably packed about 20 minutes after the weigh-in ended. That left one man dressed in a blindingly bright yellow tracksuit desperately looking for a place to sit after picking up a tray of food from Original Chicken Tender.  

"Gypsies sit here," someone called out, sliding over to make room in an oversized booth packed with Fury fans.

Aside from the faceoff ban — a laughable overreach by the athletic commission — everything seemed to be going just the way fight organizers would have dreamed. Co-promoters Premier Boxing Champions, which represent Wilder, and Top Rank, which represents Fury, must be thrilled with the whole week.

Now the fight must live up to the hype, which to be honest, has been boxing's biggest issue of late. In the more than 20 years that have passed since there was a heavyweight clash as monumental as Wilder vs. Fury II locally, too many other mega-bouts have been marred by controversy, disappointment or a combination of the two.

It would be cruel if Wilder vs. Fury II fell to such a fate. The build-up has been too brilliant. At least no one at MGM Grand on Friday seemed all that worried about it.

"There's only one Tyson Fury," hundreds of fans chanted as they walked past shops and restaurants and towards the casino after the weigh-in.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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