Let’s face it. You haven’t truly made it in pro boxing unless you’ve fought in Las Vegas.
Whether it’s at Caesars Palace, Mandalay Bay, the MGM Grand, T-Mobile Arena or a more modest venue, all the star pugilists of modern times have stepped between the ropes in Sin City.
Mike Tyson, Wladimir Klitschko, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder are just some of the heavyweight greats to have boxed in Vegas. In the not too distant future, we may see another European don the gloves as undefeated Ukrainian fighter and former undisputed cruiserweight champ Oleksandr Usyk steps up a division.
What is it about this desert metropolis in Nevada with its world famous Strip that pulls crowds in? Legalized gambling since 1931.
For 60 years now, casinos in Vegas have been regulated by the Nevada Gaming Commission. This grants licenses and hears referrals from another state governing body, the Nevada Gaming Control Board which enforces laws laid down by it.
That reach and the taxes you pay when gambling (and on any winnings you make) in Vegas have since extended to the world wide web with online casinos like Genesis Casino joining their bricks and mortar counterparts. Witnessing a boxing match is just part and parcel of an authentic Vegas experience with online betting sitting side by side with gaming.
Usyk hasn’t fought at heavyweight in the paid ranks yet after a planned debut against Carlos Takam fell through due to injuries. His amateur background includes an Olympic gold medal at the London games of 2012, however, and now is the perfect time for the 32-year-old to go back up a weight class.
The WBO certainly think so as they named Usyk their mandatory next challenger for the winner of the Andy Ruiz Jr v Anthony Joshua rematch following the Mexican-American’s sensational stoppage of the Brit. With a pro record of 16-0 (including 12 wins via KO), Usyk is the most exciting recruit to the heavyweight division from Eastern Europe for some time.
He has also boxed in the US before, stopping South Africa’s Thabiso Mchunu in his first defense of the WBO cruiserweight title in Los Angeles back in 2016. Usyk returned to the States the following year where he again retained that belt over Michael Hunter at the MGM National Harbour outside Washington D.C. via unanimous decision.
A high-profile heavyweight debut or title fight in Vegas really would be a draw. It’s just extra incentive for sports fans to descend on the Strip and take in some gaming on route.
Joshua’s American debut was from his perspective a disaster. A seventh round stoppage at Madison Square Garden in New York by huge betting underdog Ruiz ranks as one of the biggest upsets in modern sports history – not just boxing.
Usyk is building a great reputation as yet untarnished – unlike potential future opponent Joshua. As he’s already fought on both the East and West Coasts of America, the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas with his name up in lights could very well be in Usyk’s future.