This article will, admittedly, have little to no impact on its subject. No amount of speculation or public debate will influence the location of the Pacquiao/Mayweather fight; Messrs. Arum and Schaeffer will hold it where they damn well please. But I would be lying if I said I reacted passively to the news that Jerry Jones had offered a bid to host the fight.
For the purposes of full disclosure, I am a Texan and a lifelong hater of the Dallas Cowboys (we bleed Steelers’ black and gold in the Gordian household), so my initial reaction was muddy. The thought of the biggest boxing event of my adult life being held in my home state caused me to strut around the room; the realization that such an event would further stoke Jones’ solipsism caused me to sink back into my chair.
After a fair amount of meaningless deliberation, I’ve made up my mind: I want the fight to be held in Cowboys Stadium.
As recently as yesterday I believed Jones and his coliseum were no longer in the picture but Jones insists Dallas is still in the running:
"I don't know that there's been a decision made yet as we speak, but I know that we have put our hat in the ring with a significant financial commitment. I don't want to give the numbers, but it's as credible as you could imagine.”
As far as I can tell, there is no new information to report: Jones has offered $25 million to hold the fight while, as always, Las Vegas remains the frontrunner. But while speaking to the press yesterday, Jones made an interesting remark:
"It would be a spectacle," he said. "It would be one that would really put the eyes of this country on boxing."
As with the initial announcement of Jones’ bid, his comment pulled my heart strings in two directions.
Opposing the dominance of “spectacle” in contemporary American athletics is an exercise in futility. One would have better luck abolishing the electoral college or overturning corporate personhood. But I can’t help but get a little salty when a prominent American sports figure is so unashamed in his promotion of it. Maybe a perceived unconsciousness on the part of the sports-corporate elite makes the aesthetic bankruptcy of our sporting life easier to digest.
Either way, it’s absurd to act as if Las Vegas offers a respite.
But while the first half of his remark may speak to the more regrettable aspects of American sports, the latter strikes me as insightful: holding the fight in a prominent space that is not historically associated with boxing will garner more attention than any traditional venue and, possibly, offer the sport a redemptive moment.
Boxing is not only the hardest game, it is widely perceived by the American public to be the most corrupt. Even if casual fans no longer believe fights are being fixed (or, more accurately put, no longer follow the sport closely enough to care), they sense that the sport's power brokers are deeply entrenched.
As I recently told a friend, “the problem isn’t the fights that get thrown, it’s the fights that never get made.”
Holding the fight in Dallas will do little to change the politics of boxing. The Vegas establishment would perceive it as a slight insult but, given the collective power of Golden Boy and Top Rank, not one they have the liberty to dwell on. However it is an opportunity to chip away at the biases the general public harbors regarding those politics.
By including a few faces that are familiar to the casual fan but fresh to the boxing world, you offer a pleasantly surprising portrait of the fight game in which deserving opponents square off in a ring provided by an unfamiliar host: the highest bidder.
Highmindedness aside, I agree with Jones- more people will care about the fight if it is held in Cowboys Stadium. It will get more press coverage, more people will watch and a lot more people will attend. Boxing makes a few forays into the mainstream every year, and Pacquiao/Mayweather will be an example of that no matter where it is held. But I believe that, with this fight, we have a once in a generation opportunity to capture the imagination of the American public. Vegas is the careful bet; I say we go all in.