Boxing probably shouldn’t mean so much to the Las Vegas economy. We ought to be more civilized.
In a nicer world, Steve Wynn’s art collection and the Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef would excite the masses more than watching two men beat each other senseless. But boxing brings in the spenders and attracts the flashy party crowd, and in Las Vegas that’s always a good thing, give or take a riot.
Big fights pump untold millions into the town. While most of it ends up in casino coffers, plenty trickles into the community. If you look at it that way, boxing is more like Siegfried & Roy with broken noses than a blood sport that as an entertainment art form probably should have been outlawed along with cockfighting and pit bull brawls.
But no matter what you think of boxing, you can’t deny that its economic impact on Las Vegas has been enormous over the years.
That’s why I think the men who have done the bleeding and even dying deserve some respect from the casino hierarchy and the people in charge of the Las Vegas Walk of Stars.
The plan is to imbed granite stars in the sidewalk along a four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, roughly from the Sahara to Mandalay Bay. (Forget that granite casino chips probably would have looked less like a Hollywood knockoff.)
The nonprofit Walk of Stars foundation has been accepting nominations and collecting names of suitable celebrities. The stars cost $15,000 each, which seems like a lot of money for the honor of having millions of tourists drag their feet over your good name.
Sinatra was a cinch. Elvis was easy. The Wayner is a no-brainer.
Dozens more headliners and casino bosses fill the roster of the first 100. You can name most off the top of your head. With room for up to 3,000, your Aunt Tilly and Uncle Ned from Iowa won’t be too far out of the running by the time the last star has been placed.
But, I have wondered, what about the boxers?
Wayne Newton goes overtime every night, but he’s never had to get up from a punch from Ernie Shavers the way Larry Holmes did at Caesars.
Sinatra was sensational, but he couldn’t hold a tune next to Hagler-Hearns.
And it’s a lot easier to make a white tiger disappear than Evander Holyfield.
The Strip has had great song-and-dance men, but was Sammy Davis Jr. really any better than Sugar Ray Leonard?
And who did we get for starters from the folks at the Las Vegas Walk of Stars?
Rocky Marciano and Joe Louis.
What, no Muhammad Ali?
He’s better known for the Thrilla in Manila, but at least the Greatest fought in Vegas.
Marciano was a heavyweight god, the only champ in the weight class to retire undefeated, but he never fought a round here.
Including Marciano makes as much sense as giving Jack Dempsey a star. Dempsey was a great champion, too, and he also didn’t fight in Las Vegas. At least Dempsey pummeled a few bums around Goldfield and Tonopah in his wandering youth.
As for Louis, he battled the IRS and drug addiction in Las Vegas as a greeter at Caesars Palace, but never fought for a check or against an opponent in trunks and gloves. I would include Louis because he was a popular fixture at the casino, but I’d also include the DeMarco brothers. They worked in the casinos, too.
Sentimentalist that I am, I’d also include Freddie Roach, Leroy Haley, Gary Bates and 50 other local boys who never failed to give a crowd its money’s worth. And who’s to say whether the Freddie Roaches of the fight game meant less to the Silver Slipper and Showboat than Hearns and Holmes meant to Caesars Palace and the Riviera.
Of course, I’d make room for Julio Cesar Chavez, Roberto Duran and Oscar De La Hoya.
While we’re at it, we’d better save bandarqq stars for Don King and Bob Arum. There would be no circuses without these ringmasters.
I’d even argue that Mike Tyson deserves a star. He’s generated more money in fewer events than almost any other entertainer in the history of Las Vegas. Even his ear bite was good publicity.
Tyson was great for the economy and, in his way, was highly entertaining.
And in the real Las Vegas, isn’t that the bottom line?