You know the Elvis Chapel, the strip clubs, the roulette wheels, the cannabis dispensaries and the heavyweight fights like the one here on Saturday night. They are the reasons Vegas is Vegas.
The big money fights in this city make it too easy to forget that even the modern business of boxing, where excess is a naked ambition and cash is often the only guide to a fighter’s wealth, is still the noble art of self-defence.
It is important to be reminded that the sport is older than the largest marble penis on the latest chiselled Roman centurion standing sentinel over the door to the Gucci store in Caesars, a hotel that is positively antique in this merry-go-round city. A fighter like Tyson Fury is glorious proof of boxing’s ancient and proud history; it is a sport that has been on a journey from distant Greece, through England’s blood-stained fields and to the modern neon arenas that can electrify today.
On Saturday night at the MGM, a venue where titles have changed hands since about 1993, Fury enters a 22-foot-squared ring to try and reclaim the nobility in an old game grown weary from too much transparent glitter. Fury, make no mistake, has delivered enough carnival tricks of his own: dressing as batman, facing oblivion, hiring two Leprechauns as security, singing and dancing like a show pony.
There is also a joyous purity to Fury under all the nonsense, a desire he has to follow not just his dad, uncles, grandfathers and dozens of other gypsy fighters he shares a bloodline with, all masters in fighting codes inherited through generations, but he wants to keep that tradition. It’s an honour to him, a way of life to him - the Gypsy King name is not just a handy ring sobriquet, it’s a proud statement of fact for the big lad.
And he knows that Saturday’s fight with Deontay Wilder, the WBC champion, could be a treasured boxing match for the pure heart and soul of his sport. It is a sport that too many on both sides of the ropes use as a convenient springboard for their limitations and endless ego. Boxing is not for fun, convenience or gimmick at this level, but in this city there is, it seems, always a soft landing for a bruised cash-cow. Currency has always been fluid in casino land.
This is different, trust me. This has felt like a big fight all week, every inch of the old MGM is papered with images of the two fighters, the city has caught that fever only heavyweights spread when they fight for real. There is just a chance, a hope, possibly even a dream, that Fury can win by remembering the guiding principals of the noble art: hit and don’t get hit, that’s the self-defence part - that’s also the only sensible way to beat Wilder.
In 43 fights Wilder is undefeated, 41 of the 42 men he has beaten were knocked out. Many were knocked out cold. Fury is the one blemish on Wilder’s clean sheet and even in their draw, which took place in Los Angeles in December 2018, Wilder twice dropped Fury. In the last round, with less than 40 seconds gone, Fury went down so heavily that It looked over as the fallen frame of Fury was still for about seven seconds; the rest, as they say, is history. Fury gets up and wins the remainder of the round.
Fury is unbeaten in 30 fights, he once held the world heavyweight title, a time before his demons held him; the three belts vanished without a punch being thrown and Fury tumbled. His resurrection from that darkness was as impressive as his rising from Wilder’s punches. Both unbeaten, they share a draw, the fight is perfect, the city is swollen with expectation.
“It’s simple,” explained Lennox Lewis, the regal former heavyweight champion and Las Vegas veteran. “The boxer wins if he doesn’t get hit - and he shouldn’t get hit.” Lewis could hold a strategy for 36 minutes without blinking to get the win. He believes heavily in Fury.
The boxers have sent out so many mixed messages since the fight was launched in early January and they are still offering contradictions as facts; they can, can’t win on points, they can, can’t win by knockout. It goes on and on. They are each capable of a win by long or short methods and together they could serve another draw.
Wilder admits he has no idea how he knocks people out, but that is not the same as him having no idea what he is doing; too many dismiss Wilder’s smartness, focusing instead on his lunges and misses. Fury is not that impressed with Wilder’s boxing ability and Wilder has no respect for Fury’s power; a win could be in the muddle of the underestimation. It is a savage enemy, complacency.
Fury can win on points. Wilder could so easily connect early. Fury’s cut right eyebrow from a September fight might open, the 47 stitches wasted. However, the art of self-defence should triumph inside the MGM ring; there will be scares, hurt, brutality and finesse on a night of noble boxing in this most ignoble of places. Fury on points or by late stoppage in a classic for the old game.
The fight is live and exclusive on BT Sport Box Office