Let’s start by agreeing that Tulsa is nice this time of year. And Kissimmee’s a fine place to be if you ever find yourself swatting mosquitos in central Florida.
But, well, they’re not exactly Las Vegas.
Given the chance, Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum will say plenty of nice things about Tulsa and Kissimmee. They are, after all, the sites of his company’s championship boxing promotions during its extended COVID-19 roadshow away from the Strip.
With Las Vegas mega-resorts closed to large events in 2020 and only now re-emerging from the fog and frustration of the coronavirus pandemic, many shows, conventions, and big events are once again stirring to life.
Few promoters can rival Arum for success on the Strip, but 2020’s pandemic-related restrictions were put the company’s Las Vegas presence on the canvas, Arum said in a recent interview.
This week brought good news. Gov. Steve Sisolak announced the state will ease social distancing restrictions on May 1 and plans to reopen 100 percent by June 1. With vaccinations increasing the Silver State is grinding its way back toward a sense of normalcy.
“I am confident that if Nevadans continue to remain vigilant as more and more people get vaccinated, we can accomplish this together,” Sisolak said.
It can’t come too soon for Arum, who said in an interview prior to the governor’s announcement that “we cannot exist as we have, doing these fights in a bubble. Fights which would ordinarily attract many, many fans.”
Faced with that reality, Top Rank chose to take its promotions on the road while maintaining close contact with the Nevada governor’s office for the latest updates. So it’s Tulsa one week, Kissimmee the next.
“We have moved out of Nevada, as great as they were,” Arum said of the temporary hiatus.
That could change as early as May 22, when ESPN has scheduled a card featuring Jose Ramirez against Josh Taylor for the undisputed Junior Welterweight Championship at the MGM Grand.
With state restrictions easing to 50 percent, Arum said the event could be doable. The crowd difference will be impossible to miss. A fight that might have sold 20,000 tickets could sell 7,000.
The business model remains fluid due to the realities of an unpredictable enemy but listen to the consummate promoter Arum for a while and you can’t help but sense he’s planning big things through the summer and beyond. Like something big at MGM Grand, and something bigger at Allegiant Stadium.
“Even if there’s a requirement that you can’t get in unless you can prove you’re vaccinated, that would be acceptable,” he said. “Because it would then induce people who might be reluctant to get vaccinated, to get vaccinated so they can attend an event.”
Smart medical practices are also smart marketing as Las Vegas rolls toward a sense of normalcy. Arum is looking forward to it.
“My home base is Nevada,” he said. “As long as we can get a break with the rules, that’s where we’ll be.”
John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas columnist and author. Contact him at email@example.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.