After listening to another awesome production of Tha Boxing Voice Radio Show podcast on Thursday evening, I started to think – the hosts were talking about how the Cotto vs. Alvarez fight was being held up primarily due to a venue choice – I began to ponder, “what is the most legendary boxing arena of all-time?“
While driving home the other night, my mind started to wander to different cities and states. There are so many to choose from, but I narrowed it down to four: Caesars Palace, Madison Square Garden, MGM Grand Garden Arena, and the Las Vegas Hilton.
No one could ever imagine how an outdoor parking lot at Caesars Palace could bring such an electric atmosphere, but that’s exactly what is was – pure electricity. There were so many classic fights that took place there.
Legends such as “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Evander Holyfield and Larry Holmes just to name a few. Who could forget the night that Larry Holmes took on Gerry Cooney in 1982? The entire world stopped to watch the first big pay-per-view fight of the modern era. Then there was the Saturday afternoon when Kim Duk-koo’s life ended, and Ray Mancini’s was forever altered. The images are endless.
There was the “fan man” crashing Holyfield-Bowe II, as well as the night Thomas Hearns was carried out of the ring by one of his handlers after Marvin Hagler left him flat on his back in three grueling rounds. I for one miss that ‘ol parking lot.
While Las Vegas was staking its claim as boxing’s most distinguished stage, the Las Vegas Hilton surely helped bring that to fruition. The intimate indoor arena hosted many Hall of Famers itself.
Mike Tyson knocked out Trevor Berbick in two rounds to become the youngest heavyweight champion of all time. One of the most controversial fights in history took place at this gem when Chavez Sr. stopped Meldrick Taylor with :02 remaining and stunning split decision victories by the Spinks brothers claiming different versions of the heavyweight title.
Leon Spinks defeated Muhammad Ali and Michael handed Larry Holmes his first loss as Holmes was attempting to go to 49-0 and tie Rocky Marciano’s legendary heavyweight record. Through the mid-1980s and into the early 1990s, it can be argued that the Hilton was THE place to fight at.
“The Mecca of Boxing!” That says it all, doesn’t it? Madison Square Garden in New York City for decades has been the arena for which all boxers aspire to fight in.
In the 1940s Joe Louis held a number of his “bum of the month” club meetings there. In 1942, Ray Robinson handed Jake Lamotta his first loss in what was the first of their six fights against one another. Where can two legends like Burt Lancaster and Frank Sinatra be required to work at a fight? MSG, that’s where.
Lancaster, as an announcer, and Sinatra, as a photographer, worked the 1971 “Fight of the Century” between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. This fight started an epic trilogy between the two legends with Frazier handing Ali a devastating loss in front of thousands of celebrities and hostile fans. Two weeks after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, MSG hosted the first big fight when Bernard Hopkins beat Felix Trinidad to claim the middleweight title. Luminaries like Roy Jones Jr., Oscar De La Hoya, and Miguel Cotto have brought the Garden back to a boxing hotbed over the past few decades.
The MGM Grand Garden Arena is unquestionably the #1 arena for the biggest fights of the past 15 years. The 17,000 seat palace has seen many major events recently. Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson I & II, and De La Hoya vs. both Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.
Speaking of Mayweather and Pacquiao, their mega fight was hosted by the arena back in May. It turned out to be the highest-grossing fight in professional boxing history, solidifying this venue as the premier place to fight today.
Throughout the years boxing has called so many arenas home, but these four in my opinion have been the best. As an east coast guy, one might think I’d lean toward MSG as being my favorite having witnessed many live fights there. Even living in the present and watching so many recent big fights take place at the MGM Grand, I just keep coming back to that outdoor parking lot at Caesars Palace as being my favorite.
When nightfall would approach, you always knew that the sun was about to set on one of the main event fighters.