LAS VEGAS -- On the corner of Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard -- about seven miles north of the MGM Grand Garden Arena where Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao will duke it out Saturday night -- a 1,700-square-foot pop-up shop selling fight merchandise is buzzing.
In the back of the store, a DJ is blasting tunes, a little James Brown with some Michael Jackson and Bruno Mars mixed in. Next to the DJ is an interactive fight simulator, where fans can take the role of either boxer and have their punching power measured by a sensor.
There are $20 official fight posters and racks of $35 T-shirts displayed atop a $30 pair of miniature boxing gloves, while a white T-shirt with gold TMT (“The Money Team”) lettering is going for $55. A women’s “necklace tank w/bling” is available for $90.
Eddie Beshears, a senior retail event manager for AEG, is in town for the week to help manage the store. There are smaller merchandise shops at MGM properties on The Strip, but the pop-up shop, which will stay open through fight night, serves as the downtown Las Vegas hub for the pre-fight hype, ensuring that no sales opportunities are lost. “We don’t want people to say the reason they couldn’t get a shirt is that they couldn’t find one,” Beshears says.
When it comes to the fight itself, the numbers are something out of a boxing bizarro world. Mayweather is expected to make upwards of $180 million, while Pacquiao, who is on the short end of a 60/40 purse split, should still walk away with more than $100 million. Just the live gate of the fight is expected to total roughly $72 million, more than triple the previous record, and record-setting foreign television rights and corporate sponsorships will be a hefty drop in the bucket for an event that could exceed $500 million in total revenue. But for those willing to scramble, there's plenty of other money to be made.
Back at the pop-up shop, store employees say consumers are gobbling up the $20 posters and the T-shirts featuring Mayweather and Pacquiao standing side-by-side. There are even black “booty shorts” - with “MAY” in gold lettering sandwiched between dollar signs - available for $35. “People find different ways to support the fighters they like,” Beshears says.
A few feet from the DJ booth stands Jason Roberts, an art broker tasked with selling the shop’s most expensive item -- a 12-feet-by-4-feet-long charcoal and pastel painting on archival canvas by renowned sports artist Dave Hobrecht. With a list price of $150,000, the Mayweather Promotions-commissioned painting incorporates 15 pieces of ring-used material from Mayweather’s gym: hand wraps, ring corners and pieces of speed and heavy bags have been adhered to the canvas.
“It’s part of boxing history,” Roberts says. “That’s why it’s an important piece.”
Reprints of the work ranging from a “Small Open Edition” (30x10, $100) to a 1-of-10 “XL Limited Edition” (72x24, $10,000) are also available.
Hobrecht was even in town himself. By Monday, the lobby store at the MGM Grand had been transformed into the “Official Merchandise Fight Store," and Hobrecht was sitting next to a makeshift booth with the prints. He says the original took 650 hours to complete, a painstaking process of layering colors and creating a mini-collage of some of Mayweather’s finest in-the-ring moments. The $150,000 piece has yet to sell, but Hobrecht says it doesn’t need to in order for him to turn a profit. The sold prints should cover his labor costs, and he figures he will probably display it across the country.
“We wouldn’t mind keeping it for a year, getting a little tour going,” Hobrecht says “We want people to see it.”
Just outside the “Official Merchandise Fight Store” stands a full-sized boxing ring. The scowling images of Mayweather and Pacquiao on the sides of the ring are surrounded by Tecate signage, the result of a reported $5.6 million fee to be the fight’s official beer sponsor. Fans take selfies next to the ring, although it’s unlikely any of them will be inside the arena when the first bell rings. Only 500 tickets were made available to the public; they sold out within two minutes.
That left people like London native Kevin Bennett seeking other ways to watch the fight. Armed with a video camera to document fight week, he was part of a 14-person group in town for the festivities. Bennett and his crew will spend fight night watching the bout on a closed-circuit telecast at The Mirage’s 1 Oak Nightclub. At least the $365 per head price tag included an open bar. “We like to make the best of things,” Bennett says.
His friend David Larson spends $90 on a pair of TMT hats, while one of Bennett’s friends even stands on the ring apron and raises his arms, to the annoyance of an MGM security guard. Then they’re off, rushing out the door of the MGM to grab some dinner.
Outside the merchandise store, a man wearing an unofficial fight shirt paced back and forth beside the entrance. “Can’t you see I’m doing business here?" he growled. He didn't have time for conversation. There was money to be made.