Jun 12, 2020 - Sports

Inside boxing's return to Vegas

Illustration of someone applying hand sanitizer while wearing boxing gloves
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Boxing returned on Tuesday thanks to the herculean efforts by promotion company Top Rank to create a "bubble" at the MGM Grand Convention Center in Las Vegas.

The big picture: Brad Jacobs, Top Rank's COO and the architect of their return-to-play protocol, told Axios, "First, I dissected our events line item by line item. Then I consulted with an infectious disease specialist and an emergency physician, and I depended a lot on these experts to figure out how to do this 100% properly."

"I'm proud to say we have our first show under our belt, and there really haven't been any hiccups. Some minor things that we've learned along the way, but for the most part, everything has really gone perfect. We're thrilled."
Top Rank's "bubble" inside the MGM Grand Convention
Top Rank's "bubble" inside the MGM Grand Convention Center. Image: Top Rank

How it works: Jacobs said, "Once we had the location, we basically took over the entire conference center, and that's given us the ability to have a one-stop-shop. Everything from offices to training to eating takes place here, so basically you're either in your room on the 12th floor — reserved for us with a dedicated elevator — or you're in the conference center. That's the bubble."

Compared to the NBA's return: "I think it's all very similar, it's just about increasing the numbers. Take our catering hall, which can seat roughly 100 people at a time — they'll need one for at least 1,000 at a time. So a lot of the protocols are the same, just the enormity of the numbers they'll be dealing with is much more vast."

The impact: "It's not cutting our legs off, but it's an expensive proposition. There's obviously no gate receipts, and the medical part of this process alone, for two months, is going to cost us probably half a million dollars."

The bottom line: Top Rank's size and clout gave them the manpower and capital to pull this off. But perhaps Jacobs' confidence helped, too, as he told ESPN, "We're gonna be ready in June to be on the air ... be ready for us." And they were.

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