From The Arena To The Parties, Fight Weekend In Las Vegas Is A Never-Ending Quest For VIP

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LAS VEGAS — A major fight weekend in Vegas is a party. 22,000-plus lucky fans would pack themselves into T-Mobile Arena for Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin’s middleweight title fight, but there are tens of thousands more that flock to the oasis in the desert simply to be there for the spectacle of it all. There are parties everywhere, some official parts of fight week and others trying to capture the immense overflow of bodies there to take it all in.

I’ve been to Vegas for the NFL Playoffs, a college football national championship game, NBA Summer League, and marginal boxing and UFC events. I’ve known plenty who say their favorite weekend is the first weekend of March Madness. But nothing quite compares to the 24-hour nature of a big fight weekend. It’s the perfect encapsulation of what Vegas has become: a spectacle, where getting in the door is a tremendous accomplishment in and of its self. Friday and Saturday night you could stumble in and out of pre- and-post fight parties, depending on who you knew, what wristbands you had, and how confident you could make yourself look like you belonged.

There’s something for everyone in Vegas if you know where to look, and fight weekend was the perfect encapsulation. There was the Chivas Regal official pre-fight party for GGG, where the open bar provided you with all the scotch your heart desired as well as cleverly titled, fight-oriented cocktails.

There, on the 64th floor of Delano at Skyfall Lounge, the music was soft enough to have a legitimate conversation, and if you stuck around long enough, among those you could have a brief chat with was Golovkin’s trainer Abel Sanchez who dropped by for the festivities. The balcony outside provided a look north over the entire Strip, close enough to see the commotion and hordes of people around MGM, but far enough away to enjoy a rare bit of calm within the storm.

A 30-minute walk north and through a maze of hallways on the second floor of The Cosmopolitan, you found yourself tucked in a Rose. Rabbit. Lie., a bar that felt like an old Vegas gin joint. The house band grooved and the rotating singers that seemingly appeared out of nowhere serenaded the audience. At one point, a guy jumped up on the piano in tap shoes and danced along to an extra funky rendition of Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’.”

It felt for all the world like you were in downtown Vegas, but as soon as you walked out and hit the escalator you were reminded that you were, indeed, in the middle of the chaos that is the strip.

Another 15-minute walk south and across a skybridge got you to Hakkasan at MGM, where you could find the exact opposite vibe. It was the epitome of new Vegas, a club with deafening EDM music pulsing through the speakers, a promise of Steve Aoki doing a set, but only if you had the stamina to stay in the club until closer to 3 a.m. Everything in new Vegas requires VIP status. To simply get in, we had to have someone flex on the bouncers with their status to get to an expedited line, but once inside, it’s a maze of velvet ropes and bouncers explaining why you can’t go here because you don’t have the right stamp.

The next day at T-Mobile Arena, you found the same racket being run inside. The 100s section, typically the lower bowl in every other arena in the country, is really the 200s. The 200s are the 300s, and the lower bowl are “Sections” with single or double digit numbers. It’s the encapsulation of the Vegas experience. You’re made to feel like your status is higher than it is simply by getting in the door, and you’re reminded once inside that you’re far lower on the totem pole than originally thought. But it doesn’t matter, because you’re there.

You are among the 22,000 experiencing the spectacle first-hand. You might not be in the VIP section of the club, but you got in the door.