Macau Putting Gloves On
That includes boxing, and that’s one area in which Macau casinos think they can make some headway. According to American boxing promoter Bob Arum, Macau could be the “new destination for big-time boxing,” and that strategy has begun to play out. In April, Chinese Olympic boxing star Zou Shiming made his professional debut by defeating Eleazar Valenzuela of Mexico. But he didn’t do it in a local venue or in one of the classic Las Vegas arenas: his first fight took place at The Venetian in Macau.
That fight was considered a major success for the casino and promoters alike, with 300 million Chinese viewers watching the bout on television. But that could pale in comparison to what’s in store next.
In November, the Venetian will host a fight between Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines and Brandon Rios, an American fighter. Pacquiao may be coming off two consecutive losses, but he’s still one of the biggest stars in boxing, and one of the most recognizable names in worldwide sports. And unlike the Zou Shiming fight, this match will be designed to capitalize on an audience stretching around the world rather than just the local Chinese audience.
While no time has been determined for the Pacquiao fight, it is expected that it will take place in the early morning local time so that it can air live in the evening for American pay-per-view audiences.
In the meantime, Shiming will be back in the ring in July, when he’ll fight Mexico’s Jesus Ortega in the Cotai Arena. The combination of a Chinese star and fighters with worldwide appeal could be a lucrative match for promoters such as Arum, who can capitalize both on existing boxing audiences while also bringing countless Chinese viewers into the fold. Future cards will also feature Asian boxing prospects – including fighters from the Philippines, Japan and Thailand – in preliminary bouts.
For Macau, the interest in boxing is all about diversification, says Glenn McCartney, assistant professor of gaming and hospitality management at the University of Macau.
“In Vegas, 15 or 20 years ago, they realized they could make money from other tourism or business streams,” McCartney said. “There can be a tremendous multiplier effect. You want to get a positive branding that this is now a city of diversity.”