If there remained a single person in Las Vegas unaware of the fact that it was preparing to host a Formula One grand prix then they’d have been left in no doubt by the time of the conclusion of Shakur Stevenson’s fight – of sorts – with Edwin de los Santos.
Late on Thursday morning there was a knock on ProBox TV’s hotel room, and then a request from two security staff to investigate. The search conducted was little more convincing than the WBC’s stance on performance enhancing drugs, but concluded with an explanation that because of the grand prix, hotel rooms were being checked to minimise the risk of a repeat of what had unfolded in October 2017 at the Mandalay Bay, when a gunman killed 58 people and injured around 500 more.
ProBox TV then got charged more for the same meal eaten at the same restaurant 24 hours earlier, and told that the prices had been changed to reflect the fact that Formula One was in town.
Much of the low-key build-up to Stevenson-De Los Santos had surrounded the belief that he is on the cusp of true greatness, and yet at the 20,000-capacity T-Mobile Arena, which by the main event was hosting an estimated 6,000, there seemed to be greater interest in the presence of the Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc. At a time when Saudi Arabia’s sports-washing efforts are bringing some of the world’s finest fighters to Riyadh, there was something sobering about the fact that even a fighter of the calibre of Stevenson – ESPN had requested that the Top Rank bill take place on Thursday, to complement the sponsorship network that existed around the grand prix – was being used as a pawn in the wider picture of Formula One.
Similarly sobering, given the justified excitement surrounding Stevenson, was what then unfolded in the ring. Little more need be written about how uneventful a fight took place on the evening Stevenson won a world title in a third weight division, but De Los Santos’ contribution appears to have been largely overlooked.
Not only was Stevenson doing enough to win most rounds, De Los Santos would have known that his status as an opponent demanded he impose himself if he was to have any chance of earning a decision. He consistently showed little desire to do so, and instead seemed to be prioritising making Stevenson appear entirely to blame.
The fifth round, when he mocked running away from Stevenson, was another in which he landed the fewest punches. CompuBox later revealed that his total of 44 punches landed was the lowest of any fighter over 12 rounds in CompuBox’s 38 years.
Post-fight, however, he was back to blaming Stevenson – who was often booed from the second until the 12th round and yet then asked by many of those fans to pose for a photo on his way back to the dressing room from the ring.
The lasting image of the evening may regardless prove that taken in Stevenson’s pre-fight dressing room, when he stood with Terence Crawford, Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward. Perhaps even Riyadh is yet to succeed in having that much greatness in one room at the same time – for everything that remains wrong with Vegas, it continues to be a considerably better destination for a fighter’s legacy to be built.