The time will likely come when Shakur Stevenson is more widely recognised as the world’s finest fighter than is Terence Crawford in 2023, but four days before he fights to win a world title in a third weight division his date with Edwin de los Santos feels at risk of being overlooked.
ProBox TV has previously been present in Las Vegas for fights involving Floyd Mayweather, Saul Alvarez, and undisputed world titles, but the Formula One grand prix taking place around 72 hours after Stevenson-De Los Santos already feels on course to be bigger than them all.
Where typically the MGM Grand Casino would host fight week activities such as public workouts and “grand arrivals” in an attempt to promote whichever fight is scheduled for one of their properties – Stevenson-De Los Santos is at the T-Mobile Arena on Thursday evening to avoid clashing with the grand prix – there doesn’t even appear to be a fight poster in sight.
There is no boxing ring in the casino's foyer. There was also no room for the public workouts, which instead unfolded in the shadow of the T-Mobile Arena, a venue with a capacity of 20,000 that seems unlikely to be more than half-full on Thursday evening, when the more intimate Mandalay Bay or MGM Grand Garden Arena would likely prove a better fit.
Instead, what can be found throughout the MGM are motorsport fans often donning F1-branded clothing, and displays – such as of cars – to help promote an occasion that doesn’t appear to require promoting (the customs official ProBox TV encountered while previously travelling to Vegas had assumed that the grand prix was the reason ProBox TV was travelling). Which ultimately means that those at the MGM not in town to get their motorsport fix are unlikely to discover that one of the world’s most talented fighters can be seen on Thursday evening. Commitments made to F1 mean that Top Rank has struggled to secure the territory it would usually rely upon, ensuring that potential ticket buyers are unlikely to see marketing material related to the fight while on foot in the casino or elsewhere on the strip.
The culture surrounding the purchase of fight tickets in the US typically means that numerous sales are made when they first become available, and that sales then largely stall until close to fight night, when what are referred to as “walk ups” – those who buy tickets on the eve of the fight – increase the numbers present. It regardless remains unclear whether F1 fans – who would have found tickets to the weekend’s grand prix significantly more difficult and expensive to acquire – are likely to be tempted by the prospect of paying to watch another sport. Top Rank will not be the only organisation attempting to learn something from their habits.
The workouts that did take place were sparsely attended – not even Bob Arum could be seen. Stevenson was among those scheduled to climb into the ring to demonstrate his admirable abilities, but, increasingly threatening to become a law unto himself, he showed up, spoke to the media, and left.
When he first arrived he was covered head to toe in clothing that suggested he was using the occasion to help him boil down to the 135lbs lightweight limit. It didn’t take closer inspection to quickly see that that clothing was so heavily branded by 1990s icon Reebok that he appeared capable of rivalling Anthony Joshua as a clothes horse, but before he left – and the fact that he didn’t do his workout meant that he gave little reason to doubt him – he revealed that his fighting at lightweight means he can continue to eat four to five times a day.
“Reebok, they definitely believe in me; I believe in them; we’ve got a great partnership” he equally importantly said, before coming dangerously close to paraphrasing words that will forever be associated with Nike, Reebok’s rivals. “Let’s keep doing it.”
That the grand prix takes in part of the Vegas strip means that the practice session scheduled for Thursday evening will force Top Rank to demand that all but their main-event fighters arrive at the T-Mobile Arena an hour ahead of schedule. Sections of the strip will be closed down on Thursday evening, making navigating the surrounding areas difficult. The traffic that has been growing for weeks as a consequence of the preparations surrounding the grand prix is expected to be even more intense.