The MGM Grand Casino Remains The Spiritual Home Of Boxing – Ricky Hatton

Ricky Hatton Exclusive

Mega Casino caught up with a true icon of British boxing, Ricky Hatton, who has cast some light on fighting at one of the world's biggest casino venues, the MGM Grand, and what sets apart the historic fight location from the rest.

The MGM Grand is widely regarded as one of the best casino resorts in Las Vegas with a casino floor space of approximately 16,000 square meters, featuring 2,500 slot games and around 150 premium table games like poker and roulette.

The MGM Grand is the largest single hotel in the world bosting 6,852 rooms, however outside of the entertainment of the casino and residencies like the iconic illusionist David Copperfield, the MGM Grand has been at the forefront of the global boxing scene for the last 3 decades, hosting some of the greatest world title fights in history like Mike Tyson v Evander Holyfield 2 and several title fights involving legends like Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather and Ricky Hatton.

Hatton, who shared the ring with the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Paquiao during a glittering 15-year career, revealed:

  • What sets Vegas and fighting at a Mega Casino apart from Middle Eastern venues who are getting all of the big fights
  • His advice to Anthony Joshua as to why he should fight in Vegas and why he’ll regret not fighting there if he continues to go Middle East
  • Anecdotes about parties with David Beckham in the MGM lofts, an over enthusiastic Liam Gallagher walking him to the ring and upsetting the opponent and his entourage
  • Potential for him to see his name up in lights in Vegas again against Mayweather in a exhibition


FIGHTS AT THE MGM GRAND WERE SPECIAL, THE VENUE HAS SO MUCH HISTORY

“The MGM Grand is full of history, the legends that have been there. The biggest boxing venue that the world's ever seen was Madison Square Garden. That's where all the fights before Vegas hit the forefront. There's still some big fights at Madison Square Garden. But all the big fights now tend to be in Las Vegas now. Madison Square Garden used to be the best boxing venue, now I think maybe the MGM Grand has taken over because of that history, all the great champions who had great fights there. You can't buy history, no matter how much money you throw at it. And I'm not saying that in the Middle East they won't create their own history if they keep putting fights on there, but I think it’s the whole package in Vegas, you've got absolutely everything.”



LAS VEGAS IS THE SPIRITUAL HOME OF BOXING

“As soon as you're flying over the strip, you just look out your window of the plane and you just see the strip and it's all lit up and it makes the spine tingle. That’s what Las Vegas does to you. I tell so many people about it, I say you look at the casinos and hotels, they don't look real, they look like models. It's a place like you've never seen before, Saudi Arabia and places like that are chucking money at boxing and they're putting on a good show, but it’s not Las Vegas. I don't think it is, and I don't think it ever will be.”

“It’s the entertainment capital of the world. You can watch boxing. If you want to go over there and watch a show. If you want to go over there and go to nice restaurants, there's nice restaurants. If you want to go over there for the casinos, you can have a gamble. It ticks every box. It's like an adult's Disneyland.”

“It’s my favourite place. I always used to watch all the legends of years gone by: Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Mike Tyson, Robert Duran fighting in Vegas. It’s every young boxer's dream to see their name up in lights on the Vegas strip with all the casinos there, alongside all the greats of all time that boxed there. Whether you're a Brit or whether you’re from the United States, I think it's a dream to see your name up in lights in Las Vegas. And I was very fortunate that I was able to do it.”



WHY SHOULD JOSHUA FIGHT IN VEGAS AND NOT IN THE MIDDLE EAST

“My advice to AJ is - he's had a couple of fights in the Middle East, so he's made a few pennies there. But my advice to AJ would be, listen, as professional boxers, we grew up watching all the greats. I wanted to box at Madison Square Garden, and I did that. I boxed the Madison Square Garden. And I boxed that Atlantic City, you know what I mean? I wanted to box at the City of Manchester Stadium with me being a Man City fan. I wanted to box in Las Vegas and see my name up in lights. I've done that five times. I ended up boxing in Detroit, the home of the origila Hitman, Tommy Hearns.

“When I retire now I can turn around and say I ticked all my boxes. It's like a professional. If you're a worldclass footballer, you want to play in the premiership, you want to play in Serie A, you want to play  in the Spanish League, you want to you want to do everything, don't you? Before you hang your boots up. And it's the same as boxing. And I think AJ has had a couple of fights now in the Middle East. I'm telling you, AJ, if you retire without seeing your name up in lights in Las Vegas, I'll tell you what, your careers already cemented, but I tell you what, you'll never forgive yourself, you’ll never forgive yourself because as boxing fans that's what we want, to see, our name up in lights in Vegas, isn't it?”



FIGHTS IN VEGAS ARE MORE ATTRACTIVE THAN IN THE MIDDLE EAST

“The reason why they go there is because obviously they're getting offered more money. They may offer a lot of money now in the Middle East but 9 times out of ten in certain parts you can't have a drink. I think fans are missing out. And I know drinking isn't everything but they go abroad to watch your fight; they go for a holiday, they go for a drink, they go for nice nice food, they go for a good time, they go for entertainment. You may get a bigger purse, but you're not getting all that in Saudi Arabia and places like that. But you're always going to get it in Las Vegas. If you said to any boxing fan - and it's no disrespect to the Middle East - would you rather go to the Middle East where you can't do this and you can't do that, you've got to be a little bit careful with this or that. Or would you like to go to Las Vegas where there's nightclubs, the casinos, shows, top restaurants - it's no brainer. But casinos of Las Vegas have got a competition on their hands when it comes to the Middle East because they do throw a lot of money at fights, so I get it. But for me it was paramount to make my fans happy and there's no better place that kept them more happy than Las Vegas.”



SHARING FIGHTS WITH FANS IS INVALUABLE COMPARED TO GETTING A BIGGER PURSE

“There's not one weekend that goes by that people stop me to say ‘remember the days in Vegas - best times i’ve had watching boxing’. People will have their own memories of my fights in Las Vegas, they'll have their own little individual stories, but it makes me feel very, very proud, like when people say ‘it will never be done again that Rick, the 40,000 you took to the Mayweather fight in Vegas’. My fans actually drank the MGM Grand dry of beer, there were that many fans going. I wish I could get a time machine, go back and sit in the stand and watch what all the fans were up to because the stories that they've told me, it does make me think I wish I was there with them.”

“The fans that still come up to me today and ask about Mayweather, Malignaggi, the Gallaghers’ carrying the belts. Campbell, my son, boxed in Saudi Arabia, and our local fans that went - they weren't complaining, they said they had a good time, it was a good show, they put on a good venue and great fights - but it’s not even close to how people used to talk about when they used to go to Las Vegas to watch me.”



WHY I WAS TERRIBLY EMBARRASSED FOR MAYWEATHER

“I got off the plane and I had a feeling that a big following would come to watch me and support me. When I landed at the airport, a limo took us to the hotel, and they were waiting for us. The Grand Arrival they called it. And when the limo pulled up outside the MGM Grand, my jaw hit the floor, it was just covered in Brits singing ‘there's only one Ricky Hatton’ and singing ‘God Save the Queen’.

“At one point I felt quite sorry for Floyd because it's his hometown and we took over it. Floyd's the man, he ended up beating me and he will go down as arguably the greatest of all time. But it must have been terribly embarrassing for him. Because if I'd have pulled up in the middle of Manchester for the Grand Arrival and if Manchester was covered in American fight fans I'd be crying buckets. I'd be thinking this is my hometown, what's happened here? I'd be distraught.”

“Even though Floyd is the man and he will arguably go down as the greatest of all time, it must have been a graft for him because the fans were giving him some stick ‘who are you? Who are you?’ and I think he must have thought ‘this is my hometown’. It must have been hard for him. But it made me feel so proud to see Union Jacks all over the place. To fight the pound for pound number one fighter in the world in his hometown and have the support that I did, it was incredible.”



MGM GRAND REFUNDED TOM JONES TICKETS

“I've been to Las Vegas since and had so many great memories. I went there with my girlfriend at the time just for a holiday. I walked through reception and there was a poster for Tom Jones. If you remember, Tom Jones sang my national anthem against Floyd Mayweather and Manny Paquiao. So, I went to the reception and paid for two tickets for Tom Jones. I went up to the hotel room to get changed and the next minute there was an envelope under the door from a guy called something Sterner, he was the entertainment manager at the MGM Grand. The envelope was filled with money with a note that said ‘you ring on this number, Ricky’. So, I phoned in, I went ‘Hi, Mr. Sterner, Ricky here’. ‘Hey Ricky. How's your room’. I said ‘Yeah, love it, thanks very much for the upgrade’. He said ‘we’ve just sent you the money back for the Tom Jones concert. To be honest, Ricky, you’re not paying for anything when you come to the MGM Grand’, I went ‘Really?’. He went ‘Ricky, in the history of the MGM Grand, we have never took as much money over the bars, in the restaurants, on the gambling tables in the casino, we've never in the history of the MGM Grand ever took more money than we did when you fought Floyd Mayweather Jr. You'll never pay for anything in this hotel ever again.’ I went ‘wow’.”

“You know, and that's not Manchester, that's across the other side of the world and Floyd Mayweather's hometown. So, it made me feel very, very proud. But I mean, when you think in the history of the MGM Grand, it has never taken more money across the board than anything before then that’s such an achievement.”



HATTON LEFT IN TEARS WHILE PARTYING WITH BECKS AT THE MGM

“It's just a full package, isn't it? You know what I mean? It’s just the treatment that you get, everything is five star, everything's first class, everything's 24 hours a day. You wake up at like half five in the morning,and you want to go for something to eat, there's somewhere open. If you want to go for a drink at five in the morning, there's somewhere open. There's the shops, the shopping, it's just all on a different level, to be honest with you. I loved the place.

“I was once staying in lofts at the MGM Grand and it's just incredible, it was for the Paulie Malignaggi fight. Tom Jones, David Beckham and Jason Statham came, Noel and Liam carried the belts in. I was contracted to go to an after-fight party. But the names I've just mentioned said ‘we can't go to the party with your fans, might be a little bit too much for us’. So they went ‘haven’t you got one of the loft suites?’. I went ‘yeah, in the MGM, I've got one of the loft suites, they went ‘why don't we all come up there for a drink first before you go to the party?’.  So, me and my girlfriend at the time, Tom Jones, David Beckham, Noel, Liam, Jason Statham, Vinny Jones, they all came to my apartment for a drink. And it had like a balcony that overlooked where my bedroom was and that overlooked the downstairs bar area and everything like that. And I went up to get a shower, and as I went up to get a shower I was just looking over the balcony and I started crying. I'm looking over the balcony and started crying. And my misses at the time spotted me and she called upstairs, she went ‘you alright Rick?’ and I went ‘look over the balcony here, what I'm looking at’. I said ‘oh, I've made it Anna, I've made it. I can't believe what I'm looking at’.”

“Whenever there's a big fight in Vegas, there's film stars, football stars, movie stars, American football stars, baseball stars, they're all there. They're all there in the green room. If you are going to a green room at a fight in Las Vegas, it's a who's who of television and sport and everything like that. You can't get that anywhere else. It's only Vegas. It's only Vegas you can get that.”



POSSIBILITY OF ANOTHER EXHIBITION IN LAS VEGAS

“12 three minute rounds with the little 10 ounce gloves on, these days are behind me. But an exhibition with the bigger gloves and less rounds and shorter rounds against a certain opponent, I'll be all for that. And if they offer me to fight someone, whether it be in Vegas or home, I’ll always look at it.”

“One thing you worry about  as a boxing fan is you never want to see your heroes get hurt, and nine times out of ten your hero's give it one last go, don't they? And they end up getting knocked out. But I didn't see it as a comeback, not a comeback as a fight, it was an exhibition. And I think an exhibition where it's in a controlled environment, I know the score, the opponent knows the score, bigger gloves, less rounds, shorter rounds, and there's an understanding there the fans are not going to see their heroes getting knocked out, but they are going to get the chance to see them showcase their skills one last time, I'm all for that. I don't see there being anything wrong with that whatsoever.”

“I think people would rather see two former legends of the sport fight each other than a professional boxer fighting a YouTuber. If you're seeing two boxing legends fighting each other, or you're seeing an MMA star versus a YouTuber that no one knows, no disrespect, that for me is a waste of time. But I mean, if I heard that Cotto was fighting Juan Manuel Marquez in an exhibition I'd watch that all day long as a fight fan, wouldn't you?”



WHAT LEGEND WOULD YOU FIGHT IN AN EXHIBITION

“I'd probably say Floyd Mayweather, to be honest with you. I felt a little hard done by the referee the first time.  I'm not saying that's the only reason why I got beat because Floyd is the best out there. I just felt a little bit cheated because every time I got near him the referee stopped me. And that's not just my opinion, it was said by more than one on that night. I don't think the ref had a great night that night. But I mean, regardless of that, the fact Floyd Mayweather gave me the opportunity to fight him, I'll always be forever grateful for that. So if arguably the greatest fighter of all time, if they turned around and said ‘would you do an exhibition’ would I do it? Of course I would.”



BETTER TO FIGHT MAYWEATHER THAN A YOUTUBER

“Floyd seems happy to fight the YouTubers, if I'm going to do an exhibition, I want to do it against Floyd Mayweather or Miguel Cotto, or Juan Manuel Marquez, or someone like that where I'm getting something from it, not just a few quid in my pocket. I'm actually getting something from it, I'm finding out firsthand how good Miguel Cotto, or Marco Antonio Barrera was, or having another move about with Floyd Mayweather. That’s something that’s not just about the money. That's something special. But if I'm offered a YouTuber called Billy Bungo or Billy the Kid or whatever I’d say why the f*** would I want to do an exhibition with someone I don't know? As a former champion, you want to have a little move about with other former champions and boxing legends.”



OPINION ON JAKE PAUL

“No, I would not fight him, he's massive. He's much too big for me. I don't think he's particularly good, and I think he's picking his fights very, very carefully, which he's getting a bit of stick for, which I think is a little bit unfair because give him a break, he is actually a YouTuber, not a boxer. You shouldn't expect him to go in there with former world champions right from the get-go. He's fought basketball players and mixed martial artists, and I think he's just going to dip his toe in the boxing world now isn’t he with a professional boxer.”

“I think Jake Paul's going the right way about it. Don't forget, he's coming out of his comfort zone. He's a YouTuber with a passion for boxing. And people saying, “Well, he should be fighting him, he shouldn't be fighting him.” I disagree first, let him get his wings first, let him fight and the minute he feels he's got a bit of experience under his belt and he feels that he can go that extra step then dip his toe in the water that little bit deeper.”



OPINION ON TOMMY FURY VERSUS JAKE PAUL BEING BUILD AS A 50/50

“I think it is probably a 50/50, to be honest with you. The thing for me is Tommy keeps turning around and saying, “Come and fight a boxer, come and fight a boxer”. But Tommy's not really been that busy, has he? He’s not been active. When did he turn professional now, Tommy, about five years ago? How many fights has he had?  Jake Paul's done more rounds than Tommy and Tommy beats Jake Paul all day long for me. But if he fights him now, I think Jake Paul has a great chance of beating Tommy because I think at the minute, Jake Paul's done more rounds than Tommy - his stamina is probably better than Tommy's, do you know what I mean? I think Jake Paul could beat him, not on ability, just because he'd probably have more in the tank than Tommy because one thing with Jake Paul is it doesn't matter who he's fighting or the quality of who he's fighting, he's getting the rounds in. Whereas when was Tommy's last fight. I think he needs to be busier, to be honest. Jake Paul's busier than him, and Tommy's the one that's saying, “come and fight a boxer”.”

“Tommy's calling him out, good, call him out. I think you'll beat him all day once you've got a few more rounds under your belt. But if they were to fight each other next fight in an eight rounder, would Tommy have the stamina to do the eight rounds? He struggled doing six last time, and I say that with love, and I hope if he listens, takes this advice on board because I'm not doing it to criticize him. I'm team Fury. I think he needs to get his rounds up a little bit more, and then I think if he gets his rounds up, if the fight is made, I think he wins.”



RICKY HATTON WAS WORRIED LIAM GALLAGHER WOULD GET HIM KILLED

“I gave Noel the Ring Magazine belt and Liam the IBO belt, and you could see they were both a bit nervous, obviously they've never walked a fighter out before. They asked ‘what do I do, Rick, what do we do?’. I said ‘get in the ring and hold it up and put it in Malagnaggi’s face’. So, Noel got in, I got in the ring, then Liam got in the ring and Liam came straight past me, straight past Noel, and went straight up to Malagnaggi and said something like ‘what do you think about that you dick head’. I thought that's not quite what I meant, Liam. That's not quite what I meant, mate. I didn't mean to hold up in front of his face and abuse him, but it was funny. We can laugh about it now, it was brilliant. Liam's walking around the ringside and Malagnaggi’s fans are at ringside, and Liam's giving the old Liam Gallagher two fingers. It was absolute gold. A couple Malagnaggi’s supporters who were at ringside, not people you'd want a mess with. They said “We love you, Ricky. We love you Ricky, but the rockstar he needs to be careful; he needs to be careful.” I went, “Oh no, what do you mean? He means no harm; he means no harm. That's just what it is. That's rock and roll, isn’t it? That's what it is like”, “Oh no, no, he disrespected us, man. He disrespected us.” I thought, “Oh, no. Liam’s going to get us all killed here”.



WATCHING FIGHTS IN LAS VEGAS?

“I went to watch David Haye and Bernard Hopkins and obviously Marco Antonio Barrera, who's been a good friend of mine. I carried the belt for Marco several times in Vegas. He carried the belt in for me against Jose Luis Castillo. I went to the Barrera-Morales fight, the war, the first fight, which was one of the greatest fights of all time.”

“When you just sit there in the MGM Grand or the Mandalay Bay, and you just sit there before the fight, before the fights even come on, you know? You come down the stand there, “Where's my seat, sir?”, “Yeah, there's yours at ringside, sir. Enjoy the fight.” And you sit there and the first thing you can do when you just look around the stadium is you just, you can't help but just go through all the different fights in history that have been here. And you sit there and you say “Oh, there's Kevin Costner. Oh, that’s Sylvester Stallone.” You know, it’s really you have to pinch yourself still, you know what I mean? And I think the way I'm speaking, I think there's so many people who have been to my fights can turn around and say, whether they were at ringside or they're in the stand, “Look, there's him, there's him. Look at that. There's him. Do you remember that fight that was here that time? Do you remember when he fought him? Do you remember?” You know,  you're just going down memory lane. And you can't do that in the Middle East at the minute. And no doubt they will probably be able to do it in a few years with better luck. But they will only ever be one Las Vegas”.



OPINION ON JOSHUA CHANGING TRAINER?

“Personally, I wouldn’t have left Robert McCracken, to be honest with you. The reason why I left Billy Graham was he had that many injuries happening to him, it made sense. I had to leave him, I didn't have any choice. Billy, through no fault of his own, wasn't the trainer he was a few years ago, he was just riddled with injuries, you know? So, that's why I left Billy. But having said that, there was no reason for AJ to leave McCraken. Nobody knows him better than Robert McCracken, he's been there with him from the Olympics, he's been there with him for his first world title and that, so nobody knows him better than Robert McCracken.”

“I was a little bit disappointed with his last team because when he got beat by Usyk, poor Anthony, he looked like he was having a bit of a breakdown in the ring. You know what I mean? He got the belts and he threw them out the ring. And he was going to the opposite corner to congratulatethem and giving a fist bump and he was a little bit aggressive. And I thought to myself, somebody needs to get a grip of him maybe, he doesn't look like he's handling this really well. And then he got the microphone.

And I was watching it in Tenerife with my mates, and I was practically screaming at the TV saying, “somebody get the mic off him. Get the mic off him and put your arm around him and say, ‘come on, AJ, son, come on, come on, let's get back to the changing room. Let's regroup, mate.’” You know what I mean? But they didn't. Your job as a coach is not just to do what those 12 three-minute rounds and when the final bell goes, that's it your job's done. No, your job is to look after your fighter until he leaves the venue. People don't realise how much pressure you're on at that high, bigger stage of a high profile of a fight. So, he's obviously not taken it well, which sometimes we don't. And I just think his team has just stood there and just let him carry on and carry on, carry on. Of course, I wish I could have jumped in the TV myself. “

“Rob would have controlled the situation, all day long. But no, he let him chuck the belts over the ring, storm around the ring, scream and moan, and then get the mic and do all that. I could’ve nearly cried for him. He was having a really bad time with it.”



REBUILD OR JUMP IN WITH A WILDER?

“I'd have a little bit of a rebuilding fight to get his confidence and no-one should complain about it.. He's lost his last two fights against Usyk, which is no shame whatsoever. Another factor is how hard he took the defeat where we grabbed the mic and he took the belts out the ring and everything like that. So, obviously it affected him hard. So, don't chuck him in at the deep end again. Give him someone a bit of a token, you know what I mean? And then go in for the Wilder fight. What he's achieved is superhuman. Olympic gold medalist, two time heavyweight champion of the world, but none of us are superhuman, you know what I mean?”



DECIDING FACTOR BETWEEN USYK AND TYSON

“You know, you can't dismiss Usyk, you know Olympic gold medalist, cruiserweight world champion, heavyweight world champion, you know what I mean? And I don't want to write him off, I can't write him off because obviously he is so talented and he might just have the style to beat Tyson. Personally, I don't think so. I think Tyson is just so versatile and so much better in every area. He can fight Southpaw, he can fight orthodox, he can stand tall, he can fight at close quarters, do you know what I mean? He has a wonderful defense, he has hand speed, he switch hits. He's got speed and movement and boxing ability. He's everything. He's got everything Usyk has got and maybe a little bit more, and he's bigger and he's taller and he's got the reach. For that reason it’s very hard to see anything other than a Tyson win. But I think all of us, if you turn around— If you put your hand on your heart and said, “Usyk’s got no chance”, I don't think we could say he's got no chance, but you'd have to favour Tyson, wouldn't you?”



OPINION CONOR BENN BACK IN THE RING

“I spoke to Connor by text a few weeks back, and he said, “hopefully we've got some good news coming through that's going to clear my name. And it’s been a long time coming.” He said, “I'm a champion, Rick, like my dad was. We're fighting people, aren't we? And it's been very, very hard for me” But he said, “I'm just around the corner now of clearing my name.” So, I went, “Oh, great. I'll be made up for you, Conor, when you get that done.” So, if I'm listening right, it’s only hopefully a matter of time before Conor can clear his name and we can get the ball rolling again, because obviously he was probably the most exciting talent coming through in British boxing, his fights were so explosive just like his dad, like a throw throwback of his old man. And it was lovely seeing him improve. And it's a shame that stumbling block, but you know, you're innocent until proven guilty. He has been proven guilty, but he believes he can prove his innocence. So, let's give him the benefit of the doubt and then he can move on with his career then. So, yeah, it would be great to see Cnnor back.”

 


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