By Steve Keating
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Sin City was gearing up for a knockout weekend as A-listers and high-rollers flooded into the gambling resort on Friday for what has been labeled the 'Fight of the Century'.
Only the fabulously rich and very famous hold golden tickets to the heavily secured 16,800 seat MGM Grand Garden Arena for Saturday night's showdown between undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao that is expected to be the biggest-grossing fight of all-time.
The place to be seen this weekend, celebrities, business tycoons and entertainment moguls have been calling in favors in an effort to score one of the coveted ringside seats that are demanding up to $350,000 on resale site StubHub.
Fewer than 1,000 tickets were offered to the public, and those vanished in seconds. The remainder were divided among the two fighters' promotion companies and MGM, which will make seats available to their best customers.
If you don't have at least a $250,000 line of credit, do not even ask.
Fight promoters are preparing for an Oscars' worthy red carpet with a who's who of Hollywood, including Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck sitting ringside, according to a list obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
World number one golfer Rory McIlroy and Masters champion Jordan Spieth, who are playing in the elite WGC-Cadillac Match Play in San Francisco, will both be seated on the flooring, flying to Las Vegas in a private jet Saturday after wrapping up their round.
"Where did I get my ticket? I don't know. I do know, but I'm not sure I want to say," McIlroy told reporters. "Definitely don't want to tell you how much I paid for it."
With thousands of fight fans descending on Las Vegas just to be close to the buzz, casinos up-and-down the Strip are cashing in, with sky-high room rates and VIP parties and events.
Many hotels are charging $1,000 a night while lodging at the fight headquarters the MGM Grand will set you back $1,600 to $1,750 a night.
Across the street at the Excalibur, rooms that were going for $38 a night on Tuesday will cost over $500 on Friday and Saturday.
But the fight will not be the exclusive haunt of the ultra-wealthy and connected.
Some determined fight fans like Scott Buckleton, a 35-year-old Englishman who lives in Pennsylvania, found a way to crash the party, paying $10,800 for a pair of tickets on StubHub and shelling out another $1,500 for a room for five days at the Tropicana Hotel.
“We said many years ago that if this fight ever happened we would go anywhere and do anything to be there," Buckleton told Reuters. "It is a once-in-a-lifetime boxing event.
“We booked flights and accommodation before we had any sense of what the tickets would be like.”
Gamblers will also be contributing to the local economy with experts predicting the fight will be one of Nevada's most heavily bet-upon sporting events.
Jay Rood, vice president of race and sports book at MGM Resorts, expects the Mayweather-Pacquiao wager total to be between $60 and $80 million.
The biggest bet taken so far by MGM Resorts has been $500,000 on Pacquiao, but Rood expects there will be several million dollar plus bets placed with the high-rollers set to invade the Strip on Friday.
(Additional reporting by Mary Milliken in Los Angeles. Editing by Gene Cherry)