By Steve Keating
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - After a night of New Year's Eve style partying, Las Vegas awoke ready to rumble on Saturday as the 'Fight of the Century' between unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao entered the final countdown.
As the sun rose over the desert gambling resort, high-rollers, entertainment moguls and business tycoons continued to flood into town for what is expected to be the top grossing prize fight of all-time.
Only the fabulously rich and very famous will hold the golden tickets to the heavily secured 16,800 seat MGM Grand Garden Arena for the welterweight showdown that has been five years in the making.
The Las Vegas Sun reported on Saturday that airport traffic was reaching record volume levels, forcing hundreds of private jets to smaller area airports.
With tickets commanding six-figure sums on the resale market, even A-list celebrities were being forced to call in favours, and many were left waiting to hear if they had made the red carpet cut.
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, who will make seats available to their best customers.
A Showtime official told Reuters the cable giant, which will share pay-per-view rights with rival HBO, had been fielding calls from anxious A-listers over the last 24 hours eager to confirm ringside reservations.
But with demand far out-stripping supply, some celebrities faced the humbling prospect of being shut out or bumped into the upper levels.
Seat or no seat, celebrity parties raged up and down the Las Vegas Strip on Friday night with something for nearly every taste and wallet.
For high-rollers, hip hot artist Jay Z offered a mega-expensive $50,000 a table VIP bash around the megafight while P. Diddy threw a poolside bash with a $10,000 a table cover complete with Sports Illustrated swimsuit models.
The souvenir black market was also doing brisk business with vendors reaching into plastic garbage bags and pulling out knockoff fight T-shirts at less than half the $35 price tag at officially lisenced kiosks inside the casinos.
Showtime confirmed to Reuters the fight will have an Oscars-worthy front row with Hollywood royalty like Clint Eastwood and Robert De Niro, squeezed in alongside celebrities from the sport world such as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and the team's billionaire owner Robert Kraft.
Only a lucky few will get the chance to view the fight live while everyone else will have to watch on pay-per-view.
"You know what, I go to all of Floyd's fights and the last time I spent $2,700 on the Canelo Alvarez fight in 2013," Mayweather fan Scott Avig from Detroit told Reuters in Las Vegas. "I was willing to spend about $3,000 for this fight, for a decent seat. The problem was with those prices you are way up in the top.
"The secondary market is ridiculous this time."
Even with tickets out of reach for the average person, the Las Vegas tourism and convention bureau estimated between 150,000 to 200,000 fight fans will invade Las Vegas to be part of buzz,
Crowd control will be the main security focus with Mayweather's last two fights at the MGM Grand ending in stampedes and injuries.
After a Mayweather-Marcos Maidana bout last May, 60 people were injured while the rematch in September also ended in crowd trouble and injuries.
(Additional reporting Mark Lamport-Stokes. Editing by Gene Cherry)