It’s as if Las Vegas was made to order for boxing legend, Muhammad Ali . Or maybe it was the other way around. Either way, he changed how people look at sports, how sports is marketed and he, more importantly, Muhammad Ali changed the way people looked at Las Vegas.
Legendary sports announcer and photographer Rick Rosen, also a good friend of The Vegas Tourist, joins Mark Anthony as we look at Muhammad Ali and his connections and his impact to Las Vegas. (Note: There are some Bad Audio Spots in the Podcast)
Muhammad Ali’s first fight in Las Vegas was on June 26, 1961. Fighting under his real name, Cassius Clay. It was in a radio promotion for that fight, that Ali got the inspiration from wrestler “Gorgeous George” to start building the persona that we know today as Muhammad Ali’s “I am the greatest of all time”
The thing with Muhammad Ali, is that he never just boxed. He took his opportunities to be in the media to push for whatever it was he was passionate about. He spoke out when people of color in the sporting world were not suppose to. He talked loud and proud about what he thought was right or what was wrong. As his fame and his wealth grew, he talked about how he was not going to waste the gifts that he was given for the greater good, inside and outside the boxing ring.
The Birth of Modern Sports Marketing
Ali usually was able to back up whatever loud and obnoxious claims he was spouting off. His antics helped make Howard Cosell a sports commentator legend. They both knew they needed each other and the act they created to make more money and get more people excited about sports.
Muhammad Ali learned early that people were paying money to see a show. Not just watch two people box. He came of age as America was coming of age with television, entertainment and the ability for the common person to travel to see events. The middle class had money to spend and time to spend that money. A match made for las vegas. Las Vegas is about entertainment and spending money foolishly. Dance like butterfly and sting like a bee would put people in the seats than just a quick boxing match between two people. The more seats you help fill, the larger his winning (or losing) purse bigger.
The Bigger Picture
Muhammad Ali helped bring attention to the problem of concussions from playing combat sports. Our friend, Dr. Dean Sicking developed the Safier barrier for auto racing and this technology has saved countless lives (he also helped develop safer guardrails now used on most highways). He is currently finding new ways to take that technology and use it in helmets for sports like boxing, MMA and soccer. Making them safer for the players and the fans