As we near the September 17 mega-event “STAR POWER: Mayweather vs. Ortiz” emanating from both the boxing capital of the world, Las Vegas, and the celebrity capital of the world, Los Angeles, the connection between the squared circle and the silver screen comes even more into focus. This fight card is called “STAR POWER” and the eight fighters featured on the HBO Pay-Per-View® televised event carry on the proud tradition of fighters rubbing elbows with Hollywood’s elite, romancing stunning starlets and flashing smiles that can make female fans’ knees buckle.
Atop the bill is Mayweather, who rocketed to A-list celebrity status when he competed on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars in 2007. Claiming rapper and actor 50 Cent as one of his closest friends, Mayweather’s fights regular draw ringside observers that include the likes of big name stars such as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Jay-Z and Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, Sean Puffy Combs, Denzel Washington as well as top dollar athletes in Tiger Woods, David Beckham, Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley. You name them, he pulls them.
Headlining the L.A. portion of the show is Canelo Alvarez, who was at one time engaged to model/actress/sports reporter Marisol Gonzalez. Alvarez’s opponent is Alfonso Gomez who rose to fame with Sylvester Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard by his side on the inaugural season of NBC’s The Contender and, playing in the hip-hop/rock band Hy3rid, has straddled the fence between boxing and the entertainment industry ever since.
Canelo brings the added element of pop-idol-like appeal among female fight fans; crossing over to sex symbol status like no boxer has since Oscar De La Hoya (who just happens to be the promoter of “STAR POWER”). Once in a generation, if that, a fighter comes along who makes the girls shriek like something out of Beatles concert. Alvarez possesses that quality.
However, Canelo is far from the only fighter on this card with a fan base that includes the fairer sex. Mayweather’s sparkling smile has caught the eye of the ladies since he rose to fame in his late teens, Ortiz has drawn comparisons to De La Hoya himself because of his good looks and the fighters who will open the pay-per-view broadcast, Jessie Vargas and Josesito Lopez, both have Latino heartthrob potential.
Any of these fighters might look natural with starlets on their arms, which would mean they’d be carrying on a proud tradition that goes all the way back to 19th century heavyweight champion John L. Sullivan, who famously dated voluptuous chorus girl Ann Livingston. Other heavyweight champs made it more official: Jack Dempsey married movie star Estelle Taylor, Max Schmeling wed actress Anny Ondra and more recently, Mike Tyson was briefly, and tempestuously, married to actress Robin Givens. The latest boxing/Hollywood heavyweight couple featured Wladimir Klitschko and Heroes star Hayden Panettiere, who ended their two-year relationship just a few months ago.
Such romances aren’t limited only to the heavyweight fighters. Two of the most notable boxer-celebrity unions in history involved middleweight champs: Marcel Cerdan with French singer and cultural icon Edith Piaf and Gorilla Jones with actress and sex symbol Mae West.
For all of the star fighters who’ve romanced in Hollywood circles, countless more have “bromanced” in those circles. Former light heavyweight champ Jose Torres was best friends with Ryan O’Neal (who starred in the 1979 boxing movie The Main Event). Sugar Ray Leonard palled around with many of Hollywood’s heavy hitters and famously told Michael J. Fox, before anyone else, that he intended to come out of retirement and fight Marvin Hagler. Tyson is now an actor of sorts himself, appearing in The Hangover and The Hangover 2, but long before that, he ran with many of the biggest names in television, film and music. In fact, his friendship with Tupac Shakur was the subject of a 2010 documentary entitled One Night In Vegas.
The connections between the worlds of boxing and entertainment are numerous, and they will be on display again when “STAR POWER” spans the distance from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Many of Tinseltown’s top draws will be seated ringside at both MGM Grand and STAPLES Center. So much so that the ring announcers at the venues will likely spend as much time introducing the celebrities as they do the fighters.
HBO analyst Larry Merchant has famously referred to boxing as “the theater of the unexpected.” What is not unexpected is that boxing will provide great theater, and attract the most famous names and faces from the celebrity world.