It was all over too quickly.
Here I was in Madison Square Garden, the Mecca for fighters, watching The Rock strap Jorge Masvidal – standing next to boxing legend Roberto Duran – the ‘Baddest Motherf***** belt around his waist.
This iconic arena was rocking and has now been punched, kicked and elbowed off the bucket list.
Even President Donald Trump wanted to see a fight where legends are formed and convinced his secret service detail to allow him to sit ringside instead of the safety of a suite.
It was here where Jake LaMotta fought and lost to Sugar Ray Robinson in 1942, and where Joe Louis, in his last fight, was knocked out by Rocky Marciano in 1951.
Jim Braddock, aka the Cinderella Man, has graced the hallowed ring and Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier contested the ‘Fight of the Century’ in the same place I found myself sitting in.
It’s hard not to be swept away by its history, as you climb the stairs to the arena, each turn plastered with memorabilia as a reminder to where you are. The New York crowd, meanwhile, on fight night, is as noisy as anything you will hear at a sporting event.
There were more than 20,000 people inside and was rocking long before the mixed reaction Trump received when he took his seat – the biggest jeer was actually reserved for the doctor who stopped the main event early – and way before Bruce Buffer’s cue for Baba O’Riley to blare around the arena.
“The first time I competed in MSG, it was quick, like two minutes or something, so I didn’t have a chance to embrace it,” New York native Shane Burgos said after he took apart Makwan Amirkhani.
“This time, I soaked it in; walking out, being in there, walking back, I soaked it all in. It was awesome, it means a lot to me, you heard how loud the place was.”
And that was only the beginning of a weekend packed with sport. I may have missed the rugby World Cup final – although the South African sitting next to me on my United Airlines flight seemed to enjoy keeping me updated – but my body was still on UK time and I was ready to go by the time Sunday’s Premier League action kicked off mid-morning.
My homing beacon (Google Maps) zeroed in on Flannery’s on West 14th Street where the Tottenham Supporter’s club in New York watch games in.
After that, and in between locating the Ghostbuster’s fire station and the bar where Crocodile Dundee thought he was talking to a ‘Sheila’ – it was still only 1.30pm – I had another chance to gaze longingly at Madison Square Garden where I could still hear Diaz’s eye being busted open by the power of Masvidal.
Trump’s security may have made delayed everyone’s entry, but it was worth it. This is one place you want to spend fight night at.
United Airlines offers daily non-stop flights from Heathrow, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow to New York-Newark, located within 30 minutes of Penn Station in midtown Manhattan.
Flights are conveniently timed to connect with an extensive network of services to destinations throughout the Americas.
For more info, visit united.com.
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