Yep, you read that correctly. When I decided to go behind the scenes in the Fight Capital of the World, I had no idea it meant I’d actually be in the trenches. From the smell of sweat and Icy Hot to the adrenaline pumping rap music and the sounds of bone-crushing blows, Vegas Fight Tour showed me what being a modern-day gladiator is all about.
Mayweather Boxing Club
Mayweather-Pacquiao fight fever has taken over Las Vegas, so I wanted to see what all the hype was about. When we walked into Mayweather’s gym, it was pure chaos. It’s hot, it’s loud and it’s pulsing with energy. While you wouldn’t think a gym would be a great place to people watch, Mayweather’s boxing gym is like the Times Square for fight fans. People are everywhere, lounging on the leather sofas (yes, you read that correctly), sparring in one of the rings, shadow boxing, using speed bags and punching bags. There’s so much going on, you don’t know where to look first. We walked over to a crowded ring that had an aggressive sparring match going on. The fighters were bobbing, weaving, jabbing and sweating. When the bell rang, I realized I was in the boxer’s corner, ready to hear the words of wisdom the coach was about to spout off. Instead of hearing any secrets to success, the fighter swished and spit – draining half his mouth in the bucket and the other half all over my feet. Sure, it was a complete accident, but how many other people can say they got drenched in bodily fluids at Mayweather’s gym? Never mind, don’t answer that.
Johnny Tocco’s Ringside Gym
The complete opposite of Mayweather’s place, Johnny Tocco’s is nothing but stripped down guts and grit, and if we’re going to be honest, smells a bit like stale piss. It hasn’t changed much from 1953, and that’s just the way they like it. You’re not going to find state-of-the-art equipment, flashy branding or media film crews. What you will find is a place soaking in sweat and glory. The most legendary boxers in history trained in Tocco’s gritty gym – Sonny Liston, Muhammad Ali, Bernard Hopkins and Mike Tyson, to name a few. I asked an old-timer watching two Cuban fighters in the ring what he liked about the place. “I still remember the crazy old man yelling at everybody,” he said of Tocco. “You wouldn’t have been allowed in here if Johnny was still around, he didn’t let women in the gym. Thought they were a distraction.” That old-timer turned out to be two-time gold medalist and Boxing Hall of Famer Kelcie Banks.
Wand Fight Team Gym
If there’s one thing Vegas does right, it’s producing world-class fighters. Everybody else has professional sports teams – we have professional fighters, which is why it should come as no surprise that the “Best MMA Gym” in the world stands right in the shadow of the Las Vegas Strip. And it belongs to Brazilian Muay Thai badass Wanderlei Silva. We toured the facility, which features a one-of-a-kind high-altitude training room where fighters can face off in conditions with less oxygen and a UFC cage. Here’s a good time to tell you if you want to climb in the octagon, you’re gonna have to take your shoes off, so leave the stank ones at home. The place is dripping in fight memorabilia and autographed merchandise you can buy while you’re there.
When we arrived at Randy Couture’s Xtremely large military-style facility, we were greeted by sweaty World Series of Fighting duo Brenson and Bryson Hansen. The brothers are professional MMA fighters and stopped their workout to take pictures and talk to us. Around the corner, in the other massive room, UFC coach and Randy Couture sparring partner Robert Follis was on the mat. There’s a big difference between the blaring music in the boxing gyms and the quiet instruction of the MMA instructors. Follis stopped his class to come over and chat, something I didn’t expect but really shows what happens when you’re with a group of well-connected gents.
I thought we’d see a couple gyms, buy a few shirts and be on our way. I had no idea it would be so up close and personal that we’d see fighters who cared more about pushing through the pain than wiping snot off their faces. We saw first-hand the blood, sweat and tears-AND SPIT that it takes to come out on top. And I can say with full honesty, better them than me.
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