The big fight is still two months away, and the gossip is flying faster than a featherweight's jab.
Tunica sources tell the Flyer that Fitzgeralds casino is close to announcing its plans to host Mike Tyson's entourage and training facilities. Also, a bidding war is possible for Lennox Lewis' camp. The same sources say Horseshoe and Goldstrike casinos were at one time interested in joining forces to host Lewis but may be losing interest now. Likewise, Sam's Town casino has shown some interest in playing home to Lewis. And the Grand Casino, which has shown little interest in either fighter, is now said to be considering a bid for Lewis.
But Tyson and Lewis will hardly be the only celebrities in town. We've also heard rumors that Kevin Costner, Denzel Washington, Dionne Warwick, Jack Nicholson, Michael Jordan, Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis, Sean "P.Diddy" Combs, and Snoop Dogg also plan to be in Memphis for the June 8th heavyweight title bout.
In addition to the celebs attending the fight at The Pyramid, some are said to be negotiating with area clubs and venues to host private parties after the fight. Boy band 'NSync, Michael Jordan, and P.Diddy are said to be in contract negotiations to rent out the three respective floors of Club 152 on Beale Street for separate parties, and Rolling Stone and Penthouse magazines are each reportedly looking for sites to host their private parties.
'NSync is also rumored to be hosting a celebrity basketball game at The Spot, though, according to Ticketmaster, the day and time have not been released.
None of this is surprising considering that the scuttlebutt also holds that MTV is planning a three-day extravaganza in Memphis to coincide with the fight. Tentatively referred to as "Ground Zero," the word on the street is that it will be similar to MTV's Spring Break-type programming and will feature performances by a variety of up-and-coming "baby bands."
Most of the Beale Street clubs will be rented out for private parties -- even some that aren't open for business anymore. The owner of Polly Esther's -- the purple building on Linden near Beale -- is reportedly seeking $100,000 from anyone who wants to rent out that venue. And the parties could reach all the way to the suburbs, where sources say that Todd Day, the former NBA, University of Arkansas, and Memphis high school standout basketball player, is planning to rent out the Agricenter International for his post-fight event.
For celebs wanting to be seen but not inclined to host their own event, another big post-fight party is planned for The Peabody hotel's Grand Ballroom, where tickets are said to be selling for $1,000 each and a significant amount of the proceeds will be donated to charity.
In addition, Roy Jones Jr. and Evander Holyfield are rumored to be in negotiations with the Cook Convention Center and the Sisterhood Expo, the group that currently has a contract to rent the convention center for the weekend of the fight. Jones and Holyfield reportedly hope to buy out Sisterhood Expo's contract and host a closed-circuit viewing party for 8,000 people in the convention center.
The parties are not just happening the night of the fight. On June 7th, boxer Laila Ali, boxing legend Muhammad Ali's daughter, will be fighting an as-yet undecided opponent at the DeSoto Civic Center. And though Liberty Bowl interim director Ned Turner wouldn't confirm the acts, he says a big concert is also in the works for the Liberty Bowl on June 7th. Sources tell the Flyer that the featured acts may be Gerald Levert, Maxwell, and India.Arie, but Turner said an official announcement would have to come from the concert's promoter.
However things go down, one thing is for certain: It's going to be a weekend like Memphis has never seen before. With all the attention we're getting, it could be the best or the worst thing that's happened to the city since Elvis -- but it's definitely not going to be boring.
"This thing is getting mixed reviews," says Kevin Kane, president of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau. "But good, bad, or indifferent, it's going to be huge."