LAS VEGAS -- Five hours before a sellout crowd of 16,412 watched Manny Pacquiao outclass Shane Mosley on Saturday, the MGM Grand Garden Arena was as quiet as a library.
Uniformed cocktail waitresses sauntered the aisles with empty trays and tip buckets. A camouflaged K-9 officer led a bomb-sniffing dog around the perimeter. The horde of green-jacketed ushers moved into assigned positions. Officials made last-minute adjustments to the turnbuckles tensioning the ropes.
And out walked Karl Dargan and Randy Arrellin for the first of seven preliminary fights leading up to the main event.
"Guys, we're open!" shouted a red-jacketed team leader, informing the ushers that the fans were through the gates. "We're open! Pass it on!"
First out of the tunnel for the non-televised six-round lightweight bout was Arrellin, a 20-year-old from Albuquerque with eight victories in 12 paying fights (just four outside New Mexico), wearing a turquoise robe that read "RANDY 'SAVAGE' ARRELLIN" with matching bejeweled trunks.
Next came "Dynamite" Dargan -- the house fighter -- a two-time U.S. amateur champion and Pan-Am Games gold medalist and highly regarded Sugar Shane Mosley Promotions signee. Eight pro fights, eight victories, four by knockout. Dargan, in black and gold trunks with matching Adidas shoes and freshly done cornrows and chiseled physique, is guided by his uncle Naazim Richardson, the world-class trainer who handles corner duties for Mosley and Bernard Hopkins. The 24-year-old Philadelphia native arrived Tuesday morning in Las Vegas, where he's staying with the rest of Team Mosley at the MGM Grand.
"Basically the routine has been the same since we got here," said Dargan, who trained in Las Vegas at the IBA Gym with Mosley. ("Shane keeps me under his wing," he added.) On Saturday, Dargan ordered a meal of oatmeal, egg whites, orange juice and fruit to the room and waited patiently for the fight time to arrive.
Arrellin got here on Thursday. He traveled with trainer and manager Bernie Sanchez, plus two other coaches from the T.U.F.F. Boxing Gym back home. It was Sanchez who got a call from Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler a few weeks earlier about fighting on the Pacquiao-Mosley card.
"We checked out the tape [of Dargan] and it looked OK," Sanchez said. "I said, 'Yeah, we'll take the fight.' "
The soft-spoken Arrellin had eggs over easy for breakfast at one of the restaurants on the ground floor of the MGM Grand before returning upstairs for a 90-minute nap. He arrived at the arena at noon, three hours before fight time.
Less than 30 fans had made their way to their seats by the time referee Vic Drakulich read the final instructions and the bell signaled the start of the first round.
Dargan showed off a strong, committed jab, consistently beating Arrellin to the punch, the smack of glove against flesh resounding loudly throughout the empty space. The eerie silence enabled those seated closer to the action to hear the idiosyncratic creaks of the canvas. Unable to slip Dargan's quick, sharp punches, Arrellin returned fire with a series of wild swings, connecting with one or two.
Richardson's instructions, delivered from the corner with the same calm, purposeful intensity he'll use with Mosley later that night, are a blend of fortune-cookie wisdom and passive-aggressive trash talk:
Bull and a matador, baby! Bull and a matador!
He can't find it! Swim without getting wet!
That's why he stopped fighting, he felt you!
Arrellin backed up Dargan to the ropes near the end of the second, but Karl adroitly switched positions and landed a well-schooled six-punch combo to end the round. Between rounds, three freshly oiled, silicone-enhanced ring card girls made their way to the ringside seats, where they went through a necessary rehearsal of climbing the precipitously steep stepladder wearing 10-inch stilettos. Surely they'll appreciate the practice when they're repeating the task in front of an arena full of screaming fans.
By the fifth, a small cut opened near Arrellin's eye, splashing blood onto his chest and belt line. Dargan, looking as fresh as he did in the first round, made Arrellin pay for his lack of precision. When the final round began, Dargan had connected with eight punches before Arrellin landed one.
Two ringside judges gave every round to Dargan, while the other gave him all but one.
"[Floyd] Mayweather and Mosley didn't even sell this place out," said Dargan, whose purse totaled $3,500 for the six-round bout. "This is one of the biggest fights in boxing history. I'm just happy to be here, happy to be a part of it."
Arrellin was more thrown off by the ghost-town atmosphere.
"I thought there would be more of a crowd up there, I wasn't expecting it to be all quiet like that," admitted Arrellin, who made $2,500 for his trouble. "It was kind of weird because I was expecting to go out there with all kinds of people."
But even in defeat, Sanchez remained upbeat.
"Everybody is here," the trainer/manager said. "It's a good opportunity for Top Rank and everybody here to check him out and see what he can do."
From here, the fighters' paths will diverge. Dargan says he's trying to get on a July 9 card at the Club Nokia in Los Angeles. For Arrellin, who travels back to Albuquerque on Sunday, the plans are more abstract.
"Just going to train harder," he said, while Pier Olivier Cote and Aris Ambriz walked toward the ring for the night's second fight.