LAS VEGAS – The tub thumpers and the suits have been insisting for weeks now that tonight’s showdown between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Saul “Canelo’’ Alvarez is the biggest event in boxing in years. For accounting purposes it would appear they may be right, but based on what?
According to Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, several thousand seats have been added inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena, thus pushing the record live gate to $20,003,151, and while the pay-per-view sales may not eclipse the record set by Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya of 2,552,566 million buys seven years ago, tonight’s fight could well eclipse the all-time pay-per-view sales number of $137.5 million even if it doesn’t approach the actual sales of De La Hoya-Mayweather. As “Money’’ Mayweather has pointed out, “That’s what we’re counting and that’s the point.’’
With HD costing $74.95 and constituting about 60% of the total buys if the fight approaches the all-time record it could gross upwards of $180 million according to the fight’s promoters and even if it hovers more in the range of 1.5 million to 1.8 million buys it could still eclipse the gross sales number from Mayweather-De La Hoya. What this all shows you is the power of constant marketing by CBS, SHOWTIME and across internet platforms and all forms of social media.
If the public is told often enough that something is, as SHOWTIME Sports head Stephen Espinoza said on Wednesday, “the biggest fight in boxing history’’ people who have never heard of Ali-Frazier I or Leonard-Hearns or The Rumble in The June begin to believe it but from a fistic point of view what can possibly lead you to such a conclusion?
Mayweather is admittedly the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, an undefeated champion who has won eight world titles in five different weight classes and defeated 16 world champions and at 36 has shown little signs of slippage.
So for this to actually be “the biggest fight in boxing history’’ if we are looking at it as an actual fight rather than a TV show we must consider young Alvarez. Certainly he is wildly popular in Mexico, both because of his style and success in the ring (42-0-1, 30 KO) and his unusual carrot top hair that led to his being called “Canelo’’ (Spanish for cinnamon). His good looks, relentless style and those red locks have combined to turn him into a phenomenon there, yet when one closely considers his record, what do we find? Frankly, nothing to justify a record live gate or new marks for pay-per-view sales.
This is not to dismiss him, because Alvarez is a talented young man with reasonable punching power and the ability to throw a body shot that can cave your ribs in. Yet when one looks at his list of recent opponents there is nothing to suggest he belongs in the same ring with Mayweather, at least not in so heavily hyped an event.
Since winning the WBC junior middleweight title two years ago, Alvarez has fought seven times going the distance against Matthew Hatton, an utterly shot Shane Mosley and a light hitting discounted version of Mayweather named Austin Trout.
He also stopped Ryan Rhodes (who?), reality TV boxer Alfonso Gomez, thread bare Kermit Cintron and a blown up 140 pounder named Josesito Lopez. That resume led Mayweather to remark during the week that if one does their homework they can come to but one conclusion about how this will all play out – which is to say badly for Canelo Alvarez.
“I fought Miguel Cotto,’’ Mayweather said. “He fought Miguel Cotto’s brother. I fought Ricky Hatton. He fought Ricky Hatton’s brother. He’s fighting Floyd Mayweather. He’s not fighting Floyd Mayweather’s brother. If he fought 42 Floyd Mayweathers he wouldn’t be 42-0. He’d be 0-42.’’
The stark logic of Mayweather’s assessment of Alvarez’s resume is undeniable. One can of course argue that until a young fighter beats a top level opponent question marks will always exist and there is little he can do about them until his moment comes as Alvarez’s will tonight. But is such an unproven fighter ready for the kind of challenge Mayweather provides?
Frankly, there is little reason to believe so.
Ricky Hatton was the last undefeated fighter to face Mayweather. He was 43-0 at the time with significant wins over Jose Luis Castillo, who had once given Mayweather the closest fight of his life, and future Hall of Famer Kostya Tszyu. Soon after the first bell sounded Hatton learned his “0’’ meant nothing once he was across the ring from Mayweather, who stopped him in the 10th round six years ago.
Alvarez says he has studied that fight closely and claims he has learned from Hatton’s mistakes. He had best hope so.
“I've seen what he did,’’ Alvarez said. “He kept coming in and pressuring Floyd and throwing a lot of punches but I felt he kept coming in a little too open. He was getting caught with many punches coming in, especially the right hand and, obviously, finally with the left hook that got him out of there. He made mistakes coming in wide open.’’
They are mistakes Canelo Alvarez says he will avoid but everyone says that until they find themselves in with Mayweather and being asked questions for which they have no answers.
By then, of course, the money will be in, the stands will be full and millions of people worldwide will have settled in to watch a fight they will not see because they never looked past the hype.
How different Alvarez may not yet know. Compared to Mayweather his resume is uninspiring. That he is skilled is clear and no one would argue who has the superior power but against Mayweather none of those attributes have made a difference in the past because he is indeed different. The question Saul Alvarez must answer tonight is: how different?