My heart started pumped hard as I got off the F train and walked toward the staging for Monday's Mayweather-Canelo media tour opener in Manhattan, in the heart of Times Square.
It was sweet to see boxing getting it's just due, out and proud, with thousands of folks clustered, necks craned, or milling, curious about this spectacle, in a sea of spectacles.
This was the first stop on an 11 city, two-country tour, for the record. Showtime's Stephen Espinoza said that expenses for the caravan are into the seven figures, for sure.
Check out this Boxing Channel report of the presser here.
Before the open-to-the-public event, on a pedestrian island, kicked off, media hustled into the W Hotel, half a block from the stage, and entered one of two rooms to get a chance to hear what the principals had to say. One room was for print guys, the other for video, and first Canelo came into the video room, got grilled, followed by Mayweather.
A Team Mayweather employee whispered to Mayweather publicist Kelly Swanson to try and get things wrapped up, because it was after 3PM. "The NYPD is asking us to get them to the stage," was the word.
The sun was blazing viciously at around 1:30, but some clouds had provided some cover by 3:30. Richard Schaefer scored a point with me when he cracked that of the two boxers, Canelo is the more handsome, and told Floyd he was just kidding. I do wonder how many people get his James Dean reference when he calls Canelo the James Dean of pugilism...
Canelo was his usual self, unflappable, focused, confident, self assured. He told media, with Golden Boy's Eric Gomez translating, that he expects to be the first man to sully Mayweathers' record. No, he said, it won't be any big deal that he has to make 152 or less for the 154 pound scrap. Oscar De La Hoya told me that Canelo "is no Guerrero, he's no Victor Ortiz, he's Canelo," and sounded like he liked the odds of the Mexican scoring an upset more so than he had the two aforementioned guys.
Mayweather showed flashes of his posh self, at one point playing it up--I think he was playing it up--when a handler brought him a glass of iced water. "You brought me filtered water with tap water cubes," he said. No thanks, he said, and handed off the glass. I gratefully took the tainted cubed glass and gulped it down.
Mayweather had the folks cracking up when he was asked for some words in Spanish to hype the Sept. 14 bout in Las Vegas, and said that Canelo is "the uno" Mexican fighter out there. He proved he had a down to earth side lol when he opened up his backpack for us, and showed it had knicknacks, and not stacks of bills, in it.
I told Mayweather that I didn't think Canelo could truly challenge him, and I didn't think anyone in and around his weight class could challenge him. What about a catchweight fight with Andre Ward? No dice, he said, throwing some of that ice water on my fantasy. "I'm a one hundred forty seven pounder," he told me.
When the NYPD got its way, Mayweather charmed the crowd, most of which booed him when he was announced. The crowd seemed to be about 65% Canelo fans, but even many of them got into it when Floyd did a call and response "Hard work-dedication" schtick.
He teased the assembled when he said, "I wish we could fight at Madison Square Garden. Y'all want me to fight at the Garden?" Most seemed to enjoy that prospect, though earlier, inside, when asked about fighting at "the Mecca" Mayweather declared that "Las Vegas is the mecca of boxing." He did allow then that fighting at MSG would be a treat.
Just a guess, but I don't think that's out of the question. Showtime needs to make four more Floyd scraps special, and bringing the Floyd fest to NYC would indeed by a change-of-pace boost. (Though I have to guess that Barclays Center would want that action, too, right?)
Floyd drew some more cheers when he said, "They need to put it right here in Times Square, let us do it today," he said.
He called Canelo a "true champion" and said the 22-year-old earned his right to get this gig.
A highlight for me, and proof of the import of the event was an Al Haymon sighting. I saw him, and right after, heard a fan address him. "Hey Al Haymon," the man said, and the super-advisor didn't flinch or acknowledge him. "OK, it's gonna be like that," the man said, chuckling. I played a card, and said hello, I'm Mike Woods from blah blah blah," shook his hand, and jokingly asked, "Who do you like in this fight?" He seemed to appreciate the weak stab at humor...
Canelo kept it short and sweet, declaring that "this is my time" and "we're gonna win."
After last week, and the Broner-Malignaggi buildup, this friction-free affair was quite the counterpoint. I did note that Canelo was right there in Floyd's face during two staredowns, wait, are we calling them "stareouts" now? and I didn't see any fidgeting, or nerves. No, I think that Robert Guerrero was a little bit frayed by the intensity and duration of attention, and while I think Canelo might get bored, I suspect the gravity of the event won't impact him negatively.
The crew jetted to the airport and got on planes, looking to touch down in DC, and do it again tomorrow. Floyd does a homecoming in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Wednesday.
I do wonder if by the end of this tour any bad blood will get stirred up, or the gentlemanly tone will hold throughout. Your guess, readers?