They call Times Square in New York City the crossroads of the world. And on a steamy, summer Monday afternoon it became boxing’s crossroads as Floyd Mayweather, Jr., the No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer, and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez met to announce their junior middleweight championship fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Sept. 14.
A crowd of around 2,000 people gathered at the Pedestrian Walk in Times Square on Broadway between 46th and 47th – many sitting in bleachers – to cheer for their favorite. There was a large contingent of Mexican fans there to root for Alvarez, who is rapidly gaining the popularity and status in Mexico that was once claimed by Julio Cesar Chavez.
Red, green and white confetti exploded out of the air when Alvarez made his way down a red carpet leading to the stage set up for the press conference. Mayweather got the red, white and blue treatment for the same walk.
It was the perfect place to kick off an ambitious 11-city promotional tour that will make stops in Washington D.C., Grand Rapids, Michigan (Mayweather’s hometown), and Mexico City before concluding in Los Angeles on July 2. Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, said the tour will cost over $1 million, which will also include the cost for Mayweather’s private plane.
By the time it’s over, Mayweather and Alvarez will probably be sick of each other. It’s probably a good thing that Mayweather doesn’t speak Spanish and Alvarez isn’t fluent in English.
“We just finished shooting a commercial in L.A. and they were like, ‘Why aren’t you trash talking?’” Mayweather said. “Why? Because he won’t know what I’m talking about anyway.”
Without being able to needle Alvarez, the mischief has been taken away from the promotional tour, which is one stop longer than the 10-city tour that Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya embarked on before they fought in 2007. Mayweather tortured De La Hoya on the tour, stealing his food and at one stop hiding De La Hoya’s gym bag. The tour worked because the match became the top selling boxing Pay Per View of all time with 2.4 million buys and grossed $120 million in revenue.
Mayweather’s victory over De La Hoya, a Mexican-American icon and the top boxing attraction at the time, launched Mayweather into the superstar stratosphere in boxing.
Mayweather is now the only true bankable star in the sport. He knows that he will earn money no matter who he fights.
In a wide-ranging, 45-minute interview with reporters before the press conference at Times Square on Monday, Mayweather tackled a variety of subjects, including PEDs in boxing, greedy sanctioning organizations, poor judging and of course fighting Alvarez.
Last year at this time a Mayweather meeting with the media would have been dominated by questions about Manny Pacquiao. But Pacquiao’s KO loss to Juan Manuel Marquez has made questions about a possible fight a moot point. But Pacquiao was mentioned in light of the fact that the former welterweight titleholder has decided to undergo voluntary testing for performance enhancing drugs before his match against Brandon Rios in China in October.
“I just bet he is now,” Mayweather said as he laughed. “I just bet he is now.”
Mayweather (44-0, 26 KOs) is taking a page from the Pacquiao playbook and having Alvarez fight at a catchweight – two pounds below the junior middleweight limit of 154 pounds.
Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather Promotions CEO, said Alvarez’s manager Edison Reynoso suggested it as a way to make the fight. Mayweather accepted.
“When you do something like that, of course my team comes to me and says,
‘Floyd this is what we have on the table. What do you think about it?’”
Mayweather said. “I was like ‘Hey, let’s make it happen.’ Of course you’re going to go back and forth in negotiations and you’re going to come up with the terms that the teams come up. As fighters we agree or we don’t.”
Alvarez said the catchweight idea didn’t come from his side of the table.
“It wasn’t me,’’ Alvarez said. “I don’t want to fight two pounds below the weight class. That’s the way it was negotiated. I accepted it. I’m fine with it. I’ll be OK.”
At one point during the interview, Mayweather took on the sanctioning organizations.
“If I beat Miguel Cotto for the WBA championship, how did (Austin) Trout beat him for the WBA championship?” Mayweather said. [Editor’s note: Trout defended the WBA’s “regular” title (that he won by beating Rigoberto Alvarez) against Cotto.]
“These are the things that I just don’t understand about the sport of boxing. We really need to clean the sport up. This is professional level and we need to handle business in a professional manner. It’s too many championship belts out there.”
He took a swipe at judging, citing some of the more curious decisions that have been rendered by the men and women sitting on the ring apron. He cited the match between Adrien Broner and Paulie Malignaggi at the Barclays Center this past Saturday night as one of the examples. Judge Tom Miller scored the fight 115-113 for Malignaggi, while the two other judges gave the match to Broner.
Mayweather chartered a private jet and flew in from vacation for the fight because Broner had asked him to come. He had some mild criticism of Broner’s performance.
“I’m proud of Adrien Broner’s victory (over Malignaggi). There’s a lot of things that he still has to learn,” Mayweather said. “Me personally, I feel like he should have got the knockout the other day. I’m going to continue to support him. He was flat footed.”
He also had some strong praise for Malignaggi.
“For a guy not to be a big puncher and to be a two-time world champion says a lot about Paulie,” Mayweather said. “I’m proud of him. And his commentating (on Showtime) is unbelievable.”
Mayweather was asked if he saw a Broner match in the future, using the same tracking plan as he used for Alvarez.
“I look at Adrien Broner like Daniel-san and I’m Mr. Miyagi. We never saw Daniel-san try to go against Mr. Miyagi,” Mayweather said. “So with my career, a lot of times they try to compare the two. I love the kid, but you have to realize, you have to look at my career.”
Mayweather mentioned the fact that he had fought and beaten a skilled, crafty veteran like Genaro Hernandez by the time he was 21 years old. It was his way of saying that Broner’s resume was too weak to face anyone of Mayweather’s caliber in the near future.
In an odd twist Broner thought the same thing of Alvarez when he was asked about Mayweather-Alvarez at a workout at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn a few days before his match against Malignaggi.
“Too green,” Broner said repeatedly of Alvarez anytime someone tried to ask him a question about the match.
“Floyd’s going to crush that guy. Alvarez just learned how to fight. He’s green. He’s very green,” Broner said.
Alvarez doesn’t believe that he’s too inexperienced for Mayweather at this time.
“I’m very young, but I’m experienced as well,” said Alvarez, who has 43 fights (42-0-1 with 30 KOs). “I’ve been learning the last couple of years. The position that I’m in right now, he was once in that position.”
Alvarez has De La Hoya as his mentor. He said he will lean on De La Hoya to get info on what makes Mayweather uncomfortable in the ring. De La Hoya, who had a good strategy against Mayweather, said he will keep repeating three letters to Alvarez – J.A.B. (jab). It was something De La Hoya couldn’t do consistently because he had a torn left rotator cuff.
“For one thing youth is on his side,” De La Hoya said of the 23-year-old Alvarez. “But the real advantage will be the intelligence. People will be surprised with his speed.”
Photos / Tom Casino-SHOWTIME, Esther Lin-SHOWTIME