LAS VEGAS — Listen to Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s people and Canelo Alvarez wanted to fight their man so badly he offered to drop a few pounds to get him to sign on the dotted line.
Listen to the Alvarez camp and Mayweather wanted the fight at an even lower weight – one that Alvarez would have to starve himself to make.
“The truth,” promoter Richard Schaefer says, “lies somewhere in the middle.”
Weight is always a big deal in fights, and it is center stage again in one of the biggest fights in recent years. Tonight’s megafight is officially for a version of the 154-pound title held by Alvarez, but it will be fought at a catch weight of 152 pounds, a weight much harder for Alvarez to make.
“They’re the ones who said they would fight at a lower weight,” said Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather’s manager. “We can’t help it Alvarez has idiots for managers, but we’re going to take every advantage they give us.”
Alvarez is a full-fledged junior middleweight and has been for more than three years. He’s physically bigger at 5-foot-9 than Mayweather and has had to lose good amounts of weight in recent fights just to get to the 154-pound limit.
But when the chance came to move in to the upper stratosphere of fighters against Mayweather – with at least a $5 million payday – Alvarez had to give up a few pounds against a fighter more used to fighting at 147 pounds.
And on Friday, both men met their professional obligations.
Not surprisingly, Mayweather weighed in under the contracted amount at 150½ pounds, while Alvarez made the 152-pound mark on his first attempt.
“They wanted me to go to 147,” Alvarez said earlier this week. “I said that was physically impossible. Then they wanted 150 and then 151. I wanted to make the fight so I agreed to 152. Then they forced me to be quiet about it.”
Getting an advantage is nothing new to Mayweather. He does it in the ring with his tremendous skills to adapt, and he does it outside the ring by playing with his opponent’s mind. For Mayweather, making Alvarez think constantly in training about making 152 pounds may have been more important than the actual weight itself.
“There’s a thousand different ways I can beat a guy,” Mayweather said.
Oddsmakers in this gambling town believe Mayweather will find one of those ways when he takes on the undefeated Mexican star in what could be boxing’s richest fight ever. He’s a 2½-1 favorite against a bigger and presumably stronger fighter who will probably rehydrate to enter the ring 10 pounds heavier than Mayweather, though those are the shortest odds for a Mayweather fight in years.
The fight, which also features a much anticipated 140-pound title bout between Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse, will be televised on pay-per-view at a suggested cost of $74.95.
Mayweather will earn the biggest purse ever for a fighter, $41.5 million guaranteed with even more millions to come if the pay-per-view takes off. Early indications are that the fight will be one of the biggest in years, with celebrities who usually get free tickets even offering to pay for ringside seats at the MGM Grand hotel that first sold at $2,000 and now are being offered for as much as $29,000.
The live gate itself will be $20 million and the pay-per-view could bring in another $150 million in a fight featuring the reigning king of pay-per-view against the biggest sports hero in Mexico.
“He’s put the sport on his back,” Ellerbe said of Mayweather, whose earnings for the year will total at least $73 million. “Boxing is a niche sport, but the highest-paid athlete in the world is a boxer.”
The fight will be missing Oscar De La Hoya, who co-promoters Alvarez and is his biggest cheerleader. De La Hoya admitted himself to rehab earlier in the week, but not before sharing some secrets with his protege on how to beat a fighter who defeated him in a narrow split decision in 2007.
Alvarez said De La Hoya told him to use the jab and use it constantly. He also stressed the mental part of fighting, telling his charge that he had to not allow anything to bother him in the ring or out.
“I’ve always said that to be the best you have to fight the best,” said Alvarez, whose last fight against previously unbeaten Austin Trout drew 40,000 to the Alamodome in San Antonio. “That’s why I’m here.”
Alvarez is 42-0-1 in a pro career that began at age 15 in his home state of Jalisco in Mexico. He’s a big puncher who has 30 knockouts and he’s passed every test along the way in moving into big money fights in the last few years. But he’s never fought anyone like Mayweather, and he’s never fought on kind of big stage he will Saturday night.
For the elusive Mayweather it’s just another night to shine, another big payday to fund his lavish lifestyle. He’s got four more fights after Alvarez on a lucrative deal with Showtime, but he’s now 36 and his days in the ring are numbered. There will almost surely be no fight with Manny Pacquiao, so the hard-punching Alvarez may be as good as an opponent as he will see the rest of his career.
“I’ve got a lot more experience than he has at this level and that’s going to be a key,” Mayweather said. “I feel like I’m the last of my breed. I earned it the hard way.”