LAS VEGAS – As far as dress rehearsals go, it was one of the most well-attended ones in the history of professional sports.
An estimated 12,000 fans waited in line for three hours before invading the MGM Grand Garden Arena for Friday’s official weigh-in featuring champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and challenger Floyd Mayweather. In what was reportedly a record crowd for such an event, security was forced to turn away additional aficionados at the doors once the venue filled to capacity.
“I’ve been in a lot of big fights, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Hall of Famer Thomas Hearns. “Never.”
Both fighters met the contracted 152-pound weight limit and will reunite at the same arena tomorrow night for Alvarez’s WBC/WBA/Ring Magazine junior middleweight world title belts in an pay-per-view extravaganza that has been dubbed “The One”.
Mayweather (44-0, 26 KOs), who is defending his home turf of Las Vegas, came in at 150.5 pounds. Meanwhile, the 23-year-old Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs), hailing from Juanacatlán, Mex., tipped the scale at 152.
During pre-fight negotiations, Alvarez agreed to descend from his usual 154-pound junior middleweight limit to 152 pounds in order to lure Mayweather up from the 147-pound welterweight division over which he currently reigns.
According to Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, who handles Alvarez, there was also a seven-figure penalty per pound of excess. The Mexican star looked noticeably thinner than normal at Wednesday’s final press conference and has not weighed less than 152 pounds since March 2011, when he outpointed Matthew Hatton for the vacant WBC belt.
Alvarez, whose Spanish nickname “Canelo” is derived from his cinnamon-red hair, demonstrated a feisty side when Mayweather offered him the belt for the two of them to hold. The young upstart shockingly brushed off his foe, refused to grab the belt, and walked away after the final faceoff.
Round one to the kid? Not so fast.
“You know how these young kids are,” the 36-year-old Mayweather told Showtime’s Jim Gray. “Tomorrow I gotta go out there, and I gotta tame the kid. You know how it is. I know what it takes—hard work, dedication, prayers, belief, and a good team.”
In his interview, the generally even-keeled Alvarez insisted on winning the mental war, refusing to concede that losing the extra weight would have any effect on Saturday’s outcome.
“Yesterday I reached the weight,” Alvarez said through interpreter Felix DeJesus. “I knew I was going to make the weight and I did today. “I’m definitely very happy with the support I’ve received today, especially all the fans here, and tomorrow I’m going to pay them back with a victory.”
When asked by Gray about his readiness for the daunting task at hand despite his relative inexperience on the biggest of stages, Alvarez actually broke out some English.
“I was born ready,” the redheaded phenom affirmed as the crowd roared in appreciation.
The three judges in charge of scoring the bout are Canada’s Craig Metcalfe and the Nevada pair of C.J. Ross and Dave Moretti. Widely respected referee Kenny Bayless will be the third man in the ring.
“Sometimes you have refs breaking the action up, but Bayless is not for the bulls--t. He likes to treat every fighter fair,” Mayweather said in a conference call last week.
Not since Mayweather’s weigh-in before his 2008 clash with Oscar De La Hoya—a fight that set the record with 2.5 million pay-per-view buys—has the boxing world witnessed a fight with this much buzz.
The event has already set the Las Vegas record with a live gate of $20.3 million, and though it will probably fall short of the De La Hoya-Mayweather fight in terms of buys, a variety of other revenue streams will likely allow “The One” to be the most lucrative fight dollar-for-dollar in boxing history.
According to SeatGeek, only the Super Bowl has fetched higher average ticket prices vis-à-vis sporting events; ringside seats are rumored to be going for $20,000—a massive markup from the original price of $2,000. Schaefer also revealed on Friday morning that 16,000 out of 25,000 closed circuit seats had been sold in Las Vegas, not to mention the tickets sold at the 542 movie theaters showing the fight nationwide.
“This has been truly amazing,” Mayweather said. “[There’s been] a great buildup, and we’re looking to break the record.”
To the victor go the spoils, and aside from the respective guaranteed paydays (Mayweather a minimum of $41.5 million, Alvarez an estimated $12.5 million), the WBC will award a seven-pound solid gold belt to the man whose hand Bayless raises at the fight’s conclusion.
The televised portion of the card will air on Showtime Pay-Per-View and begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. Mauro Ranallo, Al Bernstein, and Paulie Malignaggi will call the final four bouts of the night, with Jim Gray providing the ringside interviews.
Check out Comcast.com for more information on ordering Mayweather-Alvarez, and Norcalboxing.net for locations on where to watch the fight in Northern and Central California.
WEIGHTS FOR “THE ONE” (TELEVISED BOUTS)*:
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs) vs. Floyd “Money” Mayweather (44-0, 26 KOs)
WBC/WBA/Ring Magazine junior middleweight world titles, 12 rounds (152 lbs. catchweight)
Alvarez (champion) 152, Mayweather 150.5
Danny “Swift” Garcia (26-0, 16 KOs) vs. Lucas “The Machine” Matthysse (34-2, 32 KOs)
WBC/WBA/Ring Magazine junior welterweight world titles, 12 rounds
Garcia (champion) 140, Matthysse 140
Ishe “Sugar Shay” Smith (25-5, 11 KOs) vs. Carlos “King” Molina (21-5-2, 6 KOs)
IBF junior middleweight world title, 12 rounds
Smith (champion) 151.5, Molina 153
Ashley Theophane (33-5-1, 10 KOs) vs. Pablo Cesar Cano (26-3-1, 20 KOs)
Welterweights, 10 rounds
Theophane 142, Cano 141.5
*televised on Showtime Pay-Per-View (broadcast starts at 6 p.m.)
Ryan Maquiñana is the Boxing Insider at CSNBayArea.com. Follow him on Twitter @RMaq28.