LAS VEGAS. The nine-day, 10-city barnstorming tour across North America to hawk pay-per-views for the Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez fight was an over-the-top success for one very simple reason:
It helped create the impression that the 22-year-old Alvarez is very much a threat to hand the unbeaten Mayweather his first defeat when they meet in a super welterweight title bout Sept. 14 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.
Alvarez came off as calm and confident, a seasoned professional despite his youth. At stop after stop on the cross-country journey that attracted around 100,000 people, Alvarez was cheered wildly by enthusiastic fans who had clearly bought into his message. Never did he get ruffled or lose his composure.
In New York, Alvarez told a cheering throng that was chanting “Mex-i-co!” as he spoke, “In the sport of boxing, it’s everybody’s time, and this is my time. I’m going to win.”
He repeated the message in Washington, D.C., the next day, vowing to outbox one of the great boxers in the sport’s glorious history.
Before more than 30,000 in Mexico City on Sunday, Alvarez said his goal is to become the best in the business.
“There are a lot of people who don’t think I’m going to win, but on Sept. 14, you’ll see that I will win,” Alvarez said. “I’ve always wanted to be the best in the sport and I’m on my way. I couldn’t let this opportunity go by, and I will take advantage of it.”
It was mission accomplished for Alvarez, Golden Boy Promotions, Showtime and all those with a stake in selling the fight.
There were many reasons for the tepid interest, by Mayweather standards, in his May 4 bout with Robert Guerrero, but chief among them was that few truly believed Guerrero had a chance to win.
The odds on the Mayweather-Alvarez fight – Mayweather is a slightly bigger than 2-1 favorite, the closest the odds have been since Mayweather fought Oscar De La Hoya in 2007 – reflect the belief many have in Alvarez’s chances.
He didn’t wilt under the intense spotlight or look like an accessory. Mayweather’s many team members will eagerly tell you that their man is a super-duper-uber-star, but Alvarez showed plenty of star quality, too. He seemed as if he belonged on the big stage, shoulder-to-shoulder with the sport’s top attraction.
So, that part of the tour couldn’t have gone better for Golden Boy and Showtime. The fight sold out quickly and will generate a record live paid gate of around $19 million.
Pay-per-view revenues are likely to exceed $100 million and have an outside shot at approaching $150 million.
A Mayweather loss would be a historic moment, and plenty of people will fork over the $75 to see if Alvarez can do it. The tour undoubtedly increased the number of Alvarez believers and will make the bout that much more lucrative for all involved.
Thus, the $1 million-plus cost to put on the tour was clearly a wise investment. But the real work begins now for Alvarez. Now, he must head into training camp and figure out a way to win the fight.
Mayweather is 44-0 and has had only two close calls. In 2002, he was bothered by Jose Luis Castillo’s pressure in their lightweight bout, and many believed that Castillo deserved the decision.
In 2007, De La Hoya was doing surprisingly well, pumping a jab in Mayweather’s face repeatedly and getting out to an early lead.
For some reason, though, De La Hoya quit jabbing and Mayweather came on in the second half to pull out a split decision.
It makes sense then that Alvarez’s plan will try to incorporate elements of both Castillo’s strategy and De La Hoya’s.
It’s a good guess that Alvarez will try to jab his way in, cut off the ring and try to make Mayweather fight in an enclosed space where he will then test Mayweather’s ability to withstand both his power and his punching volume.
De La Hoya said Alvarez has told him he’ll shock Mayweather with his speed, though Mayweather has had the speed and quickness advantage in virtually every one, if not all, of his bouts.
It’s important to note that De La Hoya’s role in promoting Mayweather bouts, starting with the 2007 match with Ricky Hatton, was to play the cheerleader for the opponent and make the case for why Mayweather would lose.
In 2007, after losing to Mayweather in May, De La Hoya stumped for Ricky Hatton in December. After a brief Mayweather retirement, De La Hoya was in Juan Manuel Marquez’s corner in 2009, telling anyone who would listen that the brilliant Mexican would solve the Mayweather riddle.
Wrong, as it turned out, but that didn’t stop De La Hoya. He backed his former rival and close friend, Shane Mosley, in 2010, then told anyone who would listen in 2011 that Victor Ortiz would come out on top.
Later, De La Hoya also extolled Miguel Cotto’s chances against Mayweather, then in May, he ran a campaign to push Guerrero.
So expect to hear De La Hoya over the next three months pumping up Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs), particularly because of his speed.
Foot speed will be as critical for Alvarez in the bout as hand speed. Mayweather has blindingly fast hands, and even at 36, they don’t appear to have slowed.
But the superbly conditioned Mayweather has always had great legs that have afforded him not only great lateral movement, but the ability to get into punching position quickly.
Mayweather’s able to make his opponent miss, then shift his feet into punching position in a flash to land devastating counter blows.
Alvarez is going to have to find a way to neutralize Mayweather’s speed, both with his hands and his feet.
A great way to do that, of course, is by firing a double jab, and doing it consistently, as the late Vernon Forrest did in upsetting Mosley in 2002.
But Alvarez hasn’t faced anyone remotely as speedy and quick as Mayweather. Austin Trout, whom Alvarez edged in April, was the first true test of his career and the first bout where there was a thought that Alvarez may lose.