Weight takes centre stage in Mayweather-Alvarez battle
American should have the advantage in one of the biggest fights in recent times after Mexican rival was forced to slim down to 152 pounds
Listen to Floyd Mayweather Jnr'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 that Alvarez would have to starve himself to make. "The truth," promoter Richard Schaefer says, "lies somewhere in the middle."
Weight is centre stage again in one of the biggest fights in recent years. This morning's (Hong Kong time) megafight is officially for a version of the 154-pound title held by Alvarez, but will be fought at 152, harder for Alvarez to make than Mayweather.
"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 physically bigger at 5-foot-9 than Mayweather and has had to lose good amounts of weight in some of his recent fights just to get to 154 pounds.
But when the chance came to move in to the upper stratosphere - with at least a US$5 million (HK$38.77 million) payday attached to it - Alvarez had to give up a few pounds against a fighter more used to fighting at 147 pounds. "They wanted me to go to 147," Alvarez said. "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."
Alvarez was 152 pounds at the official weigh-in, delighting a raucous crowd of about 12,000 at the MGM Arena. Mayweather weighed in at 1501/2.
Getting an advantage in or out of the ring is nothing new to Mayweather. For him 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 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 favourite against a bigger and presumably stronger fighter who will probably rehydrate to enter the ring 10 pounds heavier than Mayweather.
Mayweather will earn the biggest purse ever for a fighter, US$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 that are being offered for as much as US$29,000.
"He's put the sport on his back," Ellerbe said of Mayweather, whose earnings for the year will total at least US$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-promotes Alvarez. 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 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.
"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 but he's never fought anyone like Mayweather.
For 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."