For a long, sapping 50 minutes after the barnstorming press conference was supposed to start, the scene in Bayfront Park on Friday afternoon acted as a metaphor for boxing’s big events of late:
Nothing happened as we waited and started feeling burned in the electronics.
Just as some began pondering how well oven mitts would work with smartphone touch screens, something happened. Finally, stately strutting up in a white suit as cool and clean as fans and media weren’t after 90 minutes in South Florida summer afternoon weather, came Mexican Canelo Alvarez.
Alvarez, the super welterweight world champion, had just finished modeling his suit and hair as near perfect as his 42-0-1 (30 KOs) record when multiple world champion Floyd Mayweather struck his first pose on the carpet. One 44-0 (26 KOs) just-undersized guy in a white T-shirt surrounded by a phalanx of black T-shirted guys who look like they just wiped out a Popeye’s.
They came to town on an 11-city tour to drum up pay-per-view buys for their Sept. 14 fight in Las Vegas. The fight’s tag, “The One,” gives a get-outta-here-kid sideways boot to Manny Pacquiao and the landmark fight that never was with Mayweather. Whoever you blame for that, Pacquiao’s recent ring defeats caused him to lose his luster if not his liquor endorsements.
Now it’s Mayweather versus Alvarez that tries to break boxing back into the North American sports mainstream. The last great attempt at it, Mayweather versus Oscar de la Hoya, did so until about the ninth round.
That’s when those of us who ponied up the pay-per-view money — at my boxing-hating wife’s encouragement, I might add — realized the fight failed the hype. But everybody made a lot of money. That’s the goal here in a fight co-promoted by Mayweather’s company, Alvarez’s company and Golden Boy Promotions, de la Hoya’s company.
The fighters dutifully answer similar questions. They do the in-your-face stare down that’s drama on the street, cliché in prefight media sessions, comic when you know it’s being done in 10 other cities. Besides, neither guy followed with any trash talk. Instead, Old School Rules reigned: speak with great respect for the other man and show confidence in your own abilities.
“The mainstream is the key,” said Stephen Espinoza, Showtime vice president of sports and event programming. “Without question, we’re going to get Floyd’s huge core audience. We’re going to get Canelo’s huge core audience. The record-breaking potential depends on the crossover, the casual fan, the non-fan. There are two things that speak well for the potential of this event. One is, the spectacle of it and there’s such great storylines. There’s pent up demand for a fight of this magnitude.
“Secondly, Canelo’s a fresh face. A new player on the scene. A very good-looking young kid who draws women of all ages. That’s what Oscar brought to the table.”
That can’t be overstated. Michael Jordan wouldn’t have been Michael Jordan if he looked like Larry Bird.
Or look at the four biggest crossover fighters of the past 50 years. Three pages of Thomas Hauser’s definitive biography on Muhammad Ali discuss the role his appearance played in his appeal. No less than the original supermodel, Cheryl Tiegs, says, “He’s an extraordinarily handsome man because of his charm, his charisma, his whole being.”