By Jake Donovan
The biggest fight that could be made was made, when Floyd Mayweather and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez agreed to terms to square off on September 14, 2013.
Their fight itself racked up enough dough to easily qualify as the year’s biggest event – but the months-long announcements and festivities leading up to fight night almost made the actual bout an afterthought.
It was dubbed “The One”, a fitting title for a number of reasons. As it relates to awards season, it was the only one to receive first place votes by any of the Boxingscene.com staff members, making it a runaway choice for Event of the Year.
Less than a month passed between Mayweather’s last ring appearance – a 12-round win over Robert Guerrero on May 4 – and Golden Boy Promotions and Mayweather Promotions finalizing all terms. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer worked through Memorial Day weekend just to make sure everyone was on the same page, but still had to work overtime until terms were agreed to by Mayweather and Alvarez before month’s end.
The timing of the announcement was crucial, as a historic press tour was already being planned. The lesson learned from Mayweather’s pay-per-view headliner with Guerrero was that you can’t go into a big event cold. Whereas neither Mayweather nor Guerrero were made available to the media for varying reasons, fans across the United States and Mexico were able to get their fill of both fighters.
Each stop during the 10-city, nine-day press tour spanning two countries seemed to grow bigger than its predecessor. The first stop was at Times Square in New York City, with the streets packed for blocks and boxing on the mind of the patrons of the media capital of the world.
From there, fans turned out in record numbers to celebrate the sport’s biggest superstars of the United States and Mexico, respectively. Day two in Washington D.C., proved even bigger. Anticipation continued to build as the fighters visited Grand Rapids, MI (Mayweather’s hometown), Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, San Antonio, and Mexico City (with 32,000 of Alvarez’ countrymen attending the event) before wrapping up the tour in Los Angeles.
A record-breaking press tour was followed by record-breaking news of the fight owning the largest ever live gate for any boxing event. Tickets for the show at the MGM Grand were sold out in minutes, to the tune of more than $20 million in sales, eclipsing the previous record also shared by Mayweather, in his split decision win over Oscar de la Hoya in May ’07.
That particular event was the biggest ever at the time largely due to de la Hoya’s worldwide superstar appeal, but also served as the genesis of Mayweather’s flair for self-promotion. His legend has only grown leaps and bounds in the six years since, to where his audience remains divided: many tune in to watch a genius at work; others tune in hoping this will be the night he finally loses.
In regards to the latter, Alvarez was by far the best man for the job. Not only did many give him a fair chance at becoming the first to unseat Mayweather, but his own superstar status guaranteed the event would become a success.
What made ‘The One’ so special, though, goes way beyond the numbers. In between the record-breaking gate established months before the fight, and the $150 million generated in pay-per-view revenue, the event only continued to grow larger.
Fans were already willing to pay the price of admission for the headlining act. The proof was in the sold-out gate and demand for closed-circuit threatening to outgrow its supply. Then came an unexpected bonus addition to the show: the announcement of a mouthwatering showdown between Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse.
With that came a new subject line: the TWO biggest fights that could be made were made. Both were now on the same show.
The announcement of Garcia-Matthysse came after the conclusion of the press tour for the main event, but warranted its own conference call and flood of headlining stories just the same. A press tour was attempted but never came to fruition. It mattered little; both fighters received their fair share of shine, as did the entire Golden Boy stable during fight week.
Las Vegas was overrun with boxing culture in the days leading up to the fight. The weigh-in alone far exceeded any other event in recent memory. To say it set the bar for all other weigh-ins to measure up to would be to suggest that any other weigh-in could ever dream of living up to the time and effort put forth by Golden Boy, Mayweather Promotions and Showtime.
Virtually every notable fighter under the Golden Boy promotional banner was introduced to the stage, not just in the usual sense of “look who’s also here,” but given their own grand entrance to be celebrated by a standing-room only crowd. The principal players of the pay-per-view telecast – main event and undercard - were granted their own extended ring walk, its theatrics surpassing what you’d see in the moments leading up to even the biggest fights.
The in-ring action itself also left plenty to talk about. Three new champions were crowned on fight night. Hard-luck challenger Carlos Molina captured an alphabet title on the pay-per-view undercard. Garcia cemented his place atop the super lightweight division, capturing the lineal 140 lb. crown with a memorable performance in a fight in which most so-called experts expected him to get knocked unconscious by the latest ‘most feared fighter on the planet’ entrant.
Mayweather delivered one of the best performances of his eventual Hall of Fame career, though he was forced to overcome suspect scoring from one judge who has since relieved herself of ringside honors. That he was forced to settle for a majority decision only added to the event’s drama, even if as an unnecessary entrant.
The win crowned Mayweather as the lineal 154 lb. king, and third overall tour as a titlist of any kind at the weight. This, while also serving as the reigning World welterweight champion (as recognized by Boxingscene.com since 2010), the sport’s pound-for-pound king and untouchable at the box office.
Fight night itself may have resulted in Mayweather dominating Alvarez for 12 rounds. But for more than three months, the two did their part to dominate the field when it came to creating the 2013 Event of the Year.
Other noteworthy events receiving staff votes:
Top Rank Does Macau (Five 2nd place votes) – For years, the running joke in the industry when it came to deciding a location for any given big Top Rank event was that Dubai would somehow land in the running only to ‘unexpectedly’ give way to Las Vegas. With that came a skeptical view of Bob Arum’s vision of staging major events in China. That dream became a reality, three times over on the year. HBO’s sister network, HBO2 was along for the ride for the inaugural event in April, which included Juan Estrada’s flyweight-title winning upset over Brian Viloria and the pro debut of China’s most successful amateur boxer, two-time Olympic Gold medalist Zou Shiming. All three shows in Macau have included Shiming, who headlined the first two and then settled for a supporting role in November, when HBO staged its first ever pay-per-view beyond U.S. borders as Manny Pacquiao headlined in a 12-round whitewash of Brandon Rios. The pay-per-view event produced lukewarm results, but the series of events at the Venetian Macao resort – described by visitors as “Las Vegas on steroids” (ironically fitting considering recent drug results) – was enough to continue the series through at least 2014 and also spawn plans to expand to Singapore.
Mayweather Signs With Showtime (One 2nd place vote, two 3rd place votes) - It was hardly any secret that Floyd Mayweather’s ring return would come against Robert Guerrero. What caught the industry by storm, however, wasn’t just that the pay-per-view event would be carried by Showtime, but that the network inked the sport’s biggest box office attraction to a lucrative six-fight deal reportedly north of $200 million. The signing presumably means the end of Mayweather’s relationship with HBO, with whom he had spent his entire run as a championship-level fighter beginning in 1998. The 14-year run developed Mayweather into the sport’s very best fighter in the world and its biggest draw, two traits Showtime can now call its own through 2015 and presumably for the rest of the fighter’s career.
HBO/Golden Boy Separation (Three 3rd place votes) - Mayweather’s decision to cross the street from HBO to Showtime was merely the latest in a mass defection of fighters advised by Al Haymon and/or promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. There were a few fighters who still hadn’t yet made the move, but HBO made the decision a little bit easier when announcing in March that it was momentarily out of the Golden Boy business. The announcement led to both networks raising its game for the remainder of the year. HBO developed several new stars, dominated the ratings and will be well-represented during Year-End Awards season. Showtime seized control of the pay-per-view market, ratings on its flagship station continue to rapidly rise, and three-to-four fights per Showtime Championship Boxing telecast have become the norm.
Kameda Brothers Make History... And More History (One 3rd place vote) - All records are made to be broken, so the fighting Kameda brothers made sure to increase the odds with their string of achievements in 2013. Youngest brother Tomoki Kameda earned an alphabet bantamweight title with a win over Paulus Ambunda in August, marking the first (and only, to date) time in boxing history that three brothers have won major titles at some point in their careers. The feat was trumped only by Daiki Kameda's foray into the title picture, capturing a piece of the 115 lb. crown with a narrow win over Rodrigo Guerrero in September. His achievement marked an achievement that is likely never to be matched, the only time in history when three brothers simultaneously reigned as titleholders, with Tomoki and older brother Koki holding bantamweight titles at the time.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox