By Jake Donovan
He’s obligated for five more fights, including the one on tap this weekend. But as far as Floyd Mayweather is concerned, all roads in his career have led to this very moment.
All eyes are on his vacant lineal super welterweight championship with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez this Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The event has been sold out for months, generating the highest live gate total in boxing history with more than $19 million in tickets sold mere hours after officially going on sale.
The mark eclipsed his own record set – albeit as the B-side from a marketing standpoint – in his 2007 clash with Oscar de la Hoya. That event remains the benchmark to which all others are measured in terms of financial success. No other boxing pay-per-view card has come within sniffing distance of topping its mark of more than 2.4 million units sold.
That will remain true at least through September 13, though perhaps not much longer than that.
“Everyone knows this is the most anticipated fight in the history of the sport and we have every indicator that this is going to be the biggest fight in the history of the sport,” insists Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather’s longtime adviser and CEO of Mayweather Promotions. “It started out with the fight going on sale, the fight selling out in the first day, breaking Floyd's old record against De La Hoya, $19.5 million at the gate.
“Next, when you look at the closed circuit we opened up with 12,000 seats. We sold them out as well. We opened up 13,000 more and we're about to sell out of them. When you look at the closed circuit as it relates to the restaurants and bars, right now, currently, we're at 50% higher than we were at Floyd and De La Hoya in '07.”
Mayweather’s split decision win over de la Hoya was dubbed by the mainstream media as ‘The Fight to Save Boxing.” The event instead turned the reigning pound-for-pound king into boxing’s biggest U.S.-based attraction. He’s only fought seven times since then, with none coming in lower than 900,000 pay-per-view units sold for any given event.
This weekend’s clash has been simply named ‘The One.’ The tagline was created to pose the question of who will be the one to remain unbeaten by fight’s end. Some suggest this is the first true challenge Mayweather (44-0, 26KO) has endured in years; Alvarez is the naturally bigger man, in the prime of his career and fighting close enough to his normal ring weight to pose a legitimate threat.
The odds makers don’t necessarily agree. Mayweather is a 14-5 favorite (-280) according to Bovada sportsbook. The greater challenge, it seems, is whether or not he can crack the 2 million pay-per-view buy mark, with the over/under set at 1.75 million according to the same sportsbook.
Aiding the cause is the high profile status of his opponent. Alvarez has long ago established himself as the most popular fighter among all active Mexican fighters, with his popularity felt on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. Such was evident in his most recent ring appearance, drawing upwards of 40,000 to the Alamodome in San Antonio for his title-unifying points win over Austin Trout this past April.
Alvarez celebrated his 23rd birthday shortly after the completion of their unprecedented two-week press tour spanning the U.S. and Mexico. At 42-0 and his status as no worse than the second best 154 lb. fighter on the planet, Alvarez has shown his boxing talent to perfectly complement his popularity.
“(Alvarez) is young and I've seen guys 22-0 face 25-0, a guy 30-0 versus a guy 26-0, but you've never seen a guy 44-0 versus a guy 42-0,” Mayweather says of the the rare status of two unbeaten fighters facing each other after nearly 90 fights between them. “Like I said before, in Mexico he's a young rock star and everybody that they put in front of him he was able to go out there and do his job. He done it in a tremendous fashion.
“He's a good, strong, solid boxer and I mean, it's a very intriguing match up. Me not even being a boxing fan, I would want to see two undefeated fighters at the top competition against one another.”
The last time Mayweather faced an unbeaten opponent also marked his first time on the A-side of a pay-per-view promotion. That moment came seven months after bumping off de la Hoya, when he faced then undefeated 140 lb. king Ricky Hatton.
His popularity has skyrocketed since then, with four consecutive pay-per-view telecasts cracking the one-million buy barrier (Writer’s note: excluded from the list is Mayweather’s points win over Robert Guerrero this past May, due to varying conflicting reports).
Included among the lot was his May ’12 unanimous decision win over Miguel Cotto, a fight that ranks among the Top 5 of most ever pay-per-views sold, and number two among all non-heavyweight fights after raking in $78 million worth of orders.
At the time of the fight, Mayweather knew that it wasn’t going to set any all-time marks but would be a financial success. However, he looks at that fight – his last before a brief prison sentence that resulted in his sitting out the rest of 2012 – as one that could’ve settled for better than a Top 5 finish.
“I think that if me and Cotto had the same vehicle behind us when we faced each other, that night
would have been a lot bigger than it was,” Mayweather firmly believes.
The right formula is in place for this weekend’s event. Alvarez is unbeaten, wildly popular and viewed as a threat to possibly become the first fighter in 17 years to hand Mayweather a loss. In addition to the fan bases of both fighters, there’s also the good guy versus bad guy factor, an angle that the unbeaten American has mastered ever since defecting from Top Rank nearly a decade ago.
“The thing is this - everything was a business plan. My business plan was to be very, very
entertaining, be very wild, turn it on when it's time to turn it on, turn it off when it's time to turn it off, and that's what I did,” Mayweather admits. “I built my fan base. I became a mega-star. I became a household name. That was the ultimate goal.”
Hundreds of millions of dollars later, mission accomplished and then some.
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