OUR then editor, Tris Dixon, was ringside at the MGM Grand for Floyd Mayweather’s eighth consecutive appearance at the resort in Sin City on September 14, 2013. The fight generated $150 million on Showtime PPV from 2.2 million pay-per-view buys. They broke the previous record of $136 million (from 2.48 million PPV buys) set when Mayweather edged Oscar De La Hoya over 12 rounds in 2007.
The record was smashed again when Mayweather defeated Manny Pacquiao in May 2015. That fight generated more than $400 million was from an estimated 4.4 million pay-per-view buys.
“I’VE only got 24 months left, and this is the man,” said Floyd Mayweather.
He pointed to an inconsolable figure next to him, wearing an outsized blazer over a T-shirt, his red hair crumpled and sweaty and with blue swelling beneath his left eye as he gazed blankly into the media hordes in front of him. Saul Alvarez, the beaten 23-year-old Mexican, looked more like a dishevelled student after a night on the shandy than a man who had just featured in what was last week repeatedly called “the biggest fight in boxing history.”
Mayweather continuously tried to encourage him, but the damage had been done in the ring.
“In my eyes, he’s still the champion,” said Floyd, who collected Alvarez’s WBA and WBC light-middleweight belts. “He will carry the torch. Tonight, experience was a major key. He still has what it takes, tonight was just my night.”
Alvarez had the look of a man who had been well beaten. When asked directly if he thought the youngster had taken a round off him, Floyd just said, “He fought hard.”
Alvarez admitted he had struggled.
“He’s a great fighter,” Alvarez acknowledged. “I just couldn’t catch him.
He’s very intelligent and very elusive. Frustration was getting in there, we were trying to catch him.”
His looks and words were not of a man who had actually lost only on a majority decision, but that is why the name of judge CJ Ross buzzed like an unwelcome wasp in the Media Center and spent some time over the weekend trending on Twitter.
The Las Vegas official scored the bout a draw (114-114), while many at ringside, including yours truly, had scored every round to Mayweather.
A few had given Alvarez one round, some even a couple.
But no one had it close and when it was announced the decision on the cards was a majority, the disbelief in the MGM Grand Garden Arena was palpable.
“What?” shouted Mayweather, in unison with everyone else.
Ross’ card was read out first, almost disguising the fact that the scores handed down by Craig Metcalfe (117-111) and Dave Moretti (116-112) also failed to share the overwhelming opinion that Mayweather not only dominated, but that this magnificent performance was one of his finest.
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer branded the scorecard “a disgrace”. And many were far stronger in their condemnation of Ross than that.
Keith Kizer, Chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, backed her despite the outrage. And she said she stood by her scorecard.
Fresh in the mind to many at ringside, however, was that she had scored in favour of Timothy Bradley over Manny Pacquiao last year in another fight that left a foul stench.
It doesn’t bear thinking about what would have happened had another judge seen the fight the same way Ross had.
With the hopes of a nation on Saul’s pale shoulders, and a heightened anticipation hanging in the electric air,
“Ca-ne-lo” chants raised the roof. As is his custom, Mayweather started slipping and sliding, Out of nowhere he pierced Alvarez’s guard with a venomous right.
His jab was in play early on, as was his customary movement, and although he landed another sharp right, “Canelo” caught him with a counter and the crowd roared and rose simultaneously.
Both feinted for openings in the second and the “Me-hi-co” chants were deafening. Alvarez was looking for lefts to the body but a right tipped his head back and when Floyd landed the same shot near the end of the round, he held and Alvarez couldn’t get anything off.
An Alvarez left hook was greeted wildly by the Hispanic fans at the back of the venue in the next session but Floyd blocked most of it and his right hand was beginning to motor.
He almost ran onto an uppercut after overreaching with that right, but “Canelo” just missed the target.
Mayweather was content to stand with Alvarez ‘in the pocket’ in round four and he looked razor-sharp out of it.
The fighters exchanged words, probably not pleasant ones, after the Mexican was warned by referee Kenny Bayless to keep his shots up.
And when Alvarez refused to touch gloves, it was a sign that he was becoming too emotionally involved in the fight, and that’s gold dust for Floyd.
The crowd was buoyed when the youngster landed a jab, but he looked tired as the fourth closed and he was getting picked off. That’s how things went through the middle rounds. Floyd’s jab was masterful, and the stats proved it (landing 42 per cent of 330 all night and an average of 11 out of 27 per round, compared to Alvarez, whose average was less than four landed).
The “Ca-ne-lo” chants sounded more urgent than excited as fluid Mayweather fired a delectable right uppercut in round six and even pushed back the man who, on fight night, was 15lbs heavier (11st 11lbs-10st 10lbs). “Canelo” rolled the dice and started swinging to inspire the crowd as that session wound down, but the audience gasped in appreciation when a Mayweather left-right jarred Alvarez’s head back and sent sweat flying into the ringside area.
Finally in the eighth, “Canelo” became a more imposing figure. He closed the gap and pinned Mayweather on the ropes with some success, but as the fight wore on, the more he attacked, the more he got hurt.
Mayweather is the master at turning his opponents’ guns on themselves, and then pulling the trigger.
In appreciation of what they were witnessing, the crowd now heartily bellowed “T-M-T” (Mayweather’s group is The Money Team), and Floyd scored to the head and body of a champion who was running out of steam and ideas.
Alvarez was bamboozled by punches in the 10th and though Floyd spent some time on the ropes with Alvarez firing, not one shot raised the hopes of the Hispanic fans.
In the 11th, Mayweather seemed to be in so much control that as Alvarez pursued, Floyd stopped to pose for the photographers ringside
This was a round CJ Ross scored to Saul, perhaps as Mayweather briefly had been positioned in a corner, even if he came out of it unscathed.
“USA” chants filled the MGM as the 12th opened. Mayweather was mostly on his bike, Alvarez couldn’t get near the American (although all three judges scored for the champion) and while the connoisseurs savoured Mayweather’s brilliance, others headed for the exits, safe in the knowledge that they would not miss anything dramatic.
The drama was saved for when Jimmy Lennon Jnr announced that the scorecards constituted a majority decision.
Something bit deeply inside me when I heard that. I was terrified for the consequences boxing would face if the wrong man had been given it. My knees actually knocked.
And even though the right fighter won, boxing, in front of such a significant audience, did not come out unscathed.
Mayweather played it down afterwards, opting to hurl more verbal bouquets “Canelo’s” way.
“He’ll take the loss and bounce back,” he said. “Everything is a learning experience.”
Schaefer hopes to manoeuvre Alvarez straight back into a big fight, mentioning Miguel Cotto, while Mayweather suggested Carlos Molina, who won the IBF belt on the undercard.
Floyd thought he’d dislocated his elbow early in the fight, and said he’d battled through pain for much of the contest.
Mayweather, from Grand Rapids, Michigan but now living large in Las Vegas, weighed 10st 10 1/2lbs and raised his record to 45-0 (26).
He became the first man to defeat Alvarez, who is now 42-1-1 (30) and who weighed in on the catchweight 10st 12lbs limit – despite speculation all week that he would not be able to make the stipulated weight.
“I didn’t want to lose but it happens and it hurts,” said “Canelo”. “He’s very fast and accurate. His punches weren’t strong but he was getting points.”
Mayweather mentioned the possibility of boxing on the major Mexican Bank Holidays next year, in May and September, as he did this year.
“Alvarez’s a thinker, I’m a thinker,” he concluded. “This was chess tonight. We’re both future Hall of Famers.
It’s truly been an amazing ride. What else can I say? We did it again.”
- MORE than 16,746 attended at the MGM with a further 25,043 watching at closed-circuit venues around Las Vegas. The live-gate receipts totalled more than $20m, the closed circuit over $2m.
- TICKETS were priced between $350 and $2,000, but on the day touts were trying to shift $350 tickets for $4,000, and succeeding, though demand was far greater than supply.
- THE weigh-in was an event in itself. The entire MGM Grand Garden Arena was packed, with more than 12,000 fans. Incredibly, they had to start turning people away an hour before it started, too.
- FLOYD’S guaranteed purse was a record $41.5m, but could rise as high as $100m once all of the revenue is in. That could take as long as a year. Alvarez was due to get $5m, and that could go up to $12m.