Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Like navigating the world’s most complex corn maze, getting from one side of the MGM Grand lobby to the other Tuesday afternoon proved treacherous and overwhelming.
Obstacles impeding any view of the path included hundreds of outstretched arms with hands gripped on camera phones. Dead-ends of boxing fans maneuvering for position to catch a glimpse of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vastly outnumbered front-desk personnel waiting to check visitors in.
Four days before the two undefeated champions square off in a bout dubbed “The One,” the fanfare has already surpassed what most fights draw in a week.
“This is not a fight,” Mayweather said shortly after escaping the mass. “This is what we call an event.”
And it’s safe to say it’s a boxing event unlike anything Las Vegas has seen in the past several years. The way tickets to Mayweather (44-0) vs. Canelo (42-0-1) sold out in hours made some think back to Mike Tyson’s heyday.
Tuesday’s scene at the MGM was only a re-creation of the 10-stop press tour the two went on over the summer. Richard Schaefer could only think of one precedent that matched from his time as the CEO of Golden Boy Promotions.
That was the 2007 matchup between Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya at the MGM.
“We knew it was a big fight, but we were surprised of how huge it became,” Schaefer said. “And I have that same feeling I had back then with this fight right here.”
Mayweather’s split-decision victory over De La Hoya went on to sell 2.5 million pay-per-view buys, a record that has stood ever since. But because of a price increase — De La Hoya vs. Mayweather cost only $55 while this weekend’s bout is $65 or $75 for high definition — Mayweather vs. Canelo could break the mark with fewer purchases.
Schaefer said that number was 1,982,000 buys.
“I feel very good we’re going to break 2 million,” Schaefer boasted. “The way it feels, the early indicators we’re getting, everything is consistent.”
Television providers, according to Schaefer, have reported that sales for the fight on a Tuesday were greater than what they saw on Fridays for Mayweather’s past couple bouts.
There are Vegas-centric gauges, too. Merchandise sales are following the same pattern as pay-per-view. Fans have bought more than 15,000 tickets to closed circuit viewings, according to Schaefer, despite those purchases traditionally coming at the last minute.
More seats to the events were released Tuesday.
“I think it’s the right time and the people asked for it,” Canelo said through a translator. “I have my fans. I’m their gamecock. Floyd has his fans. He’s their gamecock.”
The 23-year-old Alvarez, with his beloved following in Mexico and from anyone of Mexican heritage, attracts his own demographic in a way no one who has fought Mayweather since De La Hoya has. Mayweather, of course, doesn’t see it that way.
He attributed the buildup to a “steady growing” he feels every time he fights regardless of the opponent. Mayweather said Canelo had the luxury of building his name through appearing on his undercards.
“I give Canelo credit for showing up on Sept. 14,” Mayweather said. “I’m not going to sit here and give anybody credit for this. Listen, I worked my ass off for this.”
Now he’ll reap the benefits. Mayweather will take home the largest guaranteed payday of his career at $41.5 million Saturday.
Canelo will also earn his largest check, though his amount is undisclosed. The fight broke the Nevada gate record with $19.5 million in ticket sales.
“The One,” indeed.
“In a fight like this, I’m not losing,” Mayweather said. “And he’s not losing either. It’s a win-win situation no matter how you cut it.”