11:24 PM EDT, September 11, 2013
LAS VEGAS — It seemed to be a warmer, friendlier Floyd Mayweather Jr. who did his last dance with the media Wednesday before Saturday's fight with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.
This may also represent the first time the words "warmer" and "friendlier" have been used as adjectives for Mayweather.
The occasion was the usual big-fight Wednesday news conference. These things traditionally represent a last public forum for boxers to growl at each other, say ridiculous things and display unseemly braggadocio. Mayweather is the king of this.
But not so much Wednesday.
The event started 40 minutes late — a smash success for boxing. Anything under an hour late in boxing is considered on time. It featured all the excessive hyperbole and silliness that make these things a hoot.
Former Swiss banker Richard Schaefer, chief executive of Golden Boy Promotions, served as master of ceremonies. And although he still can't quite take it to the level of bizarre delight of his counterpart and rival at Top Rank, Bob Arum — "Yesterday I was lying. Today I'm telling you the truth" — Schaefer gave it a try.
He declared Mexico his "favorite country," after the U.S. Just how Switzerland deals with being No. 3 remains to be seen. He also declared that "Mexico is safe," which may upset a few drug lords.
Business is business, and Schaefer knows how to do business. Alvarez is from Mexico. Chances are that, were he from Brazil, Schaefer would have done the entire news conference in Portuguese.
He did get off an Arum-worthy line when hyping the record $19.9-million Mayweather-Alvarez gate sale for the 16,500 seats at the MGM Grand Garden. It had been reported that those sold in the first 24 hours. Schaefer said they actually sold in an hour and added, "We had celebrities calling for tickets, and actually offering to pay for them."
This all came amid boxing's usual dismissal of good taste and infusion of the weird and garish.
When Schaefer called a big shot from a beer company to the microphone to say some words and take his bows for having deposited millions into the promotion, two nicely shaped females, displaying the beer's name and dressed in the minimum allowable — even in Vegas — scurried to his side. They were there to round out the photo op, so to speak.
Standing onstage throughout, behind the speakers' table, was a person dressed in a skeleton head and costume, with fake eyes that lighted up fluorescent blue, a cigar in his/her mouth and the Mexican flag in hand. It was explained that he/she was a symbol of fallen Mexicans whose spirits remain alive.
A top official of one of boxing's alphabet-soup sanctioning bodies came proudly to the podium to display the title belt Mayweather and Alvarez will contest. He said it was seven pounds of solid gold, and one estimate put its worth at close to $150,000. That would seem fair, knowing how hard it might be for Mayweather to make ends meet on the $41.5 million he has been guaranteed for this fight, or Alvarez, for his $6 million.
When it was over, Mayweather met the media. It was presented as one-on-ones but was more like 20-on-one. In these situations, especially during fight week, he is often uninterested and even surly. Not Wednesday.
He smiled, looked questioners in the eye, leaned back in his chair and thought pensively before answering. He was engaged, not annoyed. The cockiness was still there, but the wild-eyed braggart wasn't. It was almost as if he had grown from somebody once desperate to make good on all his boasts to somebody who now knows he can and will.
A mouthy punk growing into a confident veteran? Perhaps.
Mayweather said of Alvarez, "He is 42-0. If he had fought Floyd Mayweather 42 times, he'd be 0-42."
He said of where Alvarez stands compared with Mayweather's recently vanquished foe, Miguel Cotto, "Is he as tough as Cotto? No. Can he box like Cotto? No. Am I worried? No."
He responded to those who say that boxing is dead by saying, "If the highest-paid athlete in the world [Mayweather] comes from the sport of boxing, I'd say the sport is all right."
Still a lot of bragging there, but the body language was different. The big smile never left. He laughed a lot, even at himself.
This, of course, is the same Mayweather who spent two months in jail a year ago, after being convicted of slapping around the mother of his children in a domestic dispute. He is not yet in the running for Boy Scout of the Year.
But those who see Saturday's fight as a match between a young gun (23) likely to take out a slower, desperate, clinging-to-his-legacy 36-year-old, are probably wrong.
What will you do, Mayweather was asked, if Alvarez comes at you with a strategy that you hadn't expected?
"I will just have to adjust," Mayweather said, maturely.
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