By Sam Geraci
Photo: Przemek Garczarczyk
Over 2,200 Chicago fight fans packed into the historic Chicago Theater to get a glimpse of the sport’s p4p king Floyd “Money” Mayweather and the Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, the latest Latin American hope to challenge Mayweather. According to several Chicago Theater staff members, fans began lining the entrances of the Chicago Theater on State Street shortly after 9:00AM to insure a good seat when the doors opened at 5:00PM. When the doors finally opened, fight fans scrambled to the best available seats and chanted “Mexico! Mexico!” or “Canelo! Canelo!” or the Mayweather mantra of “Hard work! Dedication!” until Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer took the podium shortly after 6:00PM.
“Love him or hate him, Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather is the One. The question is, will he be the One at the end of September 14,” Schaefer added that Chicago was the loudest of all the stops thus far because of “Canelomania” and that Alvarez was a “Mexican James Dean and the One Mexico has been waiting for.”
Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe attempted to speak after Schaefer but all that this reporter could decipher through the crowd’s chants of “Culero! Culero!” was that “when you think about winning, you think about Mayweather” and “Floyd Mayweather wanted it to happen. The fans have spoken.”
Just as it seemed that the Chicago crowd couldn’t get any louder, boxing legend and Golden Boy Promotions founder Oscar De La Hoya took the podium.
“Muchas Gracias! We are very happy to be here in Chicago. This shows that boxing is not only alive but alive and well,” De La Hoya then continued to praise the matchup and hype the theme of “Who’s the One?” before concluding his statements by catering to the Chicago fight fans with an assurance that “We want to establish a boxing presence in Chicago.”
When Alvarez approached the podium, the pro-Alvarez crowd erupted with chants of “Canelo! Canelo!” for several minutes. When he did speak, as has been the case throughout his short but impressive career, Alvarez was humble and direct.
“I can only repay you with a victory. I’m proud to be a Latino and proud to represent you. I’m your rooster!” exclaimed Alvarez.
Although Mayweather’s constituency could be heard when he took the podium, the chants of “Culero! Culero!” forced Mayweather to remain silent for about a minute. Mayweather, always undefeated and always the entertainer, however, did not allow the crowd to rob him of the spotlight as he turned the jeers into laughs as he bobbed his head to the rhythm of the chants while using his index fingers to “conduct” the melody. When the chants began to fade, Mayweather roused his Money Team fanatics with the Mayweather mantra of “Hard work! Dedication!” that was overwhelmed by chants of “Mexico! Mexico!”
When Mayweather finally spoke, he sounded much more like the aging veteran turned promoter that we have seen since his incarceration than the brash personality that Adrien Broner attempts to impersonate.
“First off, I want to thank the city of Chicago for coming out and showing love to both fighters. Canelo is a hulluva fighter and Golden Boy has done a helluva job with his career. I’m truly blessed and without the fans, Floyd Mayweather wouldn’t be where he’s at.”
Mayweather also thanked the event’s sponsors, praised Golden Boy Promotions, expressed that Mayweather Promotions is taking its time to do things right and continued to express the promotional talking points of the event.
“He’s banking on his youth; I’m banking on my experience. You know, Mexico is one of the best countries in the world. On September 14, it’s all about the Red, White and Blue.”
After the public statements, Fightnews garnered quick quotes from Mayweather (see the video interview posted on Fightnews by Przemek Garczarczyk), Alvarez and De La Hoya (De La Hoya expressed that he hopes Mares and Rigondeaux happens).
Alvarez quick Q and A:
How does it feel to be the next big Mexican star to challenge Mayweather yet most experts aren’t giving you much of a chance to win?
That’s the way the sport is. Some fans are with me and some fans aren’t, but on September 14 we’ll see.
Considering that Mayweather hasn’t shown much of a jab or great movement in recent years, does your game plan take that into consideration? What do you plan to do against him?
No, I don’t agree with that. With Guerrero he looked very good. I am going to use a little bit of everything that has worked for other fighters against him and just do a better job of it. I’m going to work hard in every aspect.
How do PEDs affect the sport?
I think in boxing there are better precautions now, and I think in the future it will continue to get better to prevent it.
If you win, will you continue to call out the best fighters?
Of course. That’s the way it should be. That’s why I am fighting Mayweather.
You’ve made millions. How much longer will you fight?
I’m just starting and I’m really young, so I can’t say.
Mayweather has been critical of catch weights and historically speaking 154 pounds is already a catch weight. What do you make of him wanting the fight to be at 152? Do you think he is scared?
I don’t know. He’s won everything, so I really can’t say that. I really don’t know why but it doesn’t bother me. We talked about it and we came to an agreement and that’s it.
There is an argument out there that you might have the skills and size to compete but as seen in recent bouts, especially the Trout fight, you are just not active enough to win. Do you need to be more active and are you going to be?
You’re right. It’s very important to be active. I was always active in my career, but I took a long break before the last fight and it cost me. It was a little difficult.
*Alvarez autographed hundreds of items while he spoke. In fact, he forced members of his team and press to go to the crowd to grab memorabilia to sign.
De La Hoya Quick Q and A
How big is this event?
I’m really blown away by the fans and the support here. You know, boxing is my passion and this is the best event that can happen.
What is the secret to your longevity and success?
I have a passion for the sport and a vision of what should happen. If you fight the best in the ring, it helps when you’re out of it.
As a fighter, you established a reputation and built your legacy by fighting everyone. In fact, you lost some of your biggest bouts but it didn’t really matter to the fans. As a promoter, however, you’ve protected many of your fighters. How do you balance between allowing your fighters to be like you while still being a good promoter?
It’s not a matter of keeping or protecting them from fighting the best. We want the best fighting the best. It’s a matter of time. We have so many good fighters and it’s just a matter of time before they all fight each other.
Okay, here is a scenario. Mares called out Donaire before Donaire fought Rigondeaux because Donaire was the big name. Top Rank wanted nothing to do with him. Now that Rigondeaux defeated Donaire but still hasn’t built a big name, Rigondeaux is calling out Mares and Golden Boy wants nothing to do with Rigondeaux. Are they ever going to fight?
The problem is that Top Rank will not work with Golden Boy. We have good reasons why it will not work. They can keep doing their own thing, and we’re gonna keep fighting the best.
Will those two ever fight?
I hope so. For the sake of boxing I hope so.