Two middle-aged people, a man and a woman -- they looked like a couple -- strolled by the massive staging and setup at Times Square on the pedestrian island at 46th Street on Monday. The woman asked the man, "What's going on?"
"It's some kind of boxing thing," he answered.
Neither gets points for perceptiveness, as there was no shortage of signage indicating this event was meant to hype the Sept. 14 Las Vegas showdown between Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- the game's pound-for-pound ace, top draw and richest earner in all of sports -- and Canelo Alvarez, a handsome Mexican hitter who debuted at age 15 and inspires some of the same heart flutters in admirers that his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, did.
That this pair of folks paused to consider the hubbub in Times Square was the point. Showtime -- which lured Mayweather in with a 30-month, six-fight, megamillion-dollar deal at the start of the year -- wants to bring more eyeballs to the sweet science. Mission accomplished, it looked like in NYC, in the first stop of an 11-city media tour, as thousands braved the heat and late-arriving boxers, who were busy getting queried by media in a nearby hotel, to check out the spectacle.
Anyone expecting Mayweather to launch into a bad-boy tirade or insult fest at Canelo would have been disappointed, as the 36-year-old hitter played the crowd like a seasoned WWE performer.
He started a call-and-response chant, yelling "Hard work!" and had knowing fans finish his favored adage, "Dedication!"
He drew appreciative cheers -- after starting out with a majority of boos -- when he said, "There's no city like New York City," twice. He then expertly teased those watching by wondering if they might like to see him perform soon at Madison Square Garden.
The 44-0 Mayweather gets critiqued harshly, as is to be expected when you make $30 million a fight and aren't shy about proclaiming your excellence. Some grumble that he's having Alvarez weigh 152 pounds or less for a junior middleweight (154-pound) title fight, and that's not kosher -- not after Mayweather ridiculed Manny Pacquiao for seeking to level the playing field with catchweights. But most seem to understand that he's the game's signature player, and is thus entitled to tailor some elements to suit him when the opportunity presents itself.
The 22-year-old Alvarez didn't look even slightly awed by the majesty of it all. The 42-0-1 hitter didn't flinch in two stare-downs with Mayweather and declared, "This is my time. ... We're gonna win."
D.C. is the next stop for the tour, which will tally a seven-figure bill and is said to be the largest in fight game history, eclipsing the 10-city Mayweather-De La Hoya tub-thumper tour in 2007.
Can Alvarez perform as well as Oscar did in that unanimous decision loss? He has youth and strength on his side, but Mayweather didn't appear to have lost even a half-step in his previous outing, in May against Robert Guerrero.
Readers, could Canelo be the first to defeat Mayweather?