LAS VEGAS -- It wasn't the first time a crowd had gathered in the MGM Grand to welcome Floyd Mayweather Jr. during fight week, and it likely won't be the last.
Tuesday's throng wasn't nearly as large a gathering as the one that greeted him and Ricky Hatton almost five years ago, but the uniquely Mancunian tsunami that swept over Las Vegas that week defies comparison. Still, there was a sizable British contingent awaiting Mayweather this time, too, and when he looked out from the stage, he sensed their presence instantly, shouting out to them and leading them in a brief rendition of their version of "Winter Wonderland" -- with some slight adjustments, of course. ("There's only one May-weather," he began, and the fans seemed more than happy to play along.)
Saturday's card is dubbed "Ring Kings," and so, one by one, the main protagonists -- Shane Mosley and Saul Canelo Alvarez, who tangle in the co-main event, and Mayweather's opponent, Miguel Cotto -- took their turns upon arriving to sit atop a throne on a dais in the MGM Grand lobby. There, they answered questions from cruiserweight B.J. Flores, who was hosting a live stream of proceedings and who showed the poise and timing of a media veteran, before addressing some TV cameras and disappearing to sit with a phalanx of writers.
Mayweather was last to arrive, 45 minutes after the advertised time, and he took almost that long to make his way through the crowd, signing every autograph he could and soaking up the adoration. Instead of sitting on the stage, he commandeered it, a master showman in his element. And when it was his turn to talk to the TV crews, he wasn't hurried or anxious to move along. He knew full well that this was his show, that it was all about him and that it would move at whatever speed he wanted it to. I took up position behind ESPN's Bernardo Osuna, relaxed and confident that I would get my time to ask all the questions I wanted.
I hadn't counted on the fact that Mayweather might generously be described as having a low boredom threshold. Once Bernardo had finished, I moved into position, but Mayweather had gone, taking off across the stage to immerse himself once more in the adoring throng.
We watched his route through the crowd -- a task made considerably easier by the enormous specimens of humanity who were the bodyguards walking immediately behind him -- hopped down from the stage into his path, smiled and caught his attention. One never knows which Floyd will emerge in an interview: Will he be angry and petulant, happy and charming, thoughtful and expansive? Today, he was feeling too much love to be the former. Instead, he could be found a short distance from Column B and far off from Column C, not necessarily answering the questions he was asked, but holding forth in the way he wanted, the way that would best sell the pay-per-view.
He smiled his big smile into the camera and disappeared again into the crowd, his location easily determined by the wave of sound that greeted him from each new knot of fans, until the lobby fell quiet, and he was gone.