LAS VEGAS -- The four floor heaters in Floyd Mayweather's dressing room were set to 94 degrees, and it didn't take long for him to start complaining that it was too damned cold. He was wearing a sweatshirt, lying on a leather couch with two folded white towels and a brown Yves Saint Laurent blanket acting as a pillow. It was about two hours before his fight with Canelo Alvarez, an hour before Justin Bieber made a loud and prolonged entrance, and about three hours before he reduced Alvarez to just another guy winging vainly in the hope of a knockout.
It was calm. That was the thing. You expect the prefight scene to resemble a football locker room -- a slow build toward an adrenaline crescendo. But it wasn't like that, at least Saturday night it wasn't, not in the dressing room of the guy whose equipment bags arrived at the MGM Grand Arena with the embroidered inscription "45-0." Confidence is one thing. Ordering it up in advance is another.
This is the inner sanctum, one of the most private and least accessible places in sports, and the impact of the scene could be found in the accumulation of small moments: Floyd Mayweather Sr. -- once estranged, now back as his son's trainer -- came in and knelt by his son's side, speaking quietly into his son's ear for quite some time. A member of Canelo's camp standing dead still, arms crossed, cap backward, watching 84-year-old cornerman Rafael Garcia wrap Mayweather's hands. Mayweather lying on the couch wondering if there were too many cameras in the room by asking Leonard Ellerbe, his CEO, "Hey, L -- how many film crews I got?" Mayweather, wearing diamond-encrusted ear buds, walking through the room and singing, quietly and horribly off-key, "I keep hearing footsteps, baby -- in the dark."
He prepared for the biggest single-night payday in sports history by watching the undercard and failing in his effort to take a nap. He was expressionless when the telecast went to interviews from celebrities praising his talents, and equally expressionless as he watched footage of Canelo training and telling the world he had the blueprint to defeat Maywether. In fact, he said almost nothing, with the exception of a brief but polite complaint about the glare of the bright lights whenever the pay-per-view telecast went live in the room. Mayweather's four children came in -- three of them accompanied by their mother, Josie Harris, whose police complaint landed Mayweather in jail for nearly 70 days last year. "Have a good fight," she said as she left. "I love you and you're awesome."
At this point, 36 years old, 45 fights and 17 years into a career, it might seem that major title fights like this one are just another day for Mayweather. But think about it: 45 in 17 years. That's not many big nights, and this one was bigger than most. The only sign of anxiety or nerves or anticipation came when he tapped his heel or worked his gum. Stress, what little of it seems to exist, leaves his body through his feet and his teeth. He became animated only when he needed to find someone to get word to the ring announcer that he'd be wearing the blue python trunks. He barely looked up when Lil Wayne arrived. Perhaps he didn't recognize him in a shirt.
The fight was like so many that have come before: a game but overmatched opponent, backed by a boisterous crowd that was equally anti-Mayweather and pro-Canelo, becoming more and more frustrated over the course of 36 minutes in the ring with a man whose quickness and anticipation borders on a sixth sense. Nobody gets in and gets out the way he does.
Mayweather's always had an uncanny ability to blot out everything: the moment, the crowd, the opponent. Boos or cheers, and he heard much of the former and less of the latter Saturday night, affect him the exact same way: They don't. He doesn't fight for the crowd or against it. He doesn't hear it in the way you might think he'd hear it. He doesn't draw motivation from "T-M-T" chants any more than he feels disgust at "Can-el-o!" He simply rejects it and continues to fight the way it needs to be fought.
There were times, however, when Mayweather appeared angered by Alvarez. In the fourth round, Alvarez hit Floyd low and late, on the left thigh. Mayweather was upset with the shot and even more so by Alvarez's decision to ask Mayweather, repeatedly, "You OK?" It was mocking, cocky, one more way for Canelo to announce to the world that he wasn't going to be cowed by the domineering Mayweather. Making Floyd angry is one strategy, but not a good one.
As Mayweather left the ring and headed toward the locker room, he stopped for a brief interview at the end of the corridor. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a young man sprinted up the concourse, making dead aim for Mayweather. He was followed by three sheriff's officers, who caught him about 15 feet short of Mayweather and his four-man, 1,470-pound security detail. You could almost guarantee there was a part of them, and maybe a big part, that was disappointed the officers got there first.
The scene outside the dressing room after the fight bore no resemblance to what took place beforehand. The inner sanctum became Mardi Gras. Floyd's people pleaded for someone -- anyone -- to find the champ a water. The spartan conditions of the dressing room were difficult to fathom. The man just earned a guaranteed $41.5 million and undoubtedly much more from a possible record number of pay-per-view buys, and they had to call out for water.
Mayweather's security guards fought off people attempting to rush past them to get into the room, and it was closed temporarily until the door opened and the guard they call Jethro yelled, "Somebody get Wayne. Somebody get Wayne." Moments later Lil Wayne, shirtless this time, strode into the room to join -- among others -- Lil Kim, perhaps setting a record for most "Lils" in one room at one time. Through it all, Bieber sat near the corner, wearing his sunglasses -- just Bieber being Bieber in the aftermath of Floyd being Floyd.