Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez stare each other… (Marco Ugarte / Associated…)
Floyd Mayweather Jr., keen enough to understand what drives pay-per-view sales, stood before a pro-Saul "Canelo" Alvarez crowd Tuesday night at L.A. Live and played up the bad-guy persona that generated a record TV audience six years ago in his fight against Oscar De La Hoya.
When promoter Richard Schaefer excited the estimated 10,000 fans by saying that Alvarez is "the younger, stronger and better-looking" of the two fighters, Mayweather interrupted to note, "He ain't the highest-paid one."
Jeers from the masses. Smiles from those hoping for a windfall from the Sept. 14 world super-welterweight title fight between two unbeatens at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Mayweather (44-0, 26 knockouts) is in line for a guaranteed purse of at least $40 million for the bout against the Mexican star. Alvarez drew a crowd of more than 39,000 to San Antonio in April for his title defense against then-unbeaten champion Austin Trout.
"Sometimes you have such a really good matchup, that's all you need to see, not the trash talk," Showtime Sports Executive Vice President Stephen Espinoza said. "But emotion and conflict, it's good."
Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs) will turn 23 on July 18 and is seen by some as boxing's next great star.
Alvarez told reporters he's "visualized" the possible passing of the torch and is planning to huddle with past Mayweather opponents De La Hoya and Shane Mosley while training in Big Bear "to formulate a game plan."
"I'm ready for it. … I assure you I'm not going to lose," he said.
But Mayweather, 36, wanted it known the kid hasn't carried his own big pay-per-view event yet (the Mayweather-De La Hoya fight had 2.5 million buys) and he hasn't beaten 10 former world champions either.
"He's so big, such a super-hero in boxing?" Mayweather asked. "All he did was piggyback on my shows. He knows the ultimate goal in boxing is to beat Floyd Mayweather.
"He's a champion, No. 1 in his division. But I'm No. 1 in boxing. We've seen it over and over again. Line 'em up."
Mayweather mastered the technique of making himself the highly disdained heel before beating De La Hoya, and he repeated the scene in the hometown of boxing's great Latino audience — the 10th stop in a national media tour to hype the bout.
"They never said a word in the first nine cities. All of a sudden we're in L.A. and they're talking big like, 'Canelo' is the king," Mayweather said after taking some hits at promoter De La Hoya onstage.
Mayweather clearly believes his experience will decide the outcome of his bout against the hard-punching, popular fighter. Alvarez's trainers believe training to be faster and stronger for the bout at 152 pounds will sway the outcome.
Alvarez said Mayweather's most recent opponent, Robert Guerrero, "did nothing" to threaten the welterweight champion in May.
"He'll bring out the best in me," Alvarez said. "It's very hard to see weaknesses in his game, but in the ring there are things you notice and that's what I'll be looking for.
The fight on Mexican independence weekend has already generated a sellout live gate of nearly $19 million, a boxing record.
"This will be the best fight in the history of boxing," De La Hoya said, underselling nothing.
Defensive genius Mayweather, wearing gold-lined sunglasses and a black tank top, sat back in his chair on the dais and moved his head back and forth quickly.
The message to Alvarez was clear: Hit me if you can.