LAS VEGAS — The essence of Saturday night's big fight has been lost in numbers and hyperbole.
That essence is as follows: For the last 15 years or so, boxing fans have seen Floyd Mayweather Jr. and his act. Now, they think they have a chance to see Mayweather flat on his back.
He has taken the art of brash arrogance to new heights. People don't mind seeing greatness. They just don't want to be told that they are seeing it, especially by the person they are seeing in the ring.
Amid an avalanche of quotes that has emanated from this never-ending parade of promotion is Mayweather's summary statement: "I'm better than them all."
And, in fact, he is.
The 44-0 record says that. The label given him by Forbes magazine as the richest athlete in the world says that. A beaten Oscar De La Hoya says that, as do images of Ricky Hatton, flat on his back, eyes rolling back; a game-but-battered Shane Mosley; a bewildered Victor Ortiz, getting thanks for his gesture of apology in the form of two legal sucker punches that sent him to the hospital.
Hope springs eternal, especially in boxing fans who hate Mayweather. And a young Mexican named Saul "Canelo" Alvarez represents their best hope in some time. He, too, is unbeaten, but his 42-0-1 has a much lesser resume of the vanquished than Mayweather's.
Still, in recent fights, Alvarez has shown hands of cement. That gives Mayweather haters the ultimate image of hope — Mayweather on his back, eyes closed, mouth blessedly shut.
Sadly, for these same people, Alvarez has also shown another body part that may contain some cement: His feet. This will not be a reprise of the tortoise and the hare, but the imagery isn't totally misguided, either.
The numbers for this boxing extravaganza at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, if final counts are close to predictions, are startling. They clearly indicate that, not only is boxing alive and well, but it is working out for the next New York Marathon.
•The arena sold out in an hour for this fight, according to Golden Boy Promotions' Chief Executive Richard Schaefer. That was 16,500 seats and a record $20 million.
•The pay-per-view sales record is 2.5 million buys, for Mayweather versus De La Hoya, 2007. Mayweather-Alvarez has a decent chance to beat that record and almost certainly will top Mayweather-De La Hoya in revenue, because the price Saturday is $64.95 ($74.95 for high definition). That's $15 to $25 higher than the '07 price.
Stephen Espinoza, head of Showtime's sports division, warned boxing fans to get their pay-per-view orders in early so they don't get caught "on hold with operators." It was like he was selling Dodgers World Series tickets.
•Promoters say they have sold 25,000 seats in Las Vegas for closed-circuit telecasts at other MGM properties. That's at $100 a pop. They also say more than 500 theaters around the U.S. are doing the same thing, although at less than $100, and that the fight will be seen in 162 countries in that same closed-circuit format.
•A website that tracks secondary ticket markets, seatgeek.com, says that as of Thursday, this fight is driving the highest boxing resale price ever, at $2,028. It said that the average price for floor seat resale is $10,629 and one seat went for $23,554. By comparison, Game 7 of this year's NBA Finals in Miami had a ticket resale average of $1,014, or exactly half of this fight.
•Mayweather has been guaranteed $41.5 million, and that's before final pay-per-view numbers. At a Wednesday news conference, Mayweather seemed to take exception to that paltry $41.5 million. "It'll be more like $100 million," he sniffed.
•Then, perhaps the most important numbers of all: Mayweather, age 36; Alvarez, 23.
That, along with the cement hands, is the basis of hope for Mayweather haters.
If Mayweather wins, as expected, he will still have four more fights on his plate, as per a contract with Showtime reported to be worth $200 million. If he loses to Alvarez, there is a rematch clause. All indications are that would be another license to print money. There is no rematch clause for Alvarez if he loses.
Boxing is at a turning point, but then, boxing is always at a turning point.
A Mayweather victory pretty well eliminates all arguments about who is the face of the sport. Golden Boy would have to revisit its commitment to push Alvarez as the next De La Hoya. Or, as Grantland writer Jay Caspian Kang labeled the red-headed, freckled-faced Alvarez in a recent lengthy feature, The Great Red Hype.
Manny Pacquiao has lost his last two fights, and Top Rank's Bob Arum has taken that show to China. Andre Ward, also a legitimate challenger to Mayweather's top-gun status, labors in a weight division (super middleweight) and promotions out of the mainstream.
All of this changes, of course, if Alvarez applies cement hands to Mayweather's chin.
But until then, this is Floyd Mayweather's world and the rest of us are just living in it.