There is buzz all around Las Vegas around this time of year.
The sports books are becoming real active with the start of both the NCAA football and NFL season starting. Mexican and Mexican-American residents are celebrating the Mexican Independence holiday. Finally as has been the custom for almost a decade hype around fight week for Floyd Mayweather culminates in his stepping into the ring at the MGM Grand against an opponent.
This year almost all the these events are going on as planned. The sole exception being the Mayweather fight. Various reasons are being discussed for why this time the hype has been dramatically low.
The first reason that comes to mind for many is the choice of Mayweather’s opponent, Andre Berto. In 2011 Berto was on the path to land a fight with Mayweather as the undefeated World Boxing Council welterweight champion. That was derailed on April 16 of that year by a loss to Victor Ortiz, who himself landed the shot at Mayweather.
Since then Berto has been on a rollercoaster where he won the International Boxing Federation welterweight title then relinquished it for a rematch with Ortiz, a fight that was cancelled due to him testing positive for steroid use. Following that were two straight losses. The first being to Robert Guerrero, another former Mayweather opponent, by decision and the second to gatekeeper Jesus Soto Karass via 12th round technical knockout.
While Berto has won his last two fights against Steve Upshaw Chambers and Josesito Lopez none are seen as being worthy stepping stones to land a shot at Mayweather even as the Lopez victory made him the WBC mandatory challenger. In many eyes Berto is seen as a safe choice made by Mayweather in order to protect his undefeated record.
This sentiment is shown in the slow ticket sales and Pay-Per-View buys for the fight. Normally at this time the MGM Grand is sold out for a Mayweather bout, that is not the case now. Hundreds of tickets are still available at deeply discounted prices. The hotel/casino has gone as far as offering VIP packages to competitors, cancelling closed circuit viewing of the fight on site, and reportedly curtaining unsold sections in their arena to avoid having them seen on the PPV broadcast.
This is a stark contrast to the last Mayweather event, the much anticipated fight against Manny Pacquiao on May 2. That fight was the biggest financial event in the history of boxing breaking live gate, sponsorship, and PPV records aided by a hype machine unlike anything seen in the sport before. The shadow of an event that large can make any fight for Mayweather afterward seem like a letdown, but it’s especially daunting when that event still makes its presence felt. The recent investigative article into the United States Anti-Doping Agency written by Thomas Hauser for SBNation detailed how Mayweather was given an illegal IV on the day before the fight with Pacquaio without the Nevada State Athletic Commission being told until weeks after. The aftermath is raising the ire of Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter.
The article has become the focus of fight week and along the way negated the main marketing angle Mayweather was using to sell this fight, that it would be his last. This was supposed to be the final chance to watch the best in-ring tactician of his generation go to work. There was always one problem with that plan though, almost no one believes him. Mayweather’s ego is seen as too big to live with simply tying Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record, a benchmark in American boxing, and to have his final performance be the financial flop that this fight is shaping up to be.
Mayweather is the only one that know his full plans after this fight. However if he follows the pattern he’s shown before there will be buzz in Las Vegas next May as he steps back into the ring.
And maybe people will care.