Friday, Sept. 13, 2013 | 5:10 p.m.
If you showed up late to the MGM Grand Garden Arena today hoping to grab a glimpse of boxers Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez during the weigh-in for their Saturday super welterweight title fight, you wouldn’t have gotten into the arena.
As some learned the hard way, arriving more than one hour before the fighters were scheduled to tip the scales wasn't good enough.
The line outside the arena was at least 100 yards deep at 1:30 p.m., some 75 minutes before the weigh-ins were to begin. Soon, fans started retreating, knowing they missed out on the free event.
“I thought it started at 2:45,” said Paul Sanchez of Southern California, who was standing near the MGM food court walking to the weigh-in at 2:10 p.m. “Did we miss it already?”
For other boxing cards at the MGM, most of the arena is blocked off and just a few thousands fans attend. They cheer loud and passionately support their fighter, likely someone from their country, but have no worries about not getting a seat.
Today, the arena was fully open and packed with more than 12,000 fans. On Saturday, when floor seats are added to the layout, 16,000 fans will attend. They purchased tickets in just a few hours during the summer to set a Nevada live gate record at $9.9 million.
The undefeated Mayweather (44-0) has always been a big attraction by himself. But with the Mexican heartthrob Alvarez, who is fighting on Mexican independence weekend, the event has transformed into a can’t-miss affair.
That was especially true for the weigh-in.
Fighters typically emerge from behind a stage to weigh in for other cards. Today, they walked into the arena from the locker room, making a grand entrance to music — comparable to entering the ring on fight night. Yes, this is a big deal.
“The turnout was truly amazing. What else can I say?” Mayweather told Showtime’s Jim Gray after weighing in at 150 1/2 pounds, under the 152-pound limit. “This will be the most money ever made in the sport.”
When Alvarez walked onto the stage, the pro-Mexican crowd went crazy in support. They sung loudly to his walk-in music, chanted “Mexico, Mexico,” and showed Alvarez will have a significant advantage on fight night with fan support. He weighed in at 152 pounds.
The atmosphere was similar inside the casino.
The MGM race and sports book also was overflowing with fight fans — and, of course, this crowd also was in heavy in support of Alvarez. Each seat in the sports book was taken; others sat on the floor or crowded near the televisions. More fans squeezed in near the outskirts, hoping to catch the weigh-in on television.
They wore Alvarez shirts, waved Mexican flags and didn’t hide whom they’re supporting. Mayweather was constantly booed; Alvarez was cheered.
Amid the chaos, two Mayweather fans — Meisha Johnson and Nish Wright of Delaware — made sure their fighter received support.
“Money Team,” one of them repeatedly yelled.
The women, both in their 30s, traveled to Las Vegas for the fight despite not having tickets. Simply being around the atmosphere, even if it was watching the weigh-in on a television in an opposite part of the casino, was worth the investment.
“Look at all of this — Vegas is poppin’,” Johnson said. “It’s off the charts in this city this weekend.”
About one hour after the weigh-ins, a Mariachi band played its way through the MGM Grand in support of Alvarez. Hundreds of Mexican fans followed wildly in support.
Make no doubt about it, Las Vegas is definitely poppin’ this weekend. It’s celebrating Mexican independence, boxing and a red-haired fighter nicknamed Canelo.
Just don’t tell Mayweather, who is a $2 betting favorite, that nobody wants him to win.
“I’m 44-0, soon to be 45-0,” he told Gray.