Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is a 3-1 favorite to beat Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto in their middleweight title fight here Saturday night.
That made Freddie Roach lick his chops and Floyd Mayweather Sr. run his mouth.
This was wonderful Wednesday, when boxing is at its best.
Sometimes, you wish they’d skip the actual fight and just have the week of hype, hoopla, lies and pure baloney. The fights themselves are, all too often, a letdown, a sad return to reality. Talk is cheap and punches to the chin and solar plexus are real. Also sobering.
They held a news conference. In boxing, that is always a misnomer. There is no news, especially since the king of boxing news conferences, Bob (I will insult everybody) Arum was not around, this being a Golden Boy and Roc Nation promotion.
Arum, the Top Rank chief executive, is the master of being a master of ceremonies. He has, over the years, butchered the name of a high-ranking Filipino politician (“Governor Whatshisname”) and ripped an executive of the hotel hosting his fight. He called the MGM’s Richard Sturm “the vice president of putting up the wrong posters.” Sturm, whose hotel was full of Floyd Mayweather Jr. posters for a later fight, was sitting two feet away on the dais.
So, minus the Arum-isms, we had hype Wednesday. Boy, did we have hype.
Michael Yormark of Roc Nation: “They didn’t come here to dance. They came to fight.” And, “Expect a massive audience.”
He meant he hoped for a massive audience. In boxing, the line between expectations and reality is always blurred.
Oscar De La Hoya, Golden Boy’s owner and spokesman, upped the hype meter:
• “This is, undisputedly, the fight of the year.”
• “I am confident this will compete with the all-time great fights we have ever seen.”
• “This is our Super Bowl…. It’s an event that not one Hispanic, not one Latino, will miss.”
Apparently, there will be “massive audiences” for the celebration in either Mexico City, San Juan or Boyle Heights.
Then there was the high moment of levity. Bernard Hopkins, longtime middleweight champion and current executive in Golden Boy, took the microphone and began by saying, “I’ll keep this short.”
The last time Hopkins kept it short was when his mother inserted a pacifier.
The journalistic urge on boxing Wednesday is to attempt to find out real information. People pay to see this, so readers deserve at least a hint of how it might go. Reporters surrounded Alvarez, who does not speak English in public and speaks his Spanish so softly nobody could hear it anyway.
So we wander over to find Roach, Cotto’s trainer, whom we have called in print “The last honest man in boxing.” That means that 75% of the time, what he says is true, an un-challenged standard in this sport.
Roach is a six-time trainer of the year. He made much of his fame as the architect of Manny Pacquiao’s career, one that will allegedly end with one more fight here in the spring.
So how did the Roach-Cotto hookup happen?
“He called me after Manny beat him,” Roach says. “He wanted to know what he had done wrong, why he got beat up so badly. So I said, come on over.”
That was 2009. Cotto was 29 then, 36 fights into his career, and at the stage most boxers, maybe most athletes, have stopped learning. Cotto was told he had stopped moving his feet, that he moved more as an amateur, that he was trying to knock people out with five-punch combinations and, in the process, he was getting hit too much himself.
When Roach speaks, they listen. Cotto, after losing twice in 2012, eventually did.
Now, it is four fights later. The Roach-Cotto team has won the last three by knockout. Cotto, who had started to look cooked — a bit like one of those boxers you want to shake and tell him to quit now or start shopping for assisted-living facilities — seemed younger and competitive again.
Of course, the three fighters he has knocked out will not be in the Hall of Fame any time soon.
Roach said the Cotto training camp was his best ever. They always say that. He said he loved Cotto’s discipline and dedication. They always say that.
Roach said they will “break Canelo down” and “take him out in the later rounds.” They don’t often say that.
Then he said “their dream” was to follow up that knockout of Alvarez with a rematch against Floyd Jr., and a KO against him. They almost never say things like that.
The Wednesday joy was almost over and then, suddenly, there he was, strolling through the Mandalay Bay casino — the one, the only Floyd Mayweather Sr., father and trainer of the retired and unbeaten Floyd Jr.
To be clear, retirement in boxing is defined as a state of inactivity until another fight paying millions comes along.
To Floyd Sr., the name Freddie Roach was invoked. Floyd Sr. likes Roach like he likes bee stings. Maybe Roach’s six trainer-of-the-year awards has something to do with that. Who knows?
Floyd Sr., immediately became Robert Frost.
“Coach Roach, who wouldn’t dare to approach,” he said, his iambic pentameter flowing. “The Roach, Floyd spoke, had no hope…. Manny went from flying first class to coach with Roach.”
The Times’ Lance Pugmire, working the story between the Michael Jackson and Wizard of Oz slot machines, asked about this fight Saturday getting Floyd Jr.'s competitive juices flowing again.
Floyd Sr. said he would watch Alvarez-Cotto closely.
“I know Floyd,” he said. “I might just say, ‘Let’s go do this.’ ”
Could this be actual news breaking out?
Nah. It was Floyd Sr. That’s not news. Just more of boxing’s Wednesday wonders.