LAS VEGAS – They had arrived in throngs, wearing red headbands that emblazoned "Canelo" across their foreheads, or tricolors of the Mexico flag over their shoulders, or simply the pride of a nation on their sleeves.
In Mexico, boxing remains one of the prime sports, not a tune-in-every-once-in-a-while pursuit. It's part of the fabric of a nation and how it wants to see itself: industrious, tough, unrelenting.
So this was going to be a celebration, the night when the inevitable occurred. That's why they came. Floyd Mayweather, the American, has dominated the weight classes Mexicans often do, and he's done it for years. Along the way, he's defeated eight Mexican fighters and, of course, never lost.
His ninth opponent from the country was of the new generation, though – 23-year-old Canelo Alvarez, and a country came here to support him.
Mayweather lives in Vegas, trains in Vegas and fights almost exclusively here at the MGM Grand Garden in Vegas. Yet, this was a Canelo crowd, the heavy majority of the 16,746 in the house and the 25,403 at closed-circuit spots on the Vegas Strip.
Inside the arena, they chanted "Ca-nel-o," chanted "Mex-i-co," chanted, "Beat May-weather." They screamed and shouted through the walk-ins and the introductions and even the first couple rounds until the damnedest thing landed right on top of them.
The resignation that, while there may come a day that Mayweather, now 36, will lose just enough of his speed, agility and reaction senses to get caught by a younger, stronger opponent, Saturday was not that day. And Canelo Alvarez was not that opponent.
Mayweather completely dominated this big prizefight, even if he won merely a majority decision. Vegas' favorite contrarian judge C.J. Ross somehow called it a 114-114 draw. ("That score card was a disgrace," said promoter Richard Schaefer.)
Ross is famous for blowing the 2012 Tim Bradley/Manny Pacquiao fight, too. That one she stunningly called for Bradley.
"I'm not in control of the judges," Mayweather said.
He controlled everything else. This was total domination, if not a shutout then a completely lopsided affair that failed to live up to the hype, if only because Floyd Mayweather is simply too good.
"This was chess tonight," Mayweather said.
Forty-five opponents up, forty-five down. If anything, the gap is widening between Mayweather and everyone else.
Mayweather used his shoulder roll defense to avoid virtually any solid shot. He used his feet to slide out of any trouble. He used his hand speed to pepper Canelo before Canelo knew what was coming.
"He's a very elusive fighter," Alvarez said through a translator. "That's what happened today. I couldn't catch him. He's very intelligent. He's very elusive. …We were trying to catch him but we couldn't."
At one point in the 11th round, Alvarez took a wild, desperate swing at Floyd and missed big. Mayweather, who was moving to his left, watched the glove sail by and punch the ring ropes. He then stopped and mockingly looked at the air that Canelo had just punched through, and broke into a laugh.
It was that bad. He was that good.
By then, the entire mood of the night had swung. Gone was the electricity. Gone was the danger that only the theater of a big fight can produce. Gone was all the hope and hype.
You didn't need the non-C.J. Ross scorecards to know this fight was over. With each ensuing round, the noise drained out of the building as Mayweather made the previously unbeaten Alvarez plod around the ring, looking stiff and uncomfortable.
Canelo still had a puncher's chance, but his backers went silent. No chants. No screams. There was simply the awe of true boxing fans watching a true boxing savant. They wanted Floyd Mayweather beat in the worst way, but there was no denying reality.
By the 12th round, Canelo's fans were so dispirited that they didn't bother to counter a chant of "U-S-A, U-S-A."
"Canelo was a young, strong champion, a true Mexican champion," Mayweather said afterward, as he thanked the country of Mexico for supporting the fight.
There weren't many fans left to hear Mayweather thank them.
After the bell, the crowd began shuffling out, looking to beat the foot traffic rather than wait for the inevitable decision. The Grand Garden cleared in impressive speed, so fast that when Canelo, after a brief radio interview ringside, finally left the arena floor, only a small group of well-wishers remained.
Alvarez actually had time to poise for a few pictures. Someone threw him a sombrero. There was a weak "Can-el-o" chant for old times' sake, but it didn't take.
An hour after the hopes and hollers of a boxing nation rattled the Strip, Canelo Alvarez shuffled toward the locker room to mostly silence – Mayweather's most complete and dominating accomplishment.