Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Canelo Alvarez stood in front of a cheering throng Monday in New York's Times Square, the first leg of an extraordinary marketing blitz that is unprecedented in boxing history.
The boxers and a small army of executives, publicists, assistants and media will crisscross the country over the next nine days to hawk the pay-per-view to their Sept. 14 super welterweight title bout at the MGM Grand Garden.
There is no bigger fight that could be made in boxing from a revenue-generating standpoint than Mayweather-Alvarez, and it has at least a shot of breaking the pay-per-view sales record of 2.5 million buys.
It is unlikely, given that the 2007 bout between Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya is the only one ever to surpass 2 million buys. A pair of heavyweight fights, Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield II in 1997 and Lennox Lewis-Holyfield II in 1999, each did 1.99 million sales.
But it has a chance, and that is the key thing for Showtime and, to be honest, for the sport. Boxing repeatedly gets dumped on by those from the outside, and sometimes from those on the inside, but there aren't many sporting events that will generate more than $100 million in a single night, as this event will easily do.
After being ranked by Forbes as the highest-paid athlete in the world twice, Mayweather was recently dropped to 14th. But he's likely to take over the top spot after the Alvarez bout, win or lose, pay-per-view record or not.
Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, who will have to come up with the money to pay Mayweather, said Mayweather will earn a substantially larger guarantee than the record $32.5 million he made for defeating Robert Guerrero in May.
Schaefer said it would be up to Mayweather to release the purse total, but asked if it would reach or exceed $40 million, he grinned devilishly.
"You'll see," Schaefer said. "But believe me when I tell you, it's going to be huge."
Schaefer said demand for the event is already intense and will only increase as the fight nears.
He said MGM is buying more tickets than it ever has, and said the number of closed circuit locations will be far greater than has ever been available for a bout. Closed circuit sales in bars and restaurants don't count in the pay-per-view total, but can add significant revenue to the event.
"This fight is by far – and when I say by far, I don't mean 10, 15, 20 percent; it's much more than that – the single biggest guarantee for a closed circuit deal, ever," Schaefer said. "I mean, ever. The ticket buys? If I compare it to De La Hoya-Mayweather and the amount of tickets [the MGM bought], I'm not talking about double the amount. I'm talking about much more than that.
"It is amazing the interest in this fight. Even when we did De La Hoya-Mayweather, at the beginning going into the fight, we knew it was a big fight, but we didn't anticipate it ending up as big as it was. This one here has an unbelievable amount of momentum going into it. It's a combination of the fact that this is a fight that fight fans wanted to see and a lot of sports fans, fight fans felt cheated out of that potential Mayweather-[Manny] Pacquiao fight."
The match was finalized earlier this month, but the seeds were planted nearly two years ago. On a bright, sunny fall day in New York in October 2011, HBO announced that Ken Hershman had been hired away from Showtime to succeed Ross Greenburg as president of HBO Sports.
That caused plenty of eyebrows to be arched among those in the boxing community, surprised that HBO would pluck its new sports leader from its primary rival.
The move to snatch Hershman from Showtime did not sit at all well with CBS president Les Moonves, who according to multiple sources vowed to launch an all-out assault on HBO by significantly increasing the funding to Showtime's boxing program.
That vow, and subsequent follow-up, led to two of the sport's greatest stars winding up under the Showtime banner.
It was an extraordinary and shocking turn of events and one that increased substantially the battle between the networks.
Since Showtime hired Stephen Espinoza to succeed Hershman as the head of its sports division, Showtime has plucked away from HBO not only Mayweather and Alvarez, but also Adrien Broner, Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan and Bernard Hopkins.
The tour will cost in excess of $1 million, but it will be a pittance for what it will do.
There was no press tour or kickoff news conference for the Mayweather-Guerrero fight, and that was clearly felt. There seemed to be little passion for or heat on the bout, and it never caught the imagination of the casual sports fans.
But Mayweather-Alvarez has done that. It's the veteran champion versus the confident upstart. It's the boxer versus the slugger. It's undefeated champion versus undefeated champion.
Few fans gave Guerrero a legitimate chance of winning, but that is not the case with Alvarez. And when fans believe a long-time undefeated fighter who is clearly nearing the end of his career might lose, they buy.
It figures to be a good fight in the ring, though Mayweather's defensive wizardry, big match experience and overall boxing sense should lift him to a win.
The key is to take advantage of it. Golden Boy needs to put on the kind of undercard that will take the breath away from those fans who buy the pay-per-view who don't often watch boxing.
It doesn't need to be an undercard filled with names, but it needs to be one filled with bout after exciting bout.
The goal should be that after a casual fan sees the card, he or she will be so wowed by the show that they'll be turned into avid fans.
It's a massive event for boxing, and Golden Boy, Showtime and Mayweather Promotions are starting it off the right way.
More popular boxing stories on Yahoo! Sports:
• For better or worse, Adrien Broner here to stay
• Is Juan Manuel Marquez-Tim Bradley fight getting the attention it deserves?
• Paulie Malignaggi livid after loss to Adrien Broner
- Sports & Recreation
- Floyd Mayweather
- Canelo Alvarez