LAS VEGAS – Ring announcer Michael Buffer served as the master of ceremonies Friday for the weigh-in for Saturday's blockbuster super welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden between Oscar De La Hoya and unbeaten challenger Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The crowd, announced by MGM officials as 5,500, clearly made its feelings known about 10 minutes before the fighters stepped onto the scales when Buffer introduced super featherweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez.
The crowd erupted in applause, a sign that this would be a heavily pro-De La Hoya group.
And that it was, as Mayweather was resoundingly booed from the moment he came within sight of the crowd.
"It's all good," Mayweather said. "The people are here. That's what matters."
Mayweather weighed 150 pounds, four fewer than the division limit. De La Hoya, whom trainer Freddie Roach had predicted would come in at 152, was at 154.
Both fighters appeared in excellent shape, with washboard abs.
Heavyweight contender Samuel Peter, who will fight Oleg Maskaev later this year for the WBC title, surveyed the scene and imagined what it would be like to be in that raucous environment.
"Pretty incredible, actually," Peter said of the overflow turnout. "There were a lot of people just to see a weigh-in. I didn't expect that."
Many veteran boxing writers, some who had been attending weigh-ins for more than 20 years, said they could not recall a larger crowd at a weigh-in. The total was bigger than the attendance at some recent championship fights.
It was no surprise to promoters and executives at HBO, who are hopeful of setting a non-heavyweight record for pay-per-view sales and at least cautiously optimistic that they can set the all-time pay-per-view mark.
De La Hoya's 1999 fight at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas against Felix Trinidad – who was in the crowd Friday – set the non-heavyweight record with 1.4 million buys. The all-time record is 2 million, set by Mike Tyson fights against Lennox Lewis in 2002 and Evander Holyfield in 1997.
Mark Taffet, HBO's senior vice president of sports operation and pay per view, is probably the industry's leading expert. He declined to make a prediction, but used a baseball analogy to explain how sales will be viewed.
A million buys will be a home run, he said. Surpassing the De La Hoya-Trinidad mark will be a homer to the upper deck. Hitting the all-time pay-per-view mark, he said, will be a home run out of the ballpark.
"We're confident that consumers are going to respond to this event in a very big way," said Taffet, who said sales on Monday had matched the level of sales on the Thursday of the week when De La Hoya did nearly a million buys against Ricardo Mayorga last year.
"We don't talk about numbers, because so many things could happen. But we feel great about how everything is gone. At this point, it's basically up to the consumers to make their choice and the fighters to do their thing."
SHERK CHASING FLOYD
It's not unusual when a fighter attends a big match and gets a seat at ringside, hoping to land a fight with the winner of the main event.
It is unusual, however, when that fighter is from a different sport.
But such will be the case Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden when mixed martial artist Sean Sherk, the UFC's lightweight champion, will be ringside to watch Mayweather try to lift the super welterweight boxing title from De La Hoya.
Mayweather has recently made a number of critical comments about the UFC and MMA. UFC president Dana White, who along with owner Lorenzo Fertitta will also be ringside, has agreed to make it worthwhile for Mayweather to prove his point if he gets past De La Hoya.
The lightweight division in MMA has a 155-pound limit, while the super welterweight division in boxing has a 154-pound limit.
White has been irritated by Mayweather's putdowns of MMA and has decided to challenge Mayweather to back his words.
"If Floyd is serious and he seriously wants to do this and he's not shooting his mouth off, I'll make him an offer that is definitely worth his while," White said. "I don't think he'd last three minutes with Sherk. He'd be beaten in three minutes, and pretty likely in under a minute, and it would probably be by stoppage or tap-out."