They say if you spend enough time in a place you become that place. So it is for Floyd Mayweather and Las Vegas, the desert town of six hundred thousand souls he's called home for nearly all of his adult life, a place whose excess and chaos and seductive mythology he's come to embody.
That truth is writ large from the moment one’s taxi bends out of McCarren International Airport onto East Tropicana Road towards the oversized likeness of Mayweather’s face and torso plastered on the side of the MGM Grand, visible for miles, beneath the headline: HOME OF THE CHAMPION.
Technically speaking Mayweather hails from Grand Rapids, Michigan, but there's no question he enjoys the hometown advantage in Saturday's long-awaited showdown with Manny Pacquiao. Never was that more clear than with Tuesday's grand arrival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, which is probably why Pacquiao declined to attend in favor of a more intimate fan rally in a ballroom at the nearby Mandalay Bay.
The grand arrival is by tradition the unofficial kickoff of fight week, a relatively casual opportunity for photogs to snap pictures and fans to see the fighters, typically held in the MGM Grand lobby. Yet Tuesday’s spin on what’s become a staid ritual was vintage Mayweather – a living, breathing infomercial for his The Money Team lifestyle brand that was bound (or designed?) to leave Pacquiao feeling like the promotional B-side.
First a hype man spent 90 minutes yelling exhortations over ear-splitting hip-hop at the few thousand fans who’d filed into the bleachers, many of whom wore the TMT snapbacks retailing for $48 in the MGM lobby.
Then the Southern University marching band – a world famous ensemble known as the Human Jukebox that’s played at presidential inaugurations and six Super Bowls – filed through the rear and onto the stage.
Finally the lights went down and a black Mercedes van with a TMT logo inched up from the bowels of the arena onto the floor. Necks craned, cameras flashed, cell phones were held aloft. A door slid open and out bounced Mayweather, in a smart black and white TMT tracksuit and matching hat, preceded by a line of gyrating female dancers and trailed closely by longtime confidants Leonard Ellerbe and Sam Watson.
Classically understated, as ever.
Mayweather, for his part, was muted and sobered as he answered a series of softballs on stage from the musician Doug E Fresh – David Frost he was not – before exiting to an antechamber for a brief audience with handpicked media.
Few athletes are subject to more pop-psychological analyses than Mayweather and his choice to quit trash talk cold turkey during this particular promotion – what he’s repeatedly called the biggest fight not just of his career but in boxing history – has only intensified the scrutiny. One popular theory floating around the massive temporary media center erected outside the arena is Mayweather knows he’s in for the stiffest test of his career and is trying to not put additional pressure on himself.
"I don't have anything negative to say about Manny Pacquiao or Freddie Roach. People from different teams can say things, but when it comes down to it, it comes down to the two fighters," he said. "I'm glad I was flashy and outspoken when I was younger. But I'm close to the big 4-0. I don't have to bash anyone. I know what I can do."
Those hoping for a third glimpse of Mayweather and Pacquiao face to face – the first was their serendipitous meeting at a Miami Heat game in January, the second at the press conference announcing the fight in March – need not wait long: they’ll meet at Wednesday’s final presser at the KA Theatre at the MGM Grand.
The fourth will come at Friday’s weigh-in, the details of which have remained mystifyingly under wraps.
The fifth: one night later when the two finest fighters of their generation finally climb through the ropes to face one another.
“Members of our teams say things but not us,” Mayweather said. “We will just fight.”