Mariachi music filled the lobby Tuesday inside the MGM Grand — along with hundreds of boxing fans eagerly awaiting the grand arrival of the pound-for-pound king.
So when WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol walked through the glass entrance, down the makeshift runway and onto the temporary stage, they greeted him appropriately.
With chants he will undoubtedly hear Saturday inside T-Mobile Arena.
“Ca-ne-lo! Ca-ne-lo! Ca-ne-lo!”
Better get used to it.
Canelo Alvarez, the undisputed super middleweight champion and Bivol’s challenger, also arrived in short order, thereby igniting the crowd that hopes he will win yet another world title on Cinco de Mayo weekend. The 31-year-old Mexican superstar last fought in Las Vegas for Cinco de Mayo in 2019, beating Daniel Jacobs by unanimous decision.
“It feels good to be in Vegas again. Really excited,” Alvarez told emcee Claudia Trejos. “Motivation. No pressure. I like what I do.”
The Cinco de Mayo booking simply serves as additional motivation for Alvarez, who fights Saturday in a title bout for the 10th consecutive time and first since stopping Caleb Plant in November at the MGM Grand Garden to unify the 168-pound championships. The holiday honors Mexico’s victory in 1862 over France in the Battle of Puebla and is the most significant date on the boxing schedule.
As such, it’s usually reserved for the sport’s biggest stars. Like Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and now Alvarez, a four-division champion who inherited the date in 2016 with a knockout victory over Amir Khan.
But the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of a Cinco de Mayo bout for Alvarez in Las Vegas against Billy Joe Saunders in 2020, moving it to Arlington, Texas, last year amid local restrictions.
The pandemic also essentially eliminated grand arrivals, which typically begin the promotion during fight weeks featuring superstars such as Alvarez (57-1-2, 39 knockouts) and allow fans a personal look at their favorite boxers.
Relaxed restrictions, though, allowed Bivol and Alvarez to arrive in style and with the support of the boxing faithful. In Alvarez’s case, anyway.
“Boxing for me is the greatest sport of them all, and Canelo Alvarez is the greatest fighter of our generation,” said Matchroom Boxing chairman Eddy Hearn, with whom Alvarez signed a multifight deal that includes a third bout this fall against Gennady Golovkin.
“To be involved in events like this is incredible,” Hearn added. “To be here on Cinco de Mayo weekend is a dream come true.”
The atmosphere didn’t seem to faze Bivol (19-0, 11 KOs), a 31-year-old Russian who last fought in Las Vegas in 2017. He playfully paused his conversation with Trejos to chant “Ca-ne-lo!” into the microphone, explaining he respects the supporters he hopes to silence.
“I believe in my skills, and I believe in my victory. This is why I’m here,” Bivol said. “I expect a great fight, and I’ll try to do all my best to keep my belt and make people happy to see this fight.”
Contact Sam Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.