A night of 'fiesta' turns into tears

LAS VEGAS -- What would you tell her?

What would you tell Canelo Alvarez's mother, Ana Maria, at 10:58 p.m. local time inside Dressing Room 3 of the MGM Grand Garden Arena?

Just 90 minutes earlier, the entire room had not only been grinning but crooning. Chepo Reynoso, Alvarez's insistently joyous longtime trainer, had led everyone -- family, cameramen, aides, hangers-on -- in a group song: "Vamos, Canelo, vamos! Vamos a ganar!" Translation: "Let's go, Canelo, let's go! We're going to win!"

But afterward, thanks to Floyd Mayweather's clinical dismantling of Chepo's lyrical prediction, the place was a funeral. Alvarez, head hanging for the first time in forever, had dragged himself into the bathroom, shell-shocked, looking like a person whose understanding of himself had changed for good. Chepo leaned backward against a sink, contemplating the floor, silent. And in front of a locker sat Ana Maria, a short, kind-looking woman wearing black pants and a purplish silk blouse. She wiped away tears, watching the best day of her youngest child's life suddenly turn into the worst.

It was at 7:20 p.m. -- eons ago -- when Ana Maria had first walked into this room to cheers and applause. Two of Canelo's six older brothers, Victor and Ricardo, immediately rushed over to hug her, lovingly teasing her about the fancy makeup she was wearing and her perm. Before Alvarez had his hands wrapped, she'd made the sign of the cross in front of him, touching his forehead with two fingers, then his chest, then his right shoulder, and then his left, ending with a kiss.

Nearly four hours later, for a long time, no one could bear to say anything to her.

It took Richard Schaefer, the CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, to finally venture an attempt.

"Señora, it's OK, it's OK!" he said, with all the sincerity of a halogen lamp. "Sometimes it goes a little bit like this. Canelo is still Canelo. The Yankees don't always win, but they're still the Yankees. There are many other big nights for him!"

Then Eric Gomez, Golden Boy's matchmaker, joined in to point out the night's saving grace (which doubled as the night's most glaring injustice): "It was a majority decision."

So it was. And by 11:25 p.m., two men walked up to the wall behind Ana Maria and stripped down the black fabric covering patterned with the words "GOLDEN BOY." A minute later, two other men tore down the wall to her right, the one patterned with "SHOWTIME," and collapsed its metal frame directly in front of her chair, forcing her to sit sideways.

Yes, for all the months and money spent promoting this megafight, as soon as it was over, it was over, just like everything else. Before Alvarez had even left the ring after the fight, the big screens in the arena had all switched over to advertisements for Cirque du Soleil. Outside, on Las Vegas Boulevard, buses carrying signs for the next boxing event -- Timothy Bradley versus Juan Manuel Marquez -- drove past.

There had been a popular prefight thought, posited by fans and journalists alike, that this fight would be a clear win-win for Ana Maria's son. That Alvarez, who was largely unknown to the average American consumer, would reap untold benefits from a promotional tour with Mayweather. That Alvarez, who'd never before sniffed an eight-figure payday, would make more money in one night -- $12 million, at least -- than he did in 43 others. That Alvarez, who is just 23, would be such an underdog that a loss to the best fighter of a generation would not really be a loss at all.

All of that is true, it turns out, except for the part about it feeling like anything but defeat.

Could Alvarez one day retire, as Mayweather said at the post-fight news conference, as a Hall of Famer? Could Alvarez have actually acquitted himself relatively well, given the peerless speed and timing and savvy of his opponent, even if most journalists had Mayweather pitching something close to a shutout? Could Alvarez, still so young, have done enough for a rematch, and revenge, down the road?

Yes, yes and maybe. But none of the answers to those questions made anyone in this room feel any better.

The truth is that Alvarez must now wonder whether he is truly a great fighter -- as sharing a stage with Mayweather would suggest -- or just a good fighter, destined for the side of yet another bus rolling by.

It was 11:33 p.m. when Alvarez finally emerged from the bathroom, dressed in a black suit with a white T-shirt. He jammed his hands in his pants pockets and his famous red hair fell over his forehead, uncharacteristically uncombed. When he passed Ana Maria, who was still seated, waiting for him all this time, he stopped and they looked at each other, briefly, before he continued out into the hallway.

There was nothing left to say.