September 14th, 2013. The day all variety of boxing fans unite to witness the sports biggest spectacle. Casuals, hardcores, devotees, trainers, insiders, experts, observers, the vaguely intrigued - all are melded together to form the cast iron cauldron which holds the broth of immortality, the witnesses and embracers of the pound for pound king receiving a challenge to his throne. With a flair for the grandiose, this PPV event is styled “The One”, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. (44-0, 26 KO’s) defends his WBA “Super” Light-Middleweight Championship of the World against “Regular” WBA and WBC beltholder Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KO’s).
The build-up to this clash is one that has reverberated throughout the sporting world, and save for a few near impossible matchups, this bout is undoubtedly the most anticipated in all of boxing. But can the fight itself live up the phenomenal hype placed on its shoulders? Can it bare the weight of entire nation’s tuning in, expecting the peerless Mayweather to face his hardest challenge to date - to even risk LOSING his undefeated streak? Well, let’s take a look..
Many were skeptical this bout would even take place, pointing towards the asterisks against Floyd Mayweather’s resume, where he had waited for more than one fighter to fall out of their primes, or simply avoid fighting them at all. Canelo is a hungry young lion, a fiery mane and a pale coat, with size to boot, and few of Floyd’s detractors, myself included, thought he would take on this challenge. When the fight was announced, the surprise was bittersweet, as it came with yet another stipulation - a catchweight.
“It’s only two pounds!”, chanted more than one of The Money Team acolytes, “I can crap two pounds!” - conveniently forgetting that a two pound catchweight was the centre of a publicity hate storm of the Manny Pacquiao v Miguel Cotto bout. Two pounds on a man, who only 2 years ago failed to make anything close to 150lbs against Matthew Hatton to claim his first belt. Two pounds on a growing, maturing adult, who is still developing muscle and size every day in his youth. These two pounds it seems, could make or break the physicality of Canelo Alvarez on fight night. Only time will tell how these advantages and disadvantages play out in the square circle.
|Floyd Mayweather Jr.
There is perhaps one universal truth in boxing - age catches up with everybody. We’ve seen some stunning displays from equally stunning boxers defying father time (Foreman and Hopkins spring to mind), but regardless of this, all of them eventually fell to the ravages of time. The one glaring stat difference listed above is Canelo’s 13 year age advantage; indeed, the fight is being billed as a “master v apprentice” and “passing of the torch” ceremony. Floyd’s detractors are quick to point out the man’s encroachment upon middle age, but is it really such a significant factor?
There are a few methods for staving off age inside the boxing ring, and Floyd Mayweather certainly employs one - an intensely conservative fighting style. You would be hard pressed to pin point the last time you saw Mayweather throw a significant combination within the ring, instead he opts to lead with a powerful straight right hand or a whipping jab, bettering his opponents with superior reactions and timing. Speed is not the essential factor in this, but an understanding of nuance and superior strategy. Few can question the genius of Mayweather’s ring generalship, and he effectively nullifies his opponents aggression without the need of too much physical risk. It is this which makes Canelo’s age advantage somewhat minimal.
Reach and Height are minor factors in this, as the first one’s impact in relation to timing is crucial for Mayweather. At 72’’, Floyd would’ve had a 5 inch reach advantage over legendary heavyweight Rocky Marciano (infamous for having the shortest arms of any Heavyweight Champion). But I digress - Mayweather will attempt to use that extra inch and a half to full advantage against Canelo, as the physically larger Mexican will undoubtedly look to impose his frame upon his veteran foe.
But what of other toles on one’s body that could play a part in this fight? This time last year, Mayweather was midway through a prison sentence for Domestic Abuse. In his younger years, Floyd was no stranger to the high life of the rich and famous, regularly being snapped up in bars, clubs, and strippers dens. Added to this the mental exertion in dealing with his well publicised family feuds, a tumultuous relationship with his father being at the centre of it. Only a spartan dedication to his craft has kept Floyd from victim to the many pitfalls associated with this lifestyle.
|Floyd Mayweather Jr.
|44 (26 KO's)
||42 (30 KO's)
When writing up notes for this article, I wanted to avoid one contentious topic - Mayweather’s resume. Those who know me are aware of how critical I can be of certain fighters, Floyd included, so I didn’t wish to launch into some long winded tirade that can be opt seen on any boxing forum across the internet. Instead I’ll be looking at just a few statistics and pointers leading up to this bout, most of which are listed above.
One of the more stunning statistics I researched was the “rounds boxed” column section above. The numbers are surprisingly close - most would feel that years of experience would boost Mayweather’s numbers to a greater than 50 margin against Canelo. Early in his career, at Super Featherweight, Floyd was something of a power puncher, and regularly put away his opponents. Indeed he has only scored two knockouts since 2007 - a legitimate battering of Britain’s overzealous Ricky Hatton, and a horrendous (but deserved) cheap shot on Victor Ortiz. This relates to my point above of Floyd’s increasingly conservative style, looking to preserve his longevity.
Even Canelo has had one or two long winded bouts in his career however. Turning professional at the age of 15, his amateur career was a short one, and disputed; some claim he only had 20 amateur bouts from age 13, and others claim the record listed above. Regardless, as a professional at such a young age, he garnered significant and relevant pro experience against a slew of Mexican cannon fodder. Since claiming the WBC belt against Matthew Hatton in 2011, Canelo has defended gamely against Ryan Rhodes, Alfonso Gomez, Kermit Cintron, Shane Mosley, Josesito Lopez and finally Austin Trout. Of those, only Trout put Alvarez in a position of any serious threat. He faced brief difficult times against Gomez, but pulled a victory out of the fire, with the aid of an early referee intervention.
That said, Trout seems to be the measuring stick one would use to gauge Canelo’s chances against Floyd Mayweather. A wily and crafty fighter, Trout is a technical boxer, not a particularly hard puncher, and extremely durable as a defender. Their bout was a torrid affair, certainly not pleasing to the eye, but Alvarez demonstrated a much more conservative approach to fighting, focussing purely on boxing and defending - some would see this as preparation for Mayweather. The end result was overtly close (this writer scored the bout for Trout by 1 point), but many bore witness to a different shade of Ginger Heaven. In particular, the straight right that lead to Austin Trout being compared to “Bambi on Ice” was a punch few men could withstand.
Another factor to consider is activity - averaging only one fight a year since 2007 will undoubtedly cause effects on Mayweather eventually. By contrast, Canelo has had 26 fights since the end of that year, continually developing and mastering his craft, and most importantly - growing physically. Ultimately, it will be physicality that gives Alvarez his only chance of victory on September 14th.
We have already discussed one route that Floyd Mayweather will take to victory in this bout, and indeed, it is a tried and tested method against countless foes, able to be rehashed and reused for its universal applicability. The great mystery of this bout is what strategy the Mexican challenger will employ to attain greatness. It has been said that Oscar de la Hoya laid the blueprint for beating Floyd Mayweather (a notion touted highly by Oscar himself, no surprise), and I would tend to agree with him. Strong use of the jab, volume punching and carefully applied pressure to outwork Mayweather is very effective to overcoming his conservative style. Unfortunately, this requires more than a modicum of stamina, a trait Canelo does not possess.
Despite his youth, Canelo’s quest to become “The One” will unravel due to a poor gas tank. Alvarez is a fighter who engages for only 1/3rd of a round, usually at the end, with an eye catching flurry that garners the judges attention. He has shown a tendency to tire in later rounds, even with this style, so a volume punching, high pressure game is out of the question. Rumours are abound that Alvarez is fighting smaller, faster men in order to improve his punching speed - an aspect no fighter can do without. However, if this is not paired with a vast improvement in stamina, as well as the vital coordination and timing necessary to deal with a defense like Mayweather’s, it will all be for nought.
Indeed that is perhaps one of the biggest elements Canelo can bring to his game. Speed is a paramount factor in this sport, but useless without appropriate coordination and timing. Alvarez certainly showed a penchant for this against Trout - to again reference the knockdown blow, it was a perfectly timed strike down the middle of Austin’s guard. Mayweather’s stamina is unlikely to falter, so he will increase his strike rate as necessary - there lies the problem for this strategy.
So what else can Canelo really do to win? Well, he can punch. And he can punch hard. And he can punch harder than he’s ever punched anyone before. Only this will be his salvation in his titanic struggle against Floyd Mayweather. Notorious for a brief feeling out period in the early rounds, Floyd will be more open to the “game changer” in the first 6 minutes than at any other time. I feel he does not have the stamina to box a full 12 x 3 rounds. Therefore, shorten the fight to 3 rounds. Throw everything you have for those 9 minutes, go out on your shield if you must, for you will likely only have one punch to achieve superstardom.