Canelo is Easy Money for Mayweather
Showtime demanded a “real” fight in the wake of the financial failure that was Mayweather-Guerrero, and in the sense that they meant, they have it…
Tony Curtis once said that no matter what you achieve in Hollywood, you have to live with the fact that the only reason you’re there in the first place is because of the way you look; fat or thin, big or small, ugly or beautiful. The toughest of industries, the toughest of truths, Tony says.
Is it just me, or does Saul “Canelo” Alvarez looks like he stepped straight out of an episode of Happy Days?
A full-blooded Mexican, Alvarez is also exquisitely white, sporting a full head of Irish hair and a complexion that belongs, if not in an American situation comedy, then perhaps an American World War Two bomber. Perhaps in another small way explaining his popularity in the United States, he is supposedly descended form Irishmen who fought alongside Mexicans in defense of their home country many years agol. He looks like someone drafted him to old-Mexico straight from New Mexico.
Looks from an era of American history that is most fondly remembered at a time when American boxing needs a hero like never before in combination with his having hailed from perhaps the most rabidly devout fighting nation on earth has created a perfect storm of popularity for the young light-middleweight out of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, one that has persisted in certain conservative corners of the United States despite allegations as varied as the assault of flyweight Ulises Solis, assault of a Canadian diplomat, the theft of a van, refusal to pay his bar bills.
Boxing really is the toughest of the entertainment industries, but it seems that here, too, Tony’s words can be borne out. Ali, after all, was pretty. Tyson was not. Marciano looked like the physical embodiment of his style. Oscar did indeed have a golden smile. Dempsey looked like exactly what the press said he was, and what he once had been, a fighting hobo. These are the greatest success stories in the history of boxing not just because of the extensive talent of the men involved but because of the meeting between brilliance and appearance. They looked like the physical and sporting characteristics that they embodied.
Alvarez is not what he appears to be, at least to America, but that doesn’t matter. Nor was Liston the literal embodiment of the “bad nigger” wider society’s nightmare proclaimed him to be, nor was Oscar, as we now know, the Golden Boy of his careful constructed media-dream. But Canelo knows his role, and he has embraced it. “Only the fans can answer that question,” he replies in answer to an enquiry as to whether or not he is the best fighter from Mexico currently. “You’d have to ask them,” he tells another journalist who wants to know if he is a hero to red-headed kids everywhere. “I am very gracious that I have followers and fans from all sorts of colors.” This round of press has turned into a jousting match for Alvarez, more akin to that of the prettiest girl at a the dance than a warrior preparing for combat, defending his supposed modesty from a persistent flock of men hungry for a quote and more. A story. Because, for the first time the man in the other corner is the story, not something that seems to be sitting particularly well with one Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“I made Alvarez famous, letting him box on my undercards,” is the gist of what is coming out of Floyd’s mouth in the wake of the mounting popularity of the boy-next-door-man-from-Mexico mash-up he meets next Saturday night in the MGM Grand, Las Vegas. It’s an interesting angle, and probably not, like around 80% of what Floyd says for public consumption, one that bears up under the weight of objective observation but you’ll no doubt be glad to read that I have no intention of attempting any hackneyed psycho-analysis. I gave up trying to read Mayweather long ago. He is a fistic proton winding his way defiantly though a thicket of quantum examination rendered by a press that has all but admitted defeat in trying to read his location and velocity at the same time. Floyd might be bothered by Canelo’s status but as forbes.com (rather perfectly today’s quote of the day on that site comes from William Boetcker: “What our country really needs most are the things which money cannot buy”) reported this week, Mayweather is guaranteed $41.5 million for putting his undefeated record on the line against Alvarez. He knows, better than anybody in the world outside of perhaps Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer (gunning for a record-breaking 2.6m pay-per-view sales Stateside), that the selected opponent is a significant factor in the considerable buzz preceding this fight, and perhaps the definitive factor in the $19.9 million gate, gathered to the collective breast of some very excited money men in just twenty-four hours.
Showtime demanded a “real” fight in the wake of the financial failure that was Mayweather-Guerrero, and in the sense that they meant, they have it.
What about us? What are we going to get? So often in the past what television executives demand has been at odds with what the hardcore fans want to see, Boxing.com’s readers amongst them.
The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, an organization to which I belong, ranks Alvarez – not Mayweather – as the world’s number one light-middleweight. This is partly due to inactivity on the part of Floyd that has somehow seen him nevertheless straddle both the welter and light-middleweight divisions without falling prey to the board’s inactivity rule, and partly due to Alvarez’s defeat of another fighter who was ranked near the top of that division this April, Austin Trout. Nevertheless, Mayweather continues to be ranked in the top two, significant because it means that a new TBRB champion will be crowned this Saturday. Whilst this will be of limited interest to some – although amongst those watching closely will be Teddy Atlas, who endorsed the TBRB last month on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights – it must be pointed out that the TBRB has the strictest rankings policy in the world. A new lineage can only be established by a meeting between two fighters deemed the very best in a given division. Whilst one would think this would be a given, it is unfortunately the case that we are the only rankings organization pursuing this policy. Alvarez qualifies. In other words, by definition he is no patsy. Unless he steps up to middleweight there is, on paper, no more difficult fight for the world’s best than this.
Trout was something of a graduation night for Alvarez and in my opinion it was a better grounding for facing Mayweather than many have allowed. In the form of a snappy and varied southpaw jab, he offered a speedy pot-shot on attack in the opening rounds that the flame-haired Mexican had to decipher and then solve. This, he did, with some very decent head movement, two-handed attacks whenever the opportunity presented itself and a nagging persistence that wore his opponent. His offense was enabled by very decent hand-speed and a fluidity on attack that allowed him to present unusual two-punch combinations, including a left-hook/right-uppercut that Trout had absolutely no answer for. This punch underlines what Alvarez does well. The right-uppercut thrown from the outside is the toughest punch in boxing to master. Landing it requires a near mastering of many of boxing’s most fundamental fundamentals, accuracy, speed, timing. Missing it is an invitation not just to a counter but to a knockout. A fighter that tosses this salute skyward rather than nestling the blow under his opponents chin will be wide open at different stages in follow through for both the left-hook and the right hand.
But this combination also helps to underline the Canelo’s weaknesses. Silk on any two-punch combination, this is despite of the fact that the second shot is generally loaded, and indeed on occasion, such as when he wings in the right-hand to the body, the lead is loaded. After throwing one of these loaded shots, Alvarez generally finds his balance has been compromised. Again and again Trout was hit twice but able to disappear behind the third punch, if one was even thrown. This is key. Many Mayweather opponents are able to hit him with the two-piece at some point in the fight, but none can get across with the biscuit. Alvarez is not a natural three-punch combo fighter against top-level opposition. The combination renders the Mexican a one-two fighter almost by default. In previewing Mayweather-Cotto I wrote that “[f]ighting Mayweather cannot be about strategy alone…a strategic quilt needs to be sewn together from a series of specific tactics. Mayweather’s adaptability, intrinsic ability and exceptional tactical acumen needs to be offset by a specific detail rather than any grand plan.” I stand by these words. As described, Canelo’s one-two is built of pleasing variance and serious commitment but I cannot envisage a two-piece combination becoming the bedrock of Mayweather’s undoing if it is to be mined as a lone resource.
I do think that Canelo can have limited success with his variety of one-two combinations. Some of them will be unexpected and many of them will be hard punches. As the fight rumbles on, however, the youngster is going to learn something about missing and the consequences of missing. It is a fact that he has not shared a ring with a fighter capable of teaching this lesson up until this point. He will understand the basic choice that every fighter who faces Floyd Mayweather is presented with. Throw right uppercuts from the outside and give yourself a winning chance at the expense of being exposed to the most dangerous counters, or box conservatively and drop a wide decision. Only the boldest of hearts can ride the battlements of that deepest precipice for any length of time before succumbing to its own humanity. How thick is the blood that pumps in that Mexican heart is one of the questions that will be answered on Saturday because Canelo is going to get hit, a lot.
In the third round of Trout-Alvarez, Trout, who is considerably more limited than Mayweather on defense, was twice able to pivot from the ropes after repeatedly making his opponent miss. His failure to punish Alvarez directly behind this defensive work was perhaps the crucial factor in his losing the fight. Opportunities existed and Mayweather is a fighter who will capitalize.
Look for Alvarez to have some early success behind a springy jab, one that he will hopefully throw as often as Trout threw it against him, and with the right hand to the torso, a key punch for Alvarez in this fight. Then look for Floyd begins to adjust, possibly by moving slightly to his right and boxing there, utilizing the right hand over the top against the merest hesitancy. Forced to move more than he wants to by adopting this strategy, Floyd will likely park up somewhere in the middle of the fight and fight in static spells mid-ring as we saw against Shane Mosley or fight from the ropes as he did against Miguel Cotto. Canelo’s surging attack and persistence will likely force Mayweather to concede ground and do the latter, and then we will see if Alvarez can utilize his strength and size to win rounds.
Much has been made of that size during the build-up to this fight, both as a positive and a negative. On the one hand, the Mexican has agreed to come in no higher than 152 lbs. at the expensive of extensive but undisclosed financial penalties, but the perception is that if he can make the weight without hurting himself, he will enjoy a reasonable size advantage in the ring.
At the seven-day weigh-in he tipped the scales at 157.4, 5.4 lbs. over the agreed limit, a number I am told is not of great concern for a professional athlete in training with well-defined targets to hand. Perhaps of more concern is the 20 lb. rehydration that Alvarez will likely undergo the night of the fight, seeing him enter the ring weighing in as a light-heavyweight, not a light-middleweight. The fight of his life calls for a higher workrate than the one-minute per round he favors. The bust and boom approach to weight does not foster a hard night’s work as a general rule, and he has shown no proclivity for the kind of shift necessary to beat a fighter like Mayweather in recent years.
Yes, Alvarez is a legitimate opponent, but I do not consider that he is one with a serious chance of victory. Mayweather is the only pick here. As a sporting contest this battle will likely underline the modern era’s problem, namely that boxing’s best fighters are as good as they ever were, but the distance between them and the chasing pack is growing. Perfect fighting machines still exist, but boxing culture has changed so drastically – less fighting, less sparring, shorter distances, more money – that the less perfect disciples of the fistic art find climbing the tallest tower by hard work and learning increasingly difficult.
A combination of leads that become more numerous as Canelo’s hesitancy increases and counters bought by boxing’s best defense will see Mayweather through to a comfortable, if rough and tumble points decision somewhere in the region of 116-112 or 117-111.
Alvarez is not ready for Mayweather and likely boxes in a world that means he never will be.
Mark Twain: “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”
School’s in, son.