Mayweather vs. Canelo | Game of Throne
The 36-year-old Floyd may have a more difficult time evading young Canelo’s rapid-fire shots with his patented “Neo-in-the-Matrix” type defense…
“The One” is an ambitious title to describe anything, let alone a boxing match. However, amidst the usual puffery that accompanies boxing promotion in the fight game, in this instance such a lofty fight-tag is befitting. Floyd Mayweather (44-0, 26 KOs) vs. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs) is a once in a decade type of fight, if not a once in a generation type of fight. It has a legitimate chance to break the all-time PPV buy record from 2007 when Oscar De La Hoya was outpointed by Mayweather in a relatively tepid mega-fight. Unlike that bout, Mayweather vs. Canelo may produce more than just staggering revenue. It very well may produce mesmerizing pugilism; forever discussed in future annals of boxing lore.
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Some might characterize my enthusiasm for this fight as quixotic, but I see the makings of an epic that stirs up golden era nostalgia for even the staunchest boxing purist. At the start of the calendar year, I regarded this matchup as the biggest fight in boxing that could be made, pleading for it to be made, and here’s why: Legacy is on the line in a very dynamic way. At the present time, there is no greater challenge for either man, and there likely never will be after this. This is particularly true for Mayweather—who is still hungry enough to accentuate his already legendary career—that he’s decided to fight the most dangerous opponent available to him. For Canelo, he could fight another 20 years and still not face anyone near the quality of Mayweather.
Whoever is victorious in this fight has undisputed claim to boxing’s throne. If Canelo wins, it breaks the longstanding reign of Floyd Mayweather’s near two-decade conquest. In doing so, he will do what other legendary Hall-of-Famers like De La Hoya, Cotto, Mosley, Corrales, Hatton, and Marquez couldn’t do, instantly distancing himself from his elder peer-group, setting up a career quickly on the highway to being discussed within the all-time great pantheon. If Mayweather wins, he not only would retain his unblemished record, but would have done so by defeating boxing’s brightest prodigy; a fighter bigger, stronger and 13 years younger than him. It would be the ultimate culmination, a cornerstone piece to an already glittery career, and Floyd would likely ride out his multi-fight deal with Showtime/CBS having already fought the most difficult fighter in his periphery. This is not simply a prizefight. Mayweather-Canelo is high-stake pugilism, of which the outcome will echo throughout the halls of boxing legend for decades to come.
The symmetry between the combatants in this crossroads fight for the ages is fascinating. Canelo, which means “cinnamon,” was a nickname given to Alvarez because of his red hair and the freckles that clad his strikingly pale skin—an anomalous look for a champion hailing from the brawling streets of Guadalajara. That said, it is not simply his anomalous look that separates him from the crowd. Nothing about his already jam-packed life/career resembles normalcy. He has lived a warrior’s lifestyle, and was thrown into the fires to fend for himself at a very early age. He has been a professional for eight years now, having turned pro at 15. He had a daughter at 16. Not your typical 23-year-old. Canelo is wise beyond his years, an old soul possessing a seasoned fighter’s instinct, a fully matured physicality, and a prodigious ring-IQ—way ahead of his time. Having already fought 43 times, young Canelo is en route to a throwback-like boxing dossier, reminiscent of a time when fighters typically fought 60-70 times over the course of a career. While his physical gifts are evident—great speed, power, and sturdiness—it is his blooming technique, defensive instincts, patience, adept-command of combination-punching, and an ever-increasing ability to think and act like a much older fighter that now positions him as a legitimate threat to Mayweather’s throne.
Conversely, at 36, Floyd Mayweather has retained his youthful abilities to complement his gigantic boxing intellect, uncharacteristically unscathed for a champion of his accomplishment and experience. Looking virtually brand new as he entered the ring a few months ago prior to his exquisite boxing clinic of Robert Guerrero, Floyd is arguably better right now than he’s ever been, and his will to fight seems stronger than ever. When he fights Canelo on September 14th, it will be the shortest layoff he’s had in nearly 10 years, silencing critics who said that there was “no way” he would fight this soon and keep on track with his ambitiously scheduled multi-fight deal. What he may have slightly lost in foot-speed, he has gained in upper-body strength. He may not be quite as quick as he was when he was blinding opponents in his early 20s, but his timing couldn’t be sharper as he now counters with telepathic precision. His reflexes show hardly signal any deterioration, product of the fact that he’s absorbed minimal damage, courtesy of the most elusive defense in the game. He continues to be the most accurate puncher in the history of CompuBox calculations, best exemplified by the fact that he landed an astounding 60% of his power punches in his last fight against Guerrero. His career has been timed out brilliantly, his ability to maintain his conditioning and elitism has been uncanny, displaying evolutionary boxing longevity at the highest level of the sport that has not simply surpassed—but in effect lapped—all of his peers. Mayweather is already an all-time great—not just in this era, but in any era.
Despite the obvious age difference, these fighters do share some interesting commonalities. They are both undefeated and have basically fought the same amount of times: Canelo having fought 43 bouts to Floyd’s 44. Alike Floyd, Canelo comes from a boxing family. Also like Floyd, Canelo is the youngest and most prestigious pugilist not just of his family, but of his entire country. Interestingly, both men share a similar KO percentage, with Canelo slightly edging Floyd in the power department with 30 KOs in 43 bouts, to Floyd’s 26 KOs in 44 bouts. While much is made of Canelo’s power, Floyd’s is often under-regarded, particularly as he’s demonstrated a more committed power game in his 30s.
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“In the ring, I don’t even respect myself.”—Canelo in a recent Showtime interview when asked if he respected his opponents
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“Boxing is an art. I don’t have to be the strongest; I don’t have to be the fastest: I don’t have to have the best footwork; I got the best mind. It’s chess. I know how to win.”—Floyd Mayweather (All Access: Mayweather-Canelo, Episode 2)
Size – 152-pound Catchweight
Some fighters are physical giants. They seek to break opponents down with a methodology of sheer brute force, out-willing their opponent with strength, power, and physicality. Marvin Hagler salivated until he could pin his opponent against the ropes, and then rain down heavy fire with the confidence and work he put into his physical strength. Tyson’s unprecedented ascent in boxing’s power division generated from his high-performance engine of raw strength, punching power, and core torsion. Other fighters are mental giants, investing heavily in an ability to outthink, out-move, and tactically dismantle an opponent with technique. Enter Floyd Mayweather, the sport’s most prolific mentalist. When being asked to comment on Shane Mosley’s impressive physique prior to their 2010 bout, Floyd shrugged and slyly reminded the interviewer: “this ain’t a weightlifting contest.” Indeed, it isn’t—particularly against a sweet scientist like Mayweather—where all the power in the world will leave you punching at air if it is not matched with a developed technique. Sluggers largely relying on physical strength—like Mosley, Baldomir, Hatton, and Ortiz—found that out the hard way.
Much has been made about size in this fight. Indeed, Canelo is on the fast-track to being a full-blown middleweight, while Floyd is a textbook welterweight, but not a smallish one. Floyd is filled out at 150 pounds, where he remains constant with little to no fluctuation between fights. Canelo is bigger, will likely come into the ring with a significant weight advantage, is a tad longer, and likely has notable advantages in the power department. Of course, he isn’t the only fighter to enjoy these advantages over Floyd. Oscar was bigger, but was moving in slow-motion compared to the younger Mayweather who was able to slip most of Oscar’s work, while pinpointing accurate shots of his own. Cotto was also the bigger man, but his size was exaggerated, as he really is a blow- up welterweight, and was only marginally bigger than Mayweather on fight night. Canelo, on the other hand, has the combination of size and youth on his side. He also is surprisingly fast when reeling off five-, six-, or even seven-punch combinations from all angles. He fights in spirited bursts, and he fights strategically, with controlled fury. He is economical with his punches, and doesn’t waste energy, ensuring he is always fresh for a 12-round contest, which he’ll likely have to be against Floyd.
Unlike Oscar, who was relatively trigger-shy and unable to get off with a steady jab throughout the fight, Canelo marches into the MGM Grand with no such war-torn ring rust. Whereas the older Oscar’s punches were easily evaded by the 30-year-old Mayweather, the 36-year-old Floyd may have a more difficult time evading young Canelo’s rapid-fire shots with his patented “Neo-in-the-Matrix” type defense. A couple of them might get through, particularly to the body with the left-hook, which is sometimes vulnerable for an orthodox fighter employing the Philly-shell, shoulder-roll defense.
Unlike Cotto, Canelo is a more natural 150+ pound fighter, and has real power at the weight-class. Cotto is far from a light puncher, but his devastating knockout power at welterweight did not translate north of 150 pounds. Further, whereas one couldn’t help but feel that Cotto isn’t the same devastating puncher that he once was prior to nightmares of plaster of Paris (Margarito)—Canelo will be throwing punches with no such memories/damage distracting his natural instinct—which is to take calculated risks by stalking forward, sturdily absorbing some punches, and then countering with the harder shots. Whether it was Josesito Lopez, Carlos Baldomir, Austin Trout, or Shane Mosley, Canelo was not only the better fighter, he was the harder puncher. His ability to mow through punches in order to get on the inside and wing off roundhouse combinations has been electrifying to watch, and if he can get inside, press Floyd to the corners/ropes—much as Cotto did in effective spots—Canelo will be firing off with more size, speed, and power in tight quarters than Floyd is accustomed to seeing. Further, because Floyd suffered a severe contusion on his right hand in the Guerrero fight and has had a well-documented history of hand problems throughout his career, he may not be able to fire off his shots with enough velocity to consistently ward off Canelo’s bull-rush, should Canelo elect to actively press the action (which he must do).
Of course, skill reigns over size in boxing. Usually. With Floyd Mayweather, there’s an inordinate amount of skill involved. His advantage is simple: He’s the most technically proficient fighter in boxing. In terms of technique and skill, there is a considerable gap between him and young Canelo. Conversely, while Canelo may be bigger, Floyd always tends to surprise observers when standing toe-to-toe with men who are allegedly far larger than him. I don’t think Canelo’s size will be drastic enough to where he’s dwarfing Floyd, like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was versus Sergio Martinez. He’ll be bigger, but he’ll have to use every bit of that size to weave his way through endless traps of science and cobra-strike precision right-hand leads, counter check-hooks, blitzing jabs, and illusionist movement. Canelo will have no time to revert back to sophomoric habits, like when he was bewilderingly inactive in the first few rounds against journeyman Alfonso Gomez, getting virtually shut out on points until he unleashed with a furious burst that left Gomez badly hurt, ending the fight with a suddenly shocking KO. Such indifference against Mayweather will be lethal. That said, if Canelo can flurry with enough fire-fueled bursts—steering the tornado—he will do so knowing that Floyd does have vulnerability against bigger guys who are big punchers, as Shane Mosley was.
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“Since I saw him (Canelo), right from the beginning, I knew in my heart that he was the one.”—Oscar De La Hoya
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Indeed, sometimes Oscar De La Hoya is more bothered by Floyd Mayweather than he’d like to admit. Aside from describing his 2007 split-decision loss to Mayweather as a “thorn in his side that is still stuck,” Oscar has also been in a sense—fantasizing about a Canelo takeover. From his messianic description of Canelo as “The One”—to Oscar’s exuberant enthusiasm for this fight (even once calling out Mayweather to come fight Canelo a couple years ago after a scintillating Canelo performance) it’s clear that Oscar would love nothing more than to see his Golden Boy avenge the 2007 loss that still oscillates throughout Oscar’s psyche. But haven’t we heard this story before? Oscar claims to have “the blueprint” to beat Floyd—but he claimed the same thing as he mentored Ortiz, Hatton, and other Mayweather opponents only to see them decimated, chopped down, and devastated.
So what’s different about Canelo? Does he somehow possess the red pill that will activate his facilities such that he produces pugilistic weaponry that no other Mayweather opponent has been able to brandish? Floyd has conquered southpaws, slick fighters, come-forward stalkers, counterpunchers, and a myriad of bigger, stronger fighters who were supposed to bully him to a loss—which never came. This is taking nothing away from Canelo, who is rightfully lauded as one of boxing’s brightest, with limitless potential. That said, Mayweather is already proven to be that limitless potential, and if Canelo seeks the storybook plot-twist to catapult his career to the cosmos, then he better be every bit of good as Oscar thinks he is, because he’ll have to be. Not that cosmic shifts haven’t shocked the boxing world before—thus—one would be remiss in giving Canelo zero chance to dethrone Floyd—particularly with the advantages, pedigree, and champion-bred attributes that Canelo carries into the ring.
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“Just show me…you know…10 world champions Canelo has beaten. Just 10.”—Floyd Mayweather, in response to a statement that Canelo was boxing’s “biggest star”
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Mayweather has an interesting rhythm to his pre-fight approach. Early, he is usually very complimentary of fighters, dishing out objective analysis and respect for his opponent. “Canelo is sold, hungry, strong, a true competitor,” explained Floyd early on the in the fight promotion. “He’s a guy I know I can’t overlook.” Eventually, Mayweather’s competitive nature always reaches a boiling point as the fight approaches—and this time it happened on the last leg of the promotional tour in Los Angeles, as De La Hoya goaded Floyd into debate as he praised Canelo as the “biggest star” in boxing. After handing Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer a TMT (The Money Team) hat and t-shirt, he exclaimed “Richard Schaefer runs Golden Boy. He is Golden Boy.” Next, Floyd reminds Oscar that he himself “might as well be called the Golden Boy because I’ve beaten everyone in y’all crew.” In full “Money” persona, Mayweather next directed his incredulousness at Canelo:
“It’s so crazy that Canelo is such a “big star”—but he’s never been on PPV unless he was on my undercard…but he’s such a big star, Oscar.” Visibly annoyed, De La Hoya snickered as Mayweather reminded writers, media, and the fans of his gaudy resume having beaten 17 world champions, including glittery wins over legendary names like De La Hoya, Marquez, Cotto, Gatti, Mosley, Hatton, and Corrales. Mayweather was fully seated in his championship confidence which has accumulated over his legendary career, and had there not been a language barrier, it may have had a bit of an effect on the younger Canelo who instead of absorbing what Floyd was saying, was in an insulated gaze upon the adulating crowd, not even paying attention. Nonetheless, the tension is undeniable.
It’s current King vs. Heir apparent. Old School vs. New School. Skill vs. Fire. It’s a tremendous event in boxing. All of Mexico and America will be tuned in, with yet another resounding statement legitimizing boxing’s appeal in what has been a stellar 2013 calendar year for the science, confirming an age-old adage in sports:
Nothing in sport is as dramatic and compelling as a championship fight fought at the highest level—against two well-matched champions. Replete with intriguing stylistic contrast, all of the ingredients for a classic are contained within the Mayweather-Canelo framework—and boxing history will forever be impacted based on the outcome of 2013’s superfight, which is the biggest fight in boxing that can be made—right now—including Mayweather-Pacquiao—now drifting away as a distant memory as an even bigger fight is upon us.