By Mike Soltesz: Floyd Mayweather is considered by most to be the best pound for pound fighter in the world. His resume is a who’s who in the sport of boxing. Oscar De La Hoya, Diego Corrales, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto are just some of the victims who have crossed paths with Mayweather and lost. His pristine record is littered with legends, champions and some mediocre fighters. Manny Pacquiao aside, he has fought almost everybody in his era. If there is one criticism of him, it is that many of Mayweather’s best victories came when these fighters were past their primes. Shane Mosley is an example, although many would argue his viability at the time because of his win over Antonio Margarito. Mayweather needs a fighter who is bigger than him to finally shut his critics up once and for all. Canelo Alvarez is that fighter and arguably the most dangerous opponent of Mayweather’s career.
Canelo Alvarez burst onto the scene in 2011 when he won the vacant WBC light. Middleweight Title against Matthew Hatton. He has defended his title six times. The victory that legitimized him to the public is his 12 round decision over former champion, Austin Trout. Trout is a slick southpaw boxer who can outbox most boxers at his weight. Alvarez is not your typical boxer. He won the fight convincingly and made himself a viable opponent for Mayweather. After the usual shenanigans that come with negotiating big fights, Mayweather versus Alvarez will finally happen on September 14, 2013.
Genius is a word that is frequently thrown out to describe too many athletes. Mayweather is a boxing genius. He possesses incredible hand and foot speed. While he lacks one shot power, he is a sharp enough puncher to keep opponents from rushing in. His ability to duck and slip punches with shoulder rolls and angle changes is dazzling. Ability to control the tempo is an asset for him and ties into his ring generalship. Typically, he doesn’t throw a lot of punches. However, Mayweather is extremely accurate with those punches. Opponents play right into his hands by not throwing enough punches to make Floyd work. A good mix of head and body punches keeps opponents befuddled and off balance. The left jab especially to the body has been an effective weapon of his for years. That is when he actually uses it. If there is one criticism of Mayweather, it is that he tends to stay on the ropes and leaves himself open for punches. Only Cotto was able to remotely exploit that. What you have is as close to a perfect fighter as there is right now. Alvarez has certain advantages that can give Mayweather problems.
Alvarez is a smart and aggressive boxer-puncher. He has huge power in both hands. The punch that Alvarez uses the best is his left hook, especially to the body. At 23 years of age, Alvarez is getting better with every fight. Size is an effective weapon for Alvarez and he knows how to use it against smaller opponents. The Trout fight showed that Alvarez has drastically improved his boxing skills Punches are landing with more accuracy, a sign of an improving fighter. Alvarez showed in the fight that he has much better footwork so that he can trap slicker boxers on the ropes. His one Achilles’ heel is that he tends to be excessively patient at times when he fights. There were too many times in the Trout fight where he didn’t throw any punches when he should have been fighting at a much faster pace. This could be the key to a potential victory against Mayweather.
As I look at these two fighters, the game plans for each should be obvious. Mayweather is much faster and needs to use his boxing skills to keep Alvarez off balance and away from him. Alvarez has to throw more punches for a few reasons. He needs to put Mayweather on the ropes and put as much pressure on him as possible. Mayweather hasn’t really been hit with body punches and Alvarez has to do that in order to take the older fighter’s legs away. Alvarez has to keep up a fast pace because if he tries to outbox Mayweather, he will be beat to the punch and get down on points. He can’t outthink Mayweather, he has to outfight him. Conditioning will of course be a huge factor. Even at 23, Alvarez has shown signs of being tired late in fights. Mayweather spars five minute rounds constantly and is always in prime physical condition. He starts slowly and once he figures his opponent out, Mayweather ratchets up the pressure. Slow and subtle adjustments are what enable Mayweather to gradually take over fights. Alvarez can’t get discouraged at anytime or it will be over for him. This mental war is going to be Alvarez’s biggest challenge. Is he going to be intimidated by the gravity of the moment? Or can he rise to the occasion? Will he get discouraged if he behind on points? These are just some the questions that he has never dealt with in his young career. The respective training teams are going to be key factor in this fight.
Mayweather is now being trained by his father, Floyd Mayweather Sr. Mayweather Sr. has made Junior more defensive and it payed off big time. Mayweather Jr. looked as good against Robert Guerrero as he did when he beat Diego Corrales back in 2001. He boxed on his toes more and used his jab regularly. Roger Mayweather had Junior fight flat-footed more and he looked more vulnerable. It was a wise change at this point in his career. Alvarez is trained by Jose Reynoso. He used to train former world champion Oscar Larios. Canelo has improved with each fight under Reynoso so he is a solid trainer. He doesn’t have the pedigree of Mayweather Sr. but he is still accomplished and will no doubt have his fighter ready. Mayweather has the advantage in theory, but both corners are very good.
This fight is very hard to call. Mayweather has been dominant for so long. Canelo wants to be the best. What will determine the victor? Truth is we won’t know until the bell rings. Fighters can get old at any time and Mayweather is at the age where he may be prone to getting old. He showed signs of it prior to the Guerrero fight. Alvarez needs to show that he is talented enough to keep up with Floyd. The head says Mayweather wins this decisively. He is too fast and talented against a slower, inexperienced opponent. The heart says that Canelo has the right blend of youth and desire to overcome his disadvantages and outfight Mayweather. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens when these two warriors collide on September 14.
July 19, 2013