Generally Floyd Mayweather, Jr. insists he doesn’t watch video of future opponents. He must have made an exception in the case of Saul “Canelo’’ Alvarez.
That seems the most logical explanation for Mayweather’s decision to face the unified junior middleweight champion at 152 pounds after first insisting Alvarez come all the way down to 147 if he wanted to make the biggest fight in boxing.
Ultimately Mayweather moved off that demand as Alvarez’s people did when they initially insisted their fighter could not come in an ounce below the division’s 154-pound limit because he hadn’t made welterweight in 3 ½ years. That Alvarez would waver from that with a looming multi-million dollar payday that will be the largest of his career went without saying. What did not was what Mayweather would do.
Faced with a threat from Golden Boy Promotions that it would move on to someone else if the fight could not be settled by Wednesday night after weeks of haggling, both sides relented. Alvarez took the money and Mayweather took home a video of Alvarez’s closely fought decision over Austin Trout and probably concluded: “This guy couldn’t hit me in the ass with a banjo.’’
In the end, such conclusions are how big fights get made these days.
When you are guaranteed $32.5 million to fight air, the lure of filthy lucre loses some of its appeal, even to a guy nicknamed “MONEY.’’ These days too many boxers and far too many of the people around them operate as if they work for Metropolitan Life. They don’t consult BoxRec before making a match. They consult actuarial tables, calculating the risk-reward ratio and most often choosing to avoid the risk because there are rewards elsewhere far easier to procure.
Mayweather once regularly insulted Manny Pacquiao for making opponents come in either below their most comfortable weight or above it. Now he’s in Pacquiao’s boxing shoes and doing much the same thing. That is not a criticism of him because it’s good business and prize fighting remains, after all, a business; it just points out that they all operate the same way once they’re in position to dictate terms.
That is how Mayweather has long looked at his profession and rightfully so and it is now how he looks at Alvarez, an opponent who should allow him to maximize his income without the risk Pacquiao once carried with him.
Frankly, if Mayweather didn’t feel that way he would not have agreed to a deal that will not include a rehydration clause that could have prevented Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KO) from ballooning back up to a likely 170 pounds by the time the two enter the ring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sept. 14. That Mayweather did not insist on such a clause tells me he feels the heavier – and hence slower – Alvarez is the easier it will be to avoid him while also thinking that forcing him to come in below his optimum weight may weigh on young Alvarez psychologically as well as physically just enough to round off some of his sharper edges.
Mayweather remains one of the best fighters in the world at both movement and counterpunching even at the advanced age of 36 but he is more than that. He is extremely clever, crafty and well versed in what an opponent can and cannot do to him. His 44-0 record is as much a result of his knowledge of the geometry and psychology of boxing as the physical skills he’s been blessed with.
So when he tweeted out Wednesday night “I chose my opponent for September 14th and it’s Canelo Alvarez,’’ the emphasis should have been on the world “chosen. Mayweather did not pick the money, even though he so often claims that is what he is about.
He chose the man. The bigger man to be sure but not as big as Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto were when he fought them at the 154-pound limit. Both were older and slower, damaged in the way boxing damages even its greatest practitioners over time so Mayweather did not insist they come in below that weight, in part because he understood that sloth on their part would benefit him.
Alvarez, on the other hand, is a 22-year-old kid for whom losing two pounds may be more mind-numbing than strength sapping, a point Mayweather knows is often the most important one in a fight.
In addition, Alvarez was often troubled trying to locate Trout before ultimately wearing him down enough to drop him once and escape with a victory that was far closer than the ringside judges indicated. Surely Mayweather looked at what Trout did for much of the fight and nodded his head, thinking he can do it for all of the fight and then some.
“I’m giving the fans what they want,’’ Mayweather tweeted but more to the point he’s giving himself what he wants: a high profile opponent who he doubts yet has the experience and skill to threaten him in the way Pacquiao in his prime would have.
Mayweather took Cotto’s heavier punches and never buckled on a night when Mayweather was clearly off his feed, perhaps as a result of his looming incarceration in the county lockup in Las Vegas. He was all but unhittable against Robert Guerrero in his return and while Guerrero is not Alvarez, Mayweather believes Alvarez is not Cotto, at least when it comes to power, nor is he De La Hoya, who might well have beaten him had he had the will and the stamina to keep sticking Mayweather with his jab.
What Alvarez is to Mayweather is a younger, fresher and unbeaten Cotto who believes completely in both his ability and his destiny but lacks Cotto’s punching power, De La Hoya’s boxing skills or Pacquiao’s relentless ferociousness.
Canelo Alvarez will of course have to be convinced of that. He will also have to be convinced that he cannot hit Floyd Mayweather, Jr. He won’t simply enter the ring already fearing that is so, as so many of Mayweather’s opponents have done.
His problem will be that Floyd Mayweather, Jr., one of the smartest minds in boxing, is already convinced of it. Otherwise he wouldn’t be in there in the first place.
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