In nine days WBC welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather 44-0 (26), the pound-for-pound best and most relevant fighter in boxing, will fight for the second time this year. That hasn't happened since 2007. Mayweather's opponent is the up and coming prodigy Saul "Canelo" Alvarez 42-0-1 (30). They are fighting as junior middleweights, which has a maximum weight limit of 154 pounds. Alvarez usually comes in right at the junior middleweight limit and has shown that he's very strong and powerful fighting right at the top of the division's maximum weight. In in his last six fights, five opponents have tasted the canvas versus Alvarez. The only exception was the very tough and durable (but well past his prime) Shane Mosley, who has never been stopped and only knocked off his feet by Vernon Forrest (2002) and Manny Pacquiao (2011).
For his fight with Mayweather, Alvarez must come in at 152 or less as stipulated by the agreement he consented to with Mayweather. And to those reading this, the two extra pounds that Alvarez has to drop for Mayweather doesn't sound like much. However, if you ever boxed or wrestled competitively, you know that cutting two pounds is not just a physical drain, it's also a mental/emotional one as well. Even if an athlete isn't really weakened or compromised physically by having to drop a couple extra pounds, he often feels as if he is. And if he feels that he is, it doesn't take as much as it would normally to get him off his game. And for Alvarez, that could come into play being that fighting Mayweather will test him more so in and out of the ring than he's ever been tested before.
And there, folks, is what's so frustrating about Mayweather, and what tends to cause older observers, those over 40, to look at his career and accomplishments with a slight bit of skepticism. Why can't Floyd just fight Alvarez at 154 and finally agree to a big fight where there isn't something about it that tilts the field in his favor? Alvarez didn't have to come in under the 154 pound limit to fight the unbeaten Austin Trout in his last fight. He didn't have to cut weight to fight Mosley, who has fought mostly as a welterweight since 2000. Why does there always have to be an angle in Floyd's favor every time he agrees to a big fight?
Obviously, we know the answer, and that's because Mayweather is a great manager. It's sad, but I knew the second it was announced that Mayweather was going to meet Alvarez, there was no way it was going to be a straight up fight like the previous 43 of Alvarez's career. Yet I knew when "Canelo" agreed to face Mosley, there was no chance in the world that there would be some sort of gimmick or catch attached to it. I would've bet my life that Mosley was going up to meet Alvarez at his best weight, and that's exactly how it unfolded.
Just once could Mayweather meet a real live fighter and threat without something in the contract or the opponent (being too old or small or weakened by a weight stipulation) that compromises them? The answer is no, if it hasn't happened by now, why would he start at age 36? Let's face it, Alvarez is the only fighter in boxing weighing between 140 and 154 who has at least a punchers' chance to beat him and again Floyd goes in with a meaningful edge because Alvarez kills himself to make 154, once the gas tank reads empty, it can't go any lower. Those two extra pounds could be a factor, only we'll never really know. What we do know for certain is if Mayweather wins, he will have defeated a version of Alvarez that may not have been what he was for his last two fights versus Mosley and Trout.
Mayweather has picked his spots in one way or another throughout his career and especially since fighting as a welterweight. Floyd got over big time on Juan Manuel Marquez in 2009, who is barely a full fledged junior welterweight as of this writing, with his weigh-in trickery at the last moment right before their fight. He fought Oscar De La Hoya, and barely won, when Oscar was a corpse. Shane Mosley was an empty package when he finally fought him seven years after the fight truly meant anything. When he fought Miguel Cotto, Miguel was clearly on the decline and it was Mayweather who was more natural fighting as a junior middleweight than Cotto, despite Cotto being the title holder. In his last fight against Robert Guerrero, at 147, everyone knew going in that Robert is as much a welterweight as Bernard Hopkins is a cruiserweight. As a lightweight, Mayweather had to fight Jose Luis Castillo twice, just to claim one victory over him in the ring.
To some hardcore fight guys, as terrific as Mayweather is, he's not the Bible of boxing the way he projects himself as being. He came along when there were some other outstanding fighters at or near his weight. Yet, aside from the late Diego Corrales, he's never met any of them when the fight would've confirmed his greatness beyond any shadow of a doubt. And if you're 40 years of age or older, I'm sorry, but that counts against him because he saw to it that it unfolded that way. Every star fighter since Sugar Ray Robinson made a few fights during their career when the risk-reward was heavily in their favor. It's just that none of them made a career out of it like Mayweather has. Which is why he's so sensitive and defensive about it when it's mentioned or written about him.
Looking back, would Mayweather have been at least a slight favorite over Paul Williams, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley, Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto when he and they were at their peak and the bouts could've been made. I'd say yes, with the exception of Williams, who for some reason Mayweather was quiet about and actually retired when Paul was a contender/title holder and challenging Mayweather at 147 every time he had a microphone in front of his mouth.
It would be great to write about Mayweather and laud all that he's exhibited and accomplished as a fighter without bringing up these inconvenient facts, but it can't be done if you're being intellectually honest. See, Floyd has continued to provide his critics and skeptics with legitimate fodder.
Sure, of all the fighters out there between 140-154, Canelo is the most dangerous for Mayweather. So credit Mayweather for fighting him while he's getting better. But once again, making him come in at 152 tilts the field in his favor. If you don't think Alvarez having to weigh-in at 152 or less will affect him, you've never been around world class fighters trying to drain down to make weight. Two pounds is a lot to a young and growing fighter like Alvarez. In addition to that, it's psychological pressure on Canelo that he's never had to deal with before, but oh, that's right, he's fighting Mayweather. So of course it can't be just like every other fight not involving Mayweather, because it does involve him. Once again Mayweather leaves an opening for his critics.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com