Throughout Boxing history there have always been fighters
that have come to define a certain time period and have become the face of the
sport. Whether it was Sugar Ray Robinson
one of the sport’s biggest stars in the 1950’s, Muhammad Ali who became the face
of the sport during the 1960’s and 1970’s, on through to Sugar Ray Leonard who was
a focal point in the 1980’s and Oscar De La Hoya in the 1990’s and early
2000’s, Boxing has always had a central figure or two that defined an era.
In the last several years an argument should be made that a
fighter that has come to define the current era of the sport of Boxing is Floyd
Mayweather. Mayweather has emerged as
one of Boxing’s legitimate superstars defeating a who’s who of the sport
including Arturo Gatti, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Zab Judah, and Miguel
Cotto just to name a few. This has solidified Mayweather as the sport’s top pay-per-view
draw, rivaled only by fellow superstar Manny Pacquiao.
There may be a difference of opinion in regard to whether or
not Mayweather’s legacy might be somewhat diminished due to a potential mega
fight with Pacquiao not being made. This observer has said over the years that
it was my opinion that a fight between the two should happen as both were
considered to be the best pound for pound fighters in their era. For a long
time if one were to consider Floyd Mayweather the number one pound for pound
fighter in the world, it was hard not to say that Manny Pacquiao would be
considered 1-A or, vice versa.
This has changed somewhat due to Manny Pacquiao losing his
last two fights. A controversial decision loss to Timothy Bradley in June of
last year followed by a devastating one punch knockout loss in his fourth fight
with Juan Manuel Marquez last December. Although many observers, this one
included feel that Pacquiao was the victim of injustice in his decision loss to
Tim Bradley, based on his loss to Marquez and the devastating manner in which
that loss occurred; Manny Pacquiao one might argue has been knocked down a few
rungs in most pound for pound ratings. It is hard not to argue based on Manny
Pacquiao’s setbacks that Floyd Mayweather is the undisputed number one fighter
pound for pound in the world.
Mayweather’s style which puts an emphasis on defense and
lateral movement has continued to befuddle all opponents placed before him. What
makes Mayweather’s elusiveness so frustrating is his ability to time his
opponents with near surgical precision. The ability to block the majority of an
opponent’s offense with his trademark shoulder roll defense and fire fast and
accurate counter punches. Although
Mayweather’s style may not always be crowd pleasing, for Boxing purists it is
enjoyable to watch. Boxing after all is
a sport where the objective is to hit and not be hit and for someone who can
put all the facets of what makes a boxer great. Great defense and lateral
movement, precision timing, and hand speed, working in near perfect
synchronization is a pleasure to watch.
Mayweather however has been tested at various stages of his
career. One of the most notable tests
was when Mayweather defeated Jose Luis Castillo in 2002 for the WBC World Lightweight
championship. In that fight although
Mayweather controlled the early rounds, Castillo was able to make up ground in
the middle rounds due to his ability to land to the body and head of
Mayweather. The fight was very close
with a wide difference of opinion among fans and experts alike as to who won
the bout. In my opinion, I felt that
although the fight was close that perhaps Castillo’s effective aggression in
the middle rounds was enough to defeat Mayweather by a narrow margin. It was
however, a very close fight that could have gone either way. Mayweather would
silence all doubt as to who won that fight by convincingly beating Castillo in
a rematch later that year.
In 2007, Mayweather took part in what would become the
richest fight in Boxing history when he defeated Oscar De La Hoya in a closely
fought tactical battle that also had a difference of opinion among fans and
experts alike as to who won the fight. Unfortunately for Boxing fans, there
would be no rematch between the two legends as Mayweather would briefly retire
in 2008 followed by De La Hoya who retired in 2009.
Mayweather’s dominance in the sport resumed when he returned
to the ring in 2009 scoring a dominant twelve round unanimous decision over
Juan Manuel Marquez. Following a convincing unanimous decision over Shane
Mosley, and a knockout win over Victor Ortiz, Mayweather would fight Miguel
Cotto in May of last year.
Much like his fight with Oscar De La Hoya, Mayweather’s
fight against Cotto was a tactical battle in which both fighters had their say.
Mayweather generally got off first with his punches and was able to win rounds
that were very close simply by getting off first. Cotto’s defense however, was
very solid as he was able to block a lot of Mayweather’s punches. Cotto also
had a significant period in the middle rounds where he was the more effective
of the two fighters, periodically landing his jab and pushing Mayweather back
to the ropes and landing shots to the body. Cotto however, was not able to
maintain the momentum he had built in the middle rounds of the fight allowing
Mayweather to make the necessary adjustments to win the late rounds and secure
An argument could and perhaps should be made that out of
Mayweather’s forty-four professional fights that the most competitive of those
fights where Mayweather was in danger of losing at some point came against
Castillo, De La Hoya, and Cotto. One thing that was noticeable upon his return
in 2009 was that Mayweather was starting to get hit a little more than he was hit
earlier in his career. This can be attributed to Mayweather being more willing
to engage with his opponents.
Mayweather however, showed earlier this year in his last
fight against Robert Guerrero in defending his WBC World Welterweight
championship that the lateral movement and great defense complemented with
precision timing and hand speed were all there and that his skills had not
diminished simply because fighters have found ways to land more on Mayweather
in recent fights. After what was a dominating performance in his fight with
Guerrero, talk almost immediately began about a potential fight between
Mayweather and undefeated fellow Jr. Middleweight champion Saul Alvarez, holder
of the WBC title. A fight that would be signed a short time following Mayweather’s
win over Guerrero.
Alvarez is thirteen years Mayweather’s junior however, has
only had two less fights than Mayweather since beginning his career in 2005.
Alvarez fights in a measured tactical Boxing style that has proven to be quite
entertaining to watch. A valid point going into this fight could be that
despite Alvarez’ impressive record of 42-0-1, with 30 knockouts, despite wins
over former world champions Carlos Baldomir and Shane Mosley, the argument of
some could be that Alvarez fought both fighters at declining stages of their
Alvarez however, has consistently looked impressive no
matter the opposition and an argument could also be made that realistically a
fight with Floyd Mayweather is the best fight out there for him at this stage
of his career. In his last bout, Alvarez defeated previously unbeaten Jr.
Middleweight Austin Trout who held interim/regular status in the WBA’s Jr.
Middleweight ratings. What makes that noteworthy is that Floyd Mayweather is
recognized as champion or, “Super” champion by the WBA per Mayweather’s victory
over former champion Miguel Cotto last year.
The political landscape of the sport’s governing bodies
notwithstanding; the Mayweather-Alvarez fight is really a win/win for all involved,
the fighters, the promoters, but most importantly of all Boxing fans. For Floyd
Mayweather this fight is another opportunity to prove that he is the best pound
for pound fighter in the sport by defeating Boxing’s newest superstar. For Saul
Alvarez, this fight is an opportunity to prove to any skeptics that he is an
elite level fighter and should he be able to pull off what no other fighter has
been able to against Floyd Mayweather, his place among the sport’s pound for
pound ratings will be assured.
Besides the classic scenario of youth versus experience that
this fight presents, it also presents an interesting style match up. It will be
interesting to see whether or not Floyd Mayweather will fight in a similar way
as he did against Robert Guerrero where he used great lateral movement,
defense, timing, elusiveness, and hand speed which allowed him to consistently
beat Guerrero to the punch and make Guerrero miss his punches for the majority
of twelve rounds or, if Mayweather will be willing to engage with Alvarez as he
did against Miguel Cotto.
For Alvarez the key in my eyes is whether he can bring the
fight to Mayweather from the outset. Fighters like José Luis Castillo, Oscar De
La Hoya, and Miguel Cotto all were able to have periods of success against
Mayweather. One might argue that each made tactical errors in their bouts with
Mayweather which allowed Mayweather to make the necessary adjustments in order
In thinking about how Alvarez can be successful in this
fight I thought back to Mayweather’s fight with Miguel Cotto and how Cotto was
able to find a home for his jab periodically on Mayweather’s face and had
success pushing Mayweather back and throwing to his body. In the eighth round of
that fight, Cotto was practically glued to Mayweather landing hard body shots
and did not let Mayweather get off first or give him room to breathe. It was
the best round of the fight for Cotto in my opinion. The mistake Cotto made
however, was after the eighth round he was not able to press Mayweather in the
same way that he was able to in the middle rounds and was unable to capitalize
on the momentum he was able to build. Cotto was also not consistent in throwing
his jab enough throughout the fight, despite the success that he was able to
have when he did throw his jab. This allowed Mayweather to regain control of
the fight and win a unanimous decision.
It is critical in the view of this observer that Alvarez put
pressure on Mayweather from the outset. Alvarez needs to be consistent in
throwing his jab and needs to consistently push Mayweather back. Alvarez has
also shown that he can be a devastating body puncher as he was in his fight
with Josesito Lopez. If Alvarez can successfully cut the ring off, nullify
Mayweather’s movement, and land more than occasionally to Mayweather’s body he
could be successful in this fight. If Alvarez has trouble neutralizing
Mayweather’s lateral movement however, it could be a difficult night for him as
it has been for so many previous Mayweather opponents.
The bout between Floyd Mayweather and Saul Alvarez is likely
to break all pay-per-view records in existence due in large part to both
fighters’ star power. What should not be overlooked however, for a fighter in
Floyd Mayweather who has periodically been accused of picking “Hand picked”
opponents that the choice to face Saul Alvarez was a dangerous option. An
option that some might say he did not have to take. As the best fighter pound
for pound in the world however, a fight like this was necessary for someone of
Mayweather’s status. Regardless of what one’s opinion of Floyd Mayweather, he
has had a Hall of Fame career and has faced the cream of the crop of his era.
Regardless of what happens against Saul Alvarez, this fight is another chapter
in that Hall of Fame career.
It is my hope
however, as the Boxing world prepares for another “Super Fight” that the sport
of Boxing will at least for one night be spared from any controversy or would be
black eyes that all too often plague the sport. It is my hope that the
spotlight will shine on these two fighters and regardless of who emerges
victorious that the ultimate winners will be the Boxing fans and the sport of
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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