Showtime’s All Access (and before that, HBO’s 24/7) delights in telling us the same Floyd Mayweather story, over and over. He works hard, plays hard. He lives in an awesome mansion, drives awesome cars, and has a perpetual hip-hop soundtrack playing behind his every move.
The opponents come and go. They don’t really matter and haven’t really mattered since Oscar De la Hoya in the very first 24/7. This is The Mayweather Show and as long as he keeps winning and selling pay-per-views, nobody else will matter.
The problem with The Mayweather Show, however, is that the list of available co-stars is running low. The five-division world champ has beaten everyone worth beating and is shut off by boxing politics from facing anyone employed by former promoter Bob Arum. So, unless we’re talking fantasy league BS like “Money” vs. Andre Ward or Gennady Golovkin, Mayweather’s list of real and bankable opposition is down to one.
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Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez is like no other 23-year-old you’ll ever meet. At five years of age he began helping his father at their ice cream/paleta business. By eight, he was a full-time employee. By thirteen, he was out of school and training full-time for a career as a professional fighter. By fifteen he was a professional prizefighter. By sixteen he was a father. And by seventeen, he was a local attraction in Guadalajara with his own promotional company and small stable of fighters.
The story goes that a child Canelo, just getting his feet wet in the fight business, would often cry during sparring sessions against other children, not because he was losing or because he was getting hit, but he would cry out of frustration— because he wanted to be great and his body couldn’t yet do what he wanted it to do.
On paper, Canelo shouldn’t be a match for Mayweather. Not yet, anyway. His footwork is too clumsy, his approach is too conventional. There’s nothing in his body of work that would suggest a readiness for the craft and guile of someone like Mayweather. But, mentally, the kid is cast iron tough and laser beam focused. That, alone, makes him dangerous– at least in terms of being able to execute a coherent game plan and not fall into a state of quiet resignation, like most Mayweather opponents do. And, physically, he’s a big, strong kid, who will actually understand what it means to be a big, strong kid thirteen years younger and twenty pounds heavier than his opponent.
But most of all, Saul Alvarez is dangerous because he deeply and truly believes that he can win.
While past Mayweather opponents gave lip service to winning, it was hard to believe that they didn’t know the real deal, deep down inside. Did Robert Guerrero, who had a relatively tough time with Selcuk Aydin less than a year before his Mayweather bout, really envision himself beating the world’s best? Or how about a battle-weary Miguel Cotto or Victor Ortiz, he of the frazzled psyche? Yes, they all wanted to win and all had prepared to win, but only they can tell you if they really, truly felt that they were in for anything more than a big payday and a game try at solving the Mayweather riddle.
For the last several years, Mayweather bouts have become more like exhibitions of his greatness than actual prizefights. The questions posed had little to do with if he’d win, but were more along the lines of how he’d win and what he’d do next. And since reaching his mid-thirties, the question of “how much longer” has been added to the list.
This time, most of the questions surrounding this Saturday’s fight center around the actual fight. What happens if/when Alvarez connects with something hard? Are Mayweather’s legs and reflexes up to doing what he needs to do in order to win? If not, does he have the power to deter his much larger foe? Will Alvarez deliver true to form and execute his game plan like the mental juggernaut he seems to be? Will the 152 lb. catchweight clause rob Alvarez of enough juice to make a difference? And, maybe, most importantly, will the behind-the-scenes power brokers of the sport interject themselves to force a passing of the torch?
The battle begins with Canelo Alvarez, though. Forget the despicable collusion between Golden Boy and the WBC that brought him his junior middleweight world title and focus on the kid who turned his red hair and freckles from a perceived abnormality into a bankable asset. Focus on the kid who runs a small empire and has conquered everything and everyone in his way. Focus on the young fighter who has improved with each fight and seems to augment his ring IQ with each passing round.
This will be a fight, not an exhibition because self-doubt and quiet resignation are completely foreign to Alvarez’s character.
In boxing, it doesn’t necessarily take greatness to beat greatness. All it takes is the right frame of mind and the right approach. Sometimes, it only takes one brief moment during thirty-six minutes of combat to achieve the seemingly impossible. Sometimes mind over matter is more than just a saying.
“I’ve visualized this moment thousands of times,” Alvarez told Sipse.com, shortly after the Mayweather bout had been signed. “I see myself winning the fight. It’s hard to explain, but I see myself with my hands held high, belts draped over me.”
You can email Paul at email@example.com or watch as he fails spectacularly at being mainstream. Paul is a full member of the Burger King Kids’ Club, a born iconoclast, and an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church.
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