By Ivan G. Goldman
Mexicans have been very kind to Floyd Mayweather. First, Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez kayoed Manny Pacquiao last year in the 6th round of the last of their four-bout series. The brutal, one-punch knockout finally gave Mayweather a non-ridiculous excuse not to fight Pacquiao, a fighter he’d ducked for years.
It gave Mayweather the opportunity to claim Pacquiao was no longer worthy. How Pacquiao became less worthy than Mayweather’s next opponent, Robert Guerrero, was never completely clear, but Floyd, armed with a lucrative new contract from Showtime, marched to a one-sided decision over Guerrero, who barely laid a glove on him.
Now another Mexican, Canelo Alvarez, brings a big, faithful fan base for their Sept. 14 superfight on the weekend of Mexican Independence Day. He’s bigger and stronger than Floyd and also undefeated. This made it possible for Mayweather to negotiate himself a record $41.5 million guarantee, according to the champion’s right-hand man Leonard Ellerbe. Estimates of his total take, including pay-per-view royalties, reach as high as $90 million.
I spoke with savvy Joe Zanders this week, former head coach of the U.S. amateur team, and he doesn’t think Canelo has enough going for him in this particular match at this particular point in his career. Zanders thought the catch weight of 152 could be a bigger problem than his team lets on. He also called Alvarez “a flat-footed fighter” who doesn’t show the footwork or the credentials it would take to topple Floyd from his throne. “Who has he beat?” he said.
So I looked back at his record. Alvarez, 42-0 -1 (30 KOs), owns victories over Austin Trout, aging Shane Mosley, Kermit Cintron, Carlos Baldomir, and the brothers of Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton. Among fighters who gave him trouble was Cotto brother Jose Miguel Cotto. Zanders thinks the Trout fight was much closer than the scores showed. But Canelo is a serious puncher, and the force of his attack – along with his propensity to throw in bunches — has kept him undefeated.
Mayweather, 44-0 (26 KOs), owns victories over Diego Corrales, the actual Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton, plus Guerrero, Victor Ortiz, Marquez, Zab Judah, Arturo Gatti, Jesus Chavez, Jose Luis Castillo, DeMarcus Corley, Baldomir, and aging versions of Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya.
Giving Mayweather trouble was Castillo in their first fight (Castillo got robbed), Cotto, Oscar in the 12th round, and Emanuel Augustus. In a contest that’s been largely forgotten, Augustus stayed in Floyd’s face, flustered him, and had some good moments until he got stopped in the 9th round.
Alvarez’s career is reminiscent of young Oscar’s when it was handled by a masterly Bob Arum. He and his chief matchmaker Bruce Trampler found De La Hoya opponents who were too old or too small to have much chance, but could still be halfway convincing as they promised to annihilate him during the pre-fight marketing campaign. But after picking low-hanging fruit, they took gambles with opponents like Felix Trinidad. Mayweather, to be sure, is Canelo’s biggest gamble to date.
My feeling is that it’s a little early to put the young Mexican superstar into a fight of this magnitude, but I also understand why his team took the chance. If they waited, someone else might come along and beat an aging Floyd and there might not be anyone around to offer them that kind of money again for years. It’s been widely reported that Alvarez has been guaranteed $12.5 million and that it could go quite a bit higher.
Ideally, Canelo should first have fought more of the guys that Floyd beat, particularly Cotto. That would have been a great match-up. But it’s basically impossible to time these events exactly the way you’d like them to go. The deal was on the table. Showtime wanted to show off its new partner Mayweather in a superfight. Also, Canelo, although only 23, seems to have acquired the kind of calm, abiding personality that will allow him to forget about all the rest and go in there and be his best in the ring. Unlike, say, Ortiz, he’s emotionally ready for Mayweather. If he loses, he’s young enough so he can still forge a great career.
But bear in mind that Floyd, 36, is not only super-talented. He’s tough. Zanders recalls working his corner in international competition when Floyd severely hurt his hand against a Romanian. Floyd “lost, but he wouldn’t quit,” said Zanders. The Canelo team wouldn’t be exactly sorry to see a similar ending Sept. 14.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in June 2013 by Potomac Books. It can be purchased here.