By Ivan G. Goldman
The Floyd Mayweather team boasts of all the world champions its fighter has defeated. The number fluctuates, sometimes a dozen, sometimes 15. Chief trainer Floyd Senior recently said 18. The confusion is understandable. There are lots of titles, some more legitimate than others.
But whatever the number of fallen champions he’s left behind, the foundation of these claims is not all in Floyd’s favor. It points up the one big chink in his armor — he’s beaten all those guys by having been around a long, long time. Yes, Floyd whupped the late, great Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez to win the WBC super featherweight title. But that was 1998. Bill Clinton hadn’t even been impeached yet. Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq and LeBron James was entering high school. Canelo Alvarez was eight years old.
Mayweather is 36, an age generally considered way past athletic prime. Thanks to his great defense and infrequent outings over the last several years (He’s fought only seven times in the least six years), he’s not a beat-up 36. Manny Pacquiao, who’s two years younger and loves to exchange, has absorbed way more punches and competed in 17 more fights, 61 to Floyd’s 44 (he’s 44-0 (26 KOs). At the tender age of 23, Alvarez, who turned pro at 15, already has 43 fights (42-0-1 (30 KOs).
Canelo, who learned as he went along, may well have taken more punches than Mayweather. As a gifted amateur, Floyd learned to fashion a tricky defense early. Alvarez’s footwork and defensive moves didn’t jell until later in his career. “Money,” very hard to hit, will go down as one of the greatest defensive fighters in the history of the sport. But defense without offense is useless, and Floyd can hurt people. He’s left a trail of busted-up fighters, including Robert Guerrero, whom he decisioned in his previous outing. Few of Mayweather’s bouts are even close.
Also, Floyd is extremely health conscious. He doesn’t smoke, drink, or eat junk. The most unhealthy thing we know about him doing in the last few years was to serve two months in the Clark County jail for domestic abuse. He seemed startled to learn he’d have to drink tap water.
Just in case anybody develops an itch to cheat, the bout on Saturday is being supervised by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. It’s a respected group that samples blood and urine unannounced and controls testing for the U.S. Olympic agency. But its standards are generally considered less stringent than those of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA), the brainchild of experienced, respected ring physician Margaret Goodman.
Interestingly, Pacquiao, who Mayweather used to routinely accuse of taking banned substances, has, along with Brandon Rios, submitted to rigorous VADA supervision for their Nov. 23 showdown in Macau, China. Last year Mayweather settled a defamation suit filed by Pacquiao, presumably paying him millions as he issued his public apology.
We can assume both Alvarez and Mayweather will be primed and ready, trained but not overtrained. Canelo will try to work the body and set his opponent up for a big shot to be followed by a combination intended to finish him. Floyd will try to move around and make Canelo hit only Las Vegas air with his power shots, to tire him, and gradually whittle him down with right-hand leads that frustrate and hurt him. We know what both fighters do. What remains to be seen is who will execute.
As for their following, Mayweather generates mostly admiration and respect for his skills while Alvarez stirs love. Die-hard Mayweather fans hate to see it mentioned, but he has a long rap sheet, much of it involving violence against women. When he hits the talk show circuit that history is a silent four-hundred-pound gorilla sitting next to him. It prevents him from landing meaningful endorsement contracts and sets a certain percentage of the public against him. Floyd makes use of this. If people pay hoping to see him lose, he still gets paid.
Floyd will put a new feather in his legacy cap or take a fall that will thunder around the world. Alvarez will dethrone the king or go back to an adoring public in Mexico, and, thanks to his youth and perseverance, move into a commanding position later.
Latest Las Vegas odds: Alvarez + 225, Mayweather – 270. They’ve remained fairly static even after all the Mexican fans have hit town with their Canelo wagers.
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.
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