By Ivan G. Goldman
The best thing the Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez card has going for it is the junior welterweight co-feature of Danny Garcia versus Lucas Matthysse. Even if the main event is a snoozer, Garcia-Matthysse is one of those can’t miss attractions, featuring two talented world-beaters who love to go at it. Golden Boy Promotions deserves credit for making the match, which means one of its fighters will lose. It promotes Garcia and owns a piece of Matthysse’s contract.
Most forecasters pick Matthysse, 34-2 (32 KOs), the puncher out of Argentina who comes equipped with two sledgehammer fists. But that’s precisely why Philly fighter Garcia, 26-0 (16 KOs) wants him. How can you not love this Garcia kid? He figures he’s the best 140-pounder in the world and plans to prove it. Latest Las Vegas line – Garcia + 200, Matthysse – 250. A hundred on Garcia wins $200. Two hundred fifty on Matthysse wins $100.
The card figures to pull in the most money of any in history, but no, the main event is not, as Mayweather’s chief cook and bottle-washer Leonard Ellerbe boasts, the most-anticipated match-up in history. For starters, has Ellerbe ever heard of Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier in the Garden? Chairman of the Board Frank Sinatra had to hire out as a photographer to get a decent seat. And it turned out to be a great fight, as everyone knew it would. Which brings us to Saturday night. Will the main event be worth the record $75 high-def pay-per-view price? Nobody knows. Not even the fighters.
If you look at recent history you find this will be Mayweather’s eighth bout in the last six years. Some have lacked excitement (De La Hoya and Guerrero) and some didn’t (Cotto, Hatton). One was downright weird (Ortiz). Only two (Hatton, Ortiz) ended in stoppages.
Since Cinco de Mayo of 2007, when Mayweather won a split decision over Oscar in the biggest money fight in history, Canelo, 42-0-1 (32 KOs), has competed 32 times. He broke into prominence in January 2009 when he won the vacant NABF title by stopping Antonio Fitch in the first round. He was 18 years old and had turned pro three years earlier.
Mayweather, 42-0 (30 KOs), looked like his legs were going against Cotto, who was able to back him up to the ropes again and again. On the other hand, he fought beautifully off the ropes. Cornering Floyd is like cornering a whirlwind. Now what?
Then in Floyd’s next outing, against Robert Guerrero, Mayweather’s legs were back. He was the complete package again, often making Guerrero, an excellent welterweight, look like a novice. But Mayweather’s brittle hands prevented him, he said, later, from going in for the kill.
In Alvarez’s last outing, against Austin Trout, he showed his power by knocking tough Trout to the canvas in round seven, but he seemed to tire in the later rounds. If Canelo lacks conditioning, then we have to wonder whether his youth is really an advantage. I’m guessing that it is. When two top-notch athletes go at it, it’s better to have 23-year-old legs than 36-year-old legs. Canelo’s superior punching power is also an advantage.
But we know that whatever Canelo brings, Floyd has seen it before. The question is whether he still have the tools to deal with it. Probably. Which is one reason why the oddsmakers make it + 220 Alvarez, – 280 Mayweather. Canelo doesn’t have Mayweather’s big-fight experience, but he knows he can overcome problems inside the ring. And when he gets his man in trouble he’s not overcome by the moment. He acts methodically and explosively. It makes him a very live underdog.
But if Canelo’s strategy begins to fail, he must have the will to keep coming, possibly switching tactics mid-fight. Floyd’s critics say he will run all night, but he didn’t run from Cotto. He kept punching. Both fighters have come back from adversity to achieve victory.
Alvarez’s style is similar to Cotto’s. They’re great body punchers who look for angles. Mayweather cuts off those angles. If his opponent lets him.
The odds in this junior middleweight championship contest also favor a distance fight. If you want to bet on the match going over 9 and a half rounds you have to put up $450 to win $100.
Postscript: Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya announced he has checked himself into a clinic for treatment of his substance abuse problems and will not be ringside in Las Vegas Saturday night. May this great champion achieve victory over this awful illness.
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.