Mayweather vs. Alvarez: Will Superfight Fuel Boxing's Comeback?

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Mayweather vs. Alvarez: Will Superfight Fuel Boxing's Comeback?

Boxing has supposedly been dying since your great-grandparents' day, when Jack Johnson demolished the great white hope, Jim Jeffries, before a stunned nation. The incursion of African-Americans, it was said, would kill the sport in a matter of years.

They claimed it was dying in your grandparents' day, when televised fights bit into local club action and threatened the sport's infrastructure. Beyond the systemic problems, none of the fighters compared favorably to Jack Dempsey, the greatest of them all.

It was dying in your parents' generation, when Larry Holmes and a cast of pretenders tried to fill Muhammad Ali's giant shoes. New commercial stars like Ray Mancini and Sugar Ray Leonard were just flashes in the pan and, without them, boxing didn't have the voltage to stay on network television.

To this day, boxing is still allegedly dying. Pundits have all but buried the sport over and over again. This time the culprit is politics, stagnant matchmaking and diva-rich fighters like Floyd Mayweather who call their own shots.

It's hard to unring a bell, recall an ambulance or overcome the persistent power of the Internet echo chamber.

Persistent success over the years couldn't stop the talk. Canelo Alvarez putting nearly 40,000 fans in the Alamodome for his fight with Austin Trout barely caused pundits to pause between condemnations of the sport. Astounding success overseas, with the Klitschko brothers continuing to fascinate German fight fans and Carl Froch replacing Ricky Hatton in England?

It's like anything outside the States never happened at all.

Just like Richard Nixon in China, only Floyd Mayweather was powerful enough to put a halt to the discussion of boxing's demise. After all, he was a big part of the problem. Right or wrong, fingers have always pointed at him as the roadblock preventing the fight of the century with Manny Pacquiao.

It was up to Floyd to fix what he had helped break, to pick up a shovel and dig the coffin from the grave, prove the corpse was still breathing and restore order to his kingdom.

Love him or hate him, Mayweather has stepped up to the plate and is swinging for the fences. He whiffed badly with the Pacquiao fight, failing to deliver the bout fans craved for years. This time, Floyd didn't intend to let an opportunity slip through his fingers.

What the fight fans wanted—more than any other, even the great Pacquiao—was a showdown with Alvarez, the top Mexican star in the world. It was a fight most were skeptical about ever seeing.

Mayweather, with a single tweet, proved all the critics wrong.

"I chose my opponent for September 14th and it's Canelo Alvarez," he wrote. "I'm giving the fans what they want."

At 36, Floyd's not content to glide into retirement, coasting on a string of undersized contenders like Robert Guerrero. Mayweather could have picked anyone, but he chose the biggest, scrappiest dog in the pound for a fight the Las Vegas Review-Journal has reported will be contested at a catch weight of 152 pounds.

 

Al Bello/Getty Images

Alvarez will be, by far, the largest man Floyd has ever fought. A legitimate 154-pounder, he will likely top the scales at over 170 pounds on fight night. Floyd rarely even approaches 150 pounds, giving the challenger (who turns 23 in July) a 20-pound edge. 

Unlike Guerrero, who seemed overmatched from the start, Alvarez is a true test for this generation's greatest boxer. He's already racked up 42 wins and proved himself against top competition.

It's a classic battle—youth, size and gumption against consummate skill, technique and blazing speed. And, once again, it's a fight that will, at least temporarily, dispel the myth that boxing is a dying sport.

Although it isn't likely to approach Mayweather's pay-per-view record set against Oscar De La Hoya, it is a fight that should attract well over a million buys. And it's not alone. In Europe, the sport continues to hold off advances from mixed martial arts, while Pacquiao will attempt to reinvigorate an Asian marketplace that has long been a sleeping giant.

Does Canelo have a chance against Mayweather?

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Here at home, compelling fights abound, now on two different premium networks. Showtime has become the home of the most compelling fights in the world, but HBO's time-tested power to make stars gives hope that a new generation of superstars will emerge.

There is reason for boxing fans to be hopeful. An Alvarez win ushers in a new-generation superstar, much in the way that victories over De La Hoya established Pacquiao and Mayweather as top draws. A Mayweather win further establishes the legacy of an all-time great, and potential bouts with Pacquiao and Adrien Broner remain.

Either way, boxing wins. Thanks, Floyd.

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