What the Stats Say About a Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez Superfight
Analytically massaging the statistics is a huge part of being a sports fan. But in boxing, previous numbers can sometimes have little relevancy to the fight at hand. This is particularly the case with fighters like Saul Alvarez and Floyd Mayweather, who represent unique challenges for each other.
What Alvarez has done against other fighters means relatively little, since nobody he's previously fought has been close to Mayweather in talent and experience. Mayweather has faced fighters with similar skills to Alvarez, but never one so much bigger and younger.
This is professional boxing, though, so ultimately the most important statistic to many involved with this gala will be the pay-per-view buys. The fight could set records, in this regard.
As far as the action in the ring is concerned, the following five stats will play a huge part in telling the story of this fight, and they will drive the conversation leading up to the big event.
The Generation Gap
Saul Alvarez will be 23 on fight night, an age when most fighters are just entering their prime years. Floyd Mayweather will be 36, an age when the majority of fighters are on the other side of them.
Of course, Floyd Mayweather is not most fighters. And there were no signs of an aging fighter when he beat Robert Guerrero by one-sided unanimous decision in May.
Fighters in their late 30s sometimes age seemingly overnight, but Mayweather's technical wizardry is perfectly designed to cover up and disguise any normal signs of aging, such as slower hand speed or a lost step.
Still, Alvarez's status as the younger, hungrier fighter should be the perfect compliment for his bullying, pressure style. He is a very experienced fighter for his age and has looked better each time he has fought. He ran into some difficulties against Austin Trout, but likely learned lessons in that fight, too.
The win over Trout established Alvarez as the obvious top fighter in his division. At 23, he is just reaching the top of his mountain. Mayweather has shown no signs of stumbling from his own peak anytime soon, but at 36, he is clearly moving closer to some kind of edge.
Experience in Title Fights
Saul Alvarez has been a major sensation in Mexico since his teen years, so much of his development as a prize fighter has occurred in the spotlight. Getting thrown into a Floyd Mayweather pay-per-view will not represent the same step up in media attention that it would for most young fighters.
Still, the difference in experience is substantial. Floyd Mayweather has been fighting in title fights since Canelo was a little boy. Mayweather is at that point in his career where he has the benefit of years of experience, coupled with still having all, or most, of his physical tools in tact.
So far Austin Trout is the only world class opponent Alvarez has faced who was in his prime. And that fight represented the same step up for Trout that it did for Canelo.
Shane Mosley is one of the most heralded fighters of his generation, but the version who faced Alvarez was a shadow of his old self. Mayweather is no shadow. He's an extremely experienced champion, still at the top of his game.
This is something Alvarez has not come close to facing. It will likely require him to adjust and do things he has not needed to do before in order to win.
Alvarez's Weight on Fight Night
This fight will be contested at a catch weight of 152 pounds, two below the normal junior middleweight limit of 154. Mayweather has fought twice before at junior middleweight, but never came in above 151 on the scales. In his most recent fights, Alvarez has routinely hydrated up to above 170 pounds.
A 20-pound difference in natural, walk-around weight is enormous for a fighter the size of Mayweather. It's 15 percent of his body weight.
In his recent fights against Victor Ortiz and Miguel Cotto, Mayweather has looked very comfortable hanging out on the ropes, countering his challengers as they looked to press the action. I don't think he will want to do that against Alvarez. Even if he is able to slip and deflect most of Alvarez's offense, he risks getting worn down if he lets Alvarez spend all night leaning those extra 20 pounds on him.
Mayweather is going to want to use movement to keep Alvarez away from him, while looking to walk Canelo back into his deadly-accurate lead right. But moving around, and away from, a much larger fighter can be almost as exhausting as letting him lean on you.
The weight difference on fight night could potentially be one of the most significant stats in this bout. If the size difference was not a very real issue, we would not be seeing the 152-pound catch weight.
Alvarez's Connect Rate to the Body with His Lead Hook
In most of his fights so far, Alvarez has benefited strongly from attacking his opponent's body. He has looked like a classic, pressure-style fighter, stalking his prey, wounding the torso, then looking to end things with the big shots upstairs.
But Austin Trout had a lot of success using movement to largely take away Alvarez's left hook to the body. Canelo was able to adjust and use surprisingly effective head slips and counters to win, anyway. But Alvarez had moments during the fight when he struggled.
Against Mayweather, Alvarez is going to need to rediscover that body shot. There's no way he is winning a slip-and-counter fight with Floyd Mayweather. He's going to need to crowd him, bruise him, and slow him down.
If Alvarez cannot consistently pile up punches to Mayweather's torso, I don't think he has a chance to beat him.
The Difference Between Mayweather and Canelo in Percent of Punches Landed
No statistic in contemporary boxing is as impressive as Floyd Mayweather's percent landed versus his opponents' percent landed. The extremely accurate Mayweather lands well over 40 percent of his punches and his opponents rarely land even close to 20.
According to Compubox founder Bob Canobbio, going into his fight with Miguel Cotto in May of 2012, Mayweather's plus connection rate in his previous nine fights was a whopping 30 points. He had landed 48 percent of his own punches, against his opponents' 18 (via ESPN).
This is the key to his dominance. Mayweather doesn't throw a ton of punches, but he connects often when he does. At the same time, he is very difficult to hit in return.
To have a decent chance to win against Mayweather, Alvarez is going to have to force those numbers closer together, and hit Mayweather a lot more than the pound-for-pound king is used to getting hit.
Alvarez had a very good plus connection rate in his last fight with Trout. While Trout threw more punches, Canelo's percent landed, especially in power shots, was considerably higher. He's a more accurate puncher, and better defender, than he is generally given credit for.
But Mayweather excels in this area in a manner that places him among the greatest of all time. Keeping pace with him will be an entirely new challenge for Canelo.