What if Canelo can't beat Mayweather?
In just over two months, undefeated Mexican superstar Saul "Canelo" Alvarez will enter the ring at the MGM Grand and attempt to become the first man to defeat Floyd Mayweather.
It's easier said than done.
Canelo appears supremely confident in his abilities, and why not? He's the biggest, strongest and most physically dangerous opponent of Mayweather's illustrious 17-year career.
As usual, when it comes to Mayweather, boxing pundits are tripping over one another to make the argument about why this is the opponent who has what it takes. Canelo is the one Mayweather never wanted to face, and he is the one who will finally defeat him.
We've all seen this show before—how many articles were written singing the praises of Robert Guerrero—and nobody is saying he can't or won't win the fight.
Canelo is just 22 years old, and win or lose, he should have many quality years of boxing ahead of him. Mexican fans have bought into him as more than a boxing icon. They've embraced him as a national hero.
That's a lot of pressure for a young fighter to handle.
He has the hopes and dreams of an entire fighting-crazed nation riding on his performance on Sept. 14.
With a win, he'd immediately join the annals of great Mexican champions who came before him. He'd be mentioned in the same sentence with Julio Cesar Chavez, Salvador Sanchez and Ruben Olivares. Not in accomplishments yet but certainly in popularity.
Does this sound like an overreach? It isn't, and all you need to do is look at the crowds that Canelo attracts wherever he goes for proof. He's a rock star, and if he wins, the sky's the limit.
But what happens if he loses?
What if, after the dust settles on Sept. 14, he's just the 44th man to fail to take away Mayweather's zero?
Will that slow, or even kill, his meteoric rise to the top of the sport?
It all depends on how he loses, and a lot of that has to do with the mixed bag of opinions that exist about Canelo's actual accomplishments and abilities in the ring.
If Canelo loses a close fight but isn't outclassed, his stock will still rise. It will give credence to those who have been adamant that he's not just a creation of the Golden Boy Promotions hype machine.
The naysayers, of which there are plenty, will be forced to give him some credit for overperforming, in their eyes, against the greatest boxer of this generation.
It would be similar to what happened to Miguel Cotto when he dropped a clear but spirited unanimous decision against Mayweather last May. Cotto, who was considered to be on the down slope before the bout, received a bit of a career bump from his performance in a losing effort.
Granted, Canelo's stock would rise further with a win, and he's on a different end of the career spectrum than Cotto, but a close defeat could still benefit him in the long run.
Oddly enough, he might even get more credit for a close loss than for a close win.
Many are already lining up to dismiss a potential Mayweather defeat by pointing out that Canelo is too big, Mayweather is too small, and the fight is too risky for Floyd.
The worst-case scenario for Canelo is walking into the ring and getting totally outclassed.
If Mayweather makes him look clumsy and plodding, beats him to the punch all night and wins another 117-111 unanimous decision, it could be devastating for the Mexican's career.
It would serve as cause for all the criticisms of Canelo, which were somewhat silenced by his victory over Austin Trout, to resurface.
He's beaten a collection of stiffs and fighters who were smaller and past their primes.
He's nothing more than a hype job created by Golden Boy whose talents in the ring don't match his marketability outside of it.
It's the nightmare scenario for both Canelo and his promoters. With a win, the possibilities are endless, but the wrong kind of loss could completely force the train off the rails.
That's the ultimate risk and reward of this fight. And that's what makes boxing, and this fight in particular, so intriguing.
A win would obviously be best, but a loss doesn't necessarily mean the end of the world.
Canelo just needs to prove he belongs.