It’s fight week in Las Vegas.
At the risk of stealing thunder from the final episode of Showtime’s behind-the-scenes documentary that’s due to air in a few days, a few storylines have emerged above all others as the promotional circus that began months ago winds down.
The overall particulars haven’t changed at all.
Consensus pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. will risk both his position and his 44-fight win streak when he faces Mexican heartthrob Canelo Alvarez, 13 years his junior, for the collection of title belts each man possesses at 154 pounds.
Alvarez (42-0-1) won the WBC’s slice of the super welterweight pie with a unanimous decision over Matthew Hatton in March 2011 and added the WBA’s “world” championship by unanimously defeating Austin Trout over 12 spirited rounds in his last fight five months ago.
Mayweather, as business partner Leonard Ellerbe frequently reminded us during the kickoff media tour in June and July, remains the WBA’s “super” champion at 154 thanks to his defeat of Miguel Cotto in 2012.
It was his second win and second title at 154, following a split verdict against Oscar De La Hoya that gave him the WBC crown in 2007. Four fighters—including Sergio Martinez (2008-09) and Manny Pacquiao (2010)—held the WBC belt between Mayweather and Alvarez.
Mayweather also holds the WBC title at welterweight thanks to a defeat of Victor Ortiz in September 2011. He is expected to pursue future fights at 147 pounds if he wins Saturday.
For the other topics to be discussed this week, read on...
Weight and See
The biggest moment of drama prior to Saturday night’s opening bell comes 24 hours before at the weigh-in, where the world will see the results of Alvarez’s attempt to make the contractually agreed-upon 152-pound catchweight—two pounds beneath the division’s limit.
The mere mention of the phrase “catchweight” brings both camps to a boil. Mayweather’s side insists that Alvarez suggested the revised limit to get the fight made, while Team Alvarez, and specifically the fighter himself, refuted that during Showtime's third All-Access episode.
“That’s a complete lie," said Alvarez. "They wanted me to drop the weight. They were the ones crying about the weight. They know it very well.”
Assuming he makes the number, 152 would be the lightest the 5’8” Alvarez has weighed in for a fight since the aforementioned defeat of Hatton three years ago. He’d been a regular at 147 and below for the early portions of his career: He weighed 139 for his pro debut in 2005 and exceeded 147 only 11 times in his first 36 matches.
Outside of the title wins over De La Hoya (150) and Cotto (151), Mayweather’s entire career has been spent at 147 and below. He debuted at 131 pounds a few months after winning a medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and didn’t reach 140 until a unanimous decision over DeMarcus Corley nearly eight years later.
He’s 10-0 with three knockouts in fights for which he’s weighed in above 140 pounds, with the stoppages coming against Sharmba Mitchell, Ricky Hatton and Ortiz.
The arrival of any Mayweather fight carries a certain element of down-the-road forecasting.
He hadn’t even exited the ring after a clinical 12-round defeat of Robert Guerrero in May before the chatter began about who’d be opponent No. 2 in the lucrative six-fight deal he signed with Showtime. Most assumed it’d be Alvarez, who had beaten Trout a few weeks earlier.
This time, assuming all goes well with Alvarez—Mayweather is just shy of 3-1 favorite status at sports.bovada.lv—the case isn’t quite so easily made.
Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza mentioned a handful of names in an interview during the Mayweather-Alvarez press tour in June, but it may not be until the final undercard bout—between 140-pounders Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse—is decided that a front-runner emerges.
The first name out of Espinoza’s mouth that day? Lucas Matthysse.
An Argentine slugger with 32 knockouts in 34 wins, Matthysse is also just shy of a 3-1 favorite to beat Garcia for the WBA and WBC titles at super lightweight, a victory that would provide much of the street cred necessary to make a match with Mayweather plausible.
A rematch with Alvarez remains a possibility depending on the result—and the pay-per-view sales—of Saturday’s main event, while others Espinoza suggested include welterweight contender Marcos Maidana, former 140-pound champion Amir Khan, Ortiz and middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.
The timing of the match with Alvarez constitutes a break with recent tradition for Mayweather, who’s been one of the sport’s least active big names in recent years.
If all goes as planned Saturday, it will be the first time Mayweather has fought twice in the same calendar year since 2007, when he defeated De La Hoya in May and stopped then-unbeaten Ricky Hatton in December.
Additionally, the four-month, 10-day turnaround since the Guerrero fight is his shortest between two fights since he beat Diego Corrales (TKO 10) and Carlos Hernandez (UD 12) on Jan. 20 and May 26, 2001, respectively.
Still, where some see the cracks of age, Mayweather intones the value of experience, like when he said on Showtime's first All Access episode:
It makes me feel good that a guy like Canelo was young, coming up watching me. He, of course, admired me as a kid. I’ve seen him fight a few times, seen him roll his shoulder. I’ve seen him try to use some of my defensive moves. My job is to go out there and just don’t let him use none of my moves on me.
Keep It Together
Though he’s been a pro for eight years and a champion for three, it’s safe to say Alvarez has seen nothing at all resembling the circus that he’ll be a part of during a significant Vegas fight week.
The 23-year-old has fought just three times in the Nevada desert. First, he defeated Jose Cotto on the Mayweather-Shane Mosley undercard at the MGM Grand in 2010, and in 2012 he won fights there against Shane Mosley and Josesito Lopez, the latter atop his own card.
The win over Lopez was a ratings bonanza for Showtime Championship Boxing on premium cable, but as Mayweather has frequently mentioned, Alvarez has not been involved with anything approaching the level of pay-per-view status his imminent foe has achieved.
Canelo drew nearly 40,000 fans to San Antonio for the fight with Trout in April. But trainer Eddie Reynoso warned during Showtime’s second All Access piece that the youngster is going to have to be ready for more when it comes to meeting Mayweather in the year’s biggest ring spectacle.
“You have to stay focused when you see him acting like a fu*king clown, and when he gets in the ring with 30 other clowns,” he said.