Saturday's bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. will make Saul "Canelo" Alvarez stronger, regardless of the outcome.
As the 23-year-old Mexican gets set for battle with the 36-year-old legend, he still has a lot to learn, but he does appear to be learning.
Alvarez is a tactical, quick, powerful puncher, but one of his weaknesses is his defense. On the other hand, in his last fight against Austin Trout in April, he showed improved defense and head movement. Trout connected on only 20 percent of his punches against Alvarez, per CompuBox (154 of 769).
Trout is no Mayweather, of course.
Mayweather—in addition to being one of greatest defensive boxers in the history of the sport—is a supremely accurate puncher. He doesn't have tremendous power, but he can still do a lot of damage and cut you, given how precise he is with his punches. Robert Guerrero discovered that in May, as did many of Mayweather's previous opponents.
But this fight isn't just about Alvarez improving his main weakness. It's also about making his strengths even greater.
Alvarez's victory over Trout was the biggest of his career, but Trout's defense doesn't match up with Mayweather's. Shots that got through against Trout will meet a glove, or an elbow, or an arm. Mayweather uses several parts of his body to take glancing shots and avoid damaging blows. Alvarez will discover that rather quickly.
If Canelo loses this fight, he can either grow frustrated and allow it to derail him mentally, or he can view it as a learning experience. After all, he's only 23 years old—he has plenty of room to grow. Some things he will be able to pick up on during the fight. Others, he will need the help of tape and his coaches to figure out how he can improve.
It's easy to think of a loss as a failure, but you don't learn anything if you don't experience struggles and hardship.
Alvarez could have gone on beating up on defenseless, inferior opponents, but where would that get him? If he wants to become a truly great fighter, he has to fight great opponents—Mayweather certainly qualifies as a great fighter.
Canelo may be handed his first defeat on Saturday in Las Vegas, but Mayweather could ultimately prove to be the greatest coach of the young boxer's career.