This past Saturday Saul Alvarez soundly defeated the highly-ranked Austin Trout in a decision victory. Trout had most recently come off an impressive and career-defining win over a shopworn Miguel Cotto. Trout’s slick boxing style turned out to be much less of an obstacle for Alvarez than it was for Cotto because Alvarez is much better at slipping punches. Trout’s awkward style did minimize Alvarez’ punch output, but Alvarez was able to avoid taking any significant shot. The punchstat numbers make it seem like a much closer fight than it was because Trout threw and landed more punches, but Trout’s punches had little effect. Alvarez managed to score a knockdown midway through the fight demonstrating sustained power, but was unable to capitalize on the opportunity for a knockout. Even so, I feel his approach demonstrated real foresight and sound judgment in the ring, measuring his man to be sure he could move in for the finish.
Toward the end of the fight Alvarez began taunting Trout and slipping flurries of punches with his hands down, which was probably a result of frustration at being unable to land more, which led some analysts to give these rounds to Trout. The Showtime commentators, led by Paulie Malignaggi, even claimed that the fight was very close because Alvarez wasn’t moving his hands. I don’t think the fight was close but Alvarez would have to be better about cutting off the ring and measuring a slick boxer’s rhythms if he wants to compete with the likes of Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather is the inevitable obstacle Alvarez’ career has been drawn toward ever since he won his first championship on his 21st birthday. I believe Alvarez is already at the elite level of the sport, but not necessarily comfortably. He still struggles with certain aspects of every fighter’s style he encounters. At the same time, the Austin Trout fight included, Alvarez always manages to figure out which of his tools he can use to overcome his opponent’s strengths. This most recent bout forced Canelo to demonstrate his defensive ability because his punch output wasn’t good enough to pummel Trout. In other fights his offensive prowess has been more than adequate but his chin was tested, in still others his balance and composure remained solid but his his movement hindered his performance, but this fight showed the fighter’s versatility. Former boxing icon Sergio Martinez seems to have finally reached his limit, showing his age in his recent fight against relative unknown Martin Murray. Murray managed to knock Martinez down and even though the decision was unanimous and clear for Martinez, I’m not sure he deserved it. It won’t be long before we see Martinez fade from stardom to obscurity. I think the prodigious talent analysts saw late in his career was destined to be short-lived, whereas a fighter like Saul Alvarez is developing his talent at just the right time and just the right speed.
My feeling has been the same since I first saw Alvarez fight: if he has the time to develop, he could be the best competition for Mayweather in the sport. Tonight Mayweather fights laughably overrated Robert Guerrero. Guerrero did his best work as a lightweight and now faces the best athlete in the sport because he’s had a long career with only one loss and recently beat a name fighter. In the best and deepest division in boxing, those credentials shouldn’t qualify you for a fight with Mayweather. Showtime can use all the glitz and glamor in its bag of tricks to make the fight appear competitive but the truth will become painfully clear as soon as the fight begins. Mayweather is faster, stronger, smarter, more talented and more experienced. All I can hope for is that if Mayweather does announce a big fight for the traditional Mexican Independence Day fight weekend, for September 14th, it’s not against Alvarez. I’ll be terribly distracted that particular evening by my wedding and I wouldn’t wanna hear the result from someone before seeing the fight.