The decree from ESPN of the significance of the upcoming showdown between Floyd Mayweather and Saul Alvarez. Alvarez has always been my pick for the best opponent to challenge Mayweather’s dynasty. The stars have aligned and he’ll get his chance this September for Mexican Independence Day weekend. Already being hailed as the biggest fight since Mayweather fought Oscar de la Hoya, a fight which broke previous records for viewership, this fight will certainly draw more attention than any other that could be made. ESPN also ventures to pose the question of whether this fight could fill the void left by the dissolution of a Mayweather-Pacquiao showdown. The answer is clear to me.
Pacquiao in his prime was an incredible athletic specimen. His momentum of success destroyed what should have been a selection of formidable opponents. We can’t say how his career might have turned out had these fights been less damaging, but boxing fans have reached a consensus in their dismissal of Pacquiao’s former reign. I don’t know that Alvarez will necessarily eclipse that shadow of former greatness, but I’m fully confident that he could have, whether or not he will still be able to do so. Lacking the balanced experience and wisdom of a stronger amateur background, Alvarez has improved greatly with each step up to greater opposition as a professional. While he was criticized for accepting lesser challenges, he also managed to avoid being overwhelmed or damaged in an early style match-up that he wasn’t able to fully understand. Steadily, sometimes imperceptibly to some, Alvarez began making calculated progress toward the top of the sport, while appearing as if he were blazing a trail, frustrated from being avoided by the competition. He was prepared for every fight if he sometimes underestimated his opponents, culminating in his last victory, an impressive decision over fast, defensive fighter Austin Trout.
Mayweather has chosen the most suitable moment for this megafight. By postponing the match until Alvarez has fully developed a fan base, Mayweather has primed the stage for a bigger financial windfall, but he has also carefully calculated the experience and skill level of his opponent. While I still believe Alvarez could have caught an older version of Mayweather with a more comprehensive skill set of his own, and possibly come away with the first victory over this era’s best fighter, he won’t be able to do that against the best version of that fighter. I still believe we’re seeing the best Mayweather ever because like other great fighters whose styles have shifted to accommodate an aging body, Mayweather has been able to compensate for any loss of athleticism with age and any interruption of talent due to jail time. In his last performance against Robert Guerrero, Mayweather was as dominant as ever against a fighter many fans thought would finally be his undoing. Alvarez, my once prophesied successor, will no doubt come out and impress us. He will have improved since defeating Austin Trout and he will take Mayweather seriously, if not as seriously as he should. I expect a truly competitive fight, and one that will serve as a tipping point in Mayweather’s career. He won’t be this good forever, but I think he will be for at least one last megafight. I think this is what we’ve been waiting for, but not what Alvarez has. Alvarez will come in strong in the early rounds and show some effective aggression and land enough to be exciting, but Mayweather will learn his rhythms and begin timing him better by rounds three and four. Somewhere in the middle of the fight Mayweather’s sound defense and fundamentals will start to contrast against Canelo’s sometimes less vigilant style. Mayweather will gain an edge on points in the later rounds and hold it. One for fans to remember, one for fighters to admire, but most of all, one for matchmakers to dream of recreating.