Posts Tagged With: Saul Canelo Alvarez

A Full Card

It’s hard not to speculate wildly when there are so many great fights just around the corner.  Two reasons these fights are even more interesting now: Alvarez-Chavez is out of the way, and Joshua-Klitschko surpassed all our expectations.  It’s hard to see past such momentous fights before the dust settles, but now that we’ve gotten a satisfying conclusion to the Klitschko reign, and a stamp of approval for Canelo’s run at middleweight, we can sit back and appreciate this year’s bountiful spring and summer offerings.

Tomorrow, Delvin Rodriguez will be working to regain his place in the junior middleweight division after taking a series of unwinnable fights against division mainstays like Cotto, Lara and Trout.  He was the warm-up for these three superior fighters, all on their way to lucrative losses to Canelo.  The soft-touch contest against Courtney Pennington (10-4-1) in Connecticut won’t be televised, but we can guess how it’ll end.

This coming Saturday, May 13th, AWE will broadcast a WBA junior bantamweight title fight.  It’ll likely be as thrilling as most junior bantamweight fights, so nothing to set your DVR for.  Also that night, in Michigan, James Toney will be fighting.  Fortunately, it won’t be televised.

While not a thrilling prospect, it’s always interesting to see Diego de la Hoya in the ring, and he’ll be headlining the ESPN card on Thursday May 18th, building his record against relative unknown Erik Ruiz.  The following Saturday begins a big weekend for boxing with a heaping helping of interesting fights, some not so interesting.  The most tantalizing prospect coming from HBO, we’ll be treated to Terence Crawford-Felix Diaz for Crawford’s WBO and WBC titles.

I watched Diaz, the 2008 gold medal winner from Dominican Republic, lose his last major match in October 2015 when he took on hometown favorite Lamont Peterson.  This was the main event of the same card as the tragic final bout of Prichard Colon’s career.  The whole crowd in attendance was puzzled by Lamont’s inactive offense and ineffective defense, at times booing his performance.  Those who stayed for the end the fight were even more shocked when the scores were announced in favor of Peterson.  May 20th will be the night for Diaz to redeem himself in dramatic fashion, but going up against a force like Terence Crawford, it’s unlikely he’ll get the victory needs.

The same night (May 20th) on Showtime, we’ll get three Gary Russells including the famous Jr., plus Rances Barthelemy and Andre Dirrell all taking on unknowns for transitional fights, and top top it all off, Gervonta Davis and Liam Walsh in the main event.  It’s unlikely anyone will do well against Davis at this stage of his career, but Liam Walsh will be a legitimate test.  If we’re still hungry for more, FS1 will be serving up a few tomato cans to clang around the ring too.

May 27th we get Kell Brook and Errol Spence Jr. just a week removed from Terence Crawford’s next stepping stone fight.  Hopefully, the winner of the more highly celebrated Brook-Spence contest will be facing Crawford soon.  All three are names with enough longevity to take boxing fans into the next era, but two in particular, Crawford and Spence, seem to have the most potential.

June 3rd we get Adonis Stevenson-Andrzej Fonfara.  This should be an exciting fight with a lot of good exchanges, settling any unanswered questions from their first close fight.  Fonfara is talented and his style matches up well against Stevenson, but it’s likely Stevenson will adapt better the second time around and close up any gaps.  Also that night, Fres Oquendo, whose last fight was a loss to Chagaev in 2014, will “fight” Shannon Briggs.  Appropriately, the fight will take place in Hollywood.  Briggs has fought steadily but met his last significant opponent, Vitali Klitschko, seven years ago.

June 16 Claressa Shields will be in the ring again, but of course, it won’t be televised.  To be fair, most of Shields’ fights are painfully one-sided.  Still, there are other exciting female boxers and these fights can’t draw any viewers if they aren’t accessible.

The following night on June 17 we’re already set for the rematch between Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward, with the undercard featuring Guillermo Rigondeaux.  While no one is likely to disturb Rigondeaux’s reign, his opponent is undefeated and could provide some resistance.  Fans are hard set on their picks for the Kovalev-Ward rematch, as they were for the first fight.  It’s a rational argument either way, and I would still make the case that Kovalev could easily have taken the cards in that match.  If past evidence is any indicator (think Cotto-Margarito II, Mayweather-Maidana II, Rios-Alvarado II), the fighter who relies more on mental agility, ring IQ and technique will refine his strategy and come away with the win.  Ward has been so smart in all his fights in the past that he’s not only undefeated, he even managed to win landslide decisions against fighters who specialized in making slick fighters look clumsy.  Kovalev is a force, to be sure, but he doesn’t seem to have many dimensions to his style.  If something isn’t working, he works harder at what he does well and usually something gives.  In this case, that won’t cut it.  He’ll have to find a weakness in Ward’s game, or he’ll have to sure up one of his own, so that he can keep the offensive points from going to his opponent.  We know Ward will best him in defensive technique, but if Kovalev can hurt Ward or keep him from working actively, we could see a trilogy in the making.  Ward will likely take the win by decision, but Kovalev will make it very interesting.

The crown jewel in the summer lineup will be the epic clash between Saul Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin.  There’s enough to speculate about with that fight to fill a book, so for this post we’ll just acknowledge that the biggest treat of all still awaits us, ready to offer solace for the bittersweet arrival of fall.

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Squandered Skill

Our 2017 Cinco de Mayo fight is here, but there isn’t much to say about this classically flawed matchup.  On paper, it sounded like an important fight–two famous Mexican fighters, one at the top of his division, fighting for status as their nation’s warrior–but after last week’s spectacular display between Klitschko and Joshua, the reality of the fight is looking somewhat more bleak.  There isn’t much heated debate between fans on either side about who will win or why.  That’s because there isn’t that much at stake unless you’re an old-school Mexican fight fan.  Not that there aren’t enough of those out there to generate some impressive ratings for the pay-per-view, but will the result of this fight be significant to any boxing fans who aren’t Mexican?  Chavez is clearly the one with more invested in the idea of being known as the genuine Mexican warrior, but will his machismo draw Alvarez into a career-altering mistake?

Breaking down what each athlete is trying to achieve gives us a clearer idea of what’s at stake.  Chavez is trying to prove he really is great by beating a smaller, better fighter, after years of wallowing in apathy and mediocrity.  Alvarez, by all accounts, is trying to show that he can take detours on his predestined route to greatness.  If Alvarez lost by knockout, we might think that middleweight was just too big for him.  But we would’ve known that after his first fight at 160 anyway.  If he won but got beaten up, or lost but came close to a win, then the ultimate result is the same but his ability and skill-level are called into question.  In the most extreme scenario, if Alvarez dominates the fight completely, all we get is an indication that he’s ready for middle, which again would’ve been evident in his first fight at that weight.  None of these scenarios tell us anything about the middleweight division as it currently stands (where Alvarez claims to be headed).  We still won’t know if Alvarez will be able to handle a top 160-pound fighter and we still won’t know if a fight with Gennady Golovkin will be made.  Most of all, we still won’t give a shit about what Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. does with himself, because he hasn’t been a middleweight in years and has never held an elite position in any division.

Those scenarios aside, we’re left with the purely negative possibilities for the result of the fight.  By contrast, these consequences could significantly affect the middleweight and/or junior middleweight divisions.  If by some calamity Chavez were to dominate the fight against Alvarez, the rankings for junior middleweight would be entirely upset, and the showdown between the top junior middleweight and the top middleweight would be summarily neutered.  Lastly and least desirably, we must accept the possibility of a draw.  If some cosmic aberration causes the fight to be declared a draw, the reputations of both fighters will suffer, and their fans’ devotion will be diminished, as will the revenue involving either fighter in the future.  This result would lock one of the sport’s top attractions into a messy negotiation for a rematch that very few outside of Mexico would be likely to watch.  Even if negotiations were uncharacteristically efficient and brief, Alvarez would spend at least months, and possibly years, at the peak of his career, negotiating, promoting, training for and recovering from the rematch.  Chavez would soak up all the money he could and proceed with an uneventful denouement to his career.

That brings me to a point I’ve made before, and I’ll try to make it my last lambast about this.  Alvarez has developed a pattern of struggling to make smooth transitions from one stage of his career to another.  Suddenly shifting from junior middleweight opponents to a light heavyweight opponent for this fight shows an unsettling lack of perspective from his camp.  It’s eerily reminiscent of the decision to jump from opponents like Alfonso Gomez, Kermit Cintron, Josesito Lopez and Austin Trout, to Floyd Mayweather.  He’s jumping two weight classes ostensibly to test his abilities for a fight against Golovkin, but the opponent he chooses isn’t a popular middleweight, a highly skilled middleweight, or even a middleweight at all.  Instead, he chose for his opponent a lazy, unrefined non-entity, who typically comes in 10-15 pounds heavier than Golovkin does.  Yes, these fights make Alvarez more money and afford him more recognition than almost any other could, but in terms of his reputation, they’re risks without reward.  Mayweather is still looking for number 50, and had Canelo stayed undefeated through Mayweather’s retirement, a return for the reigning junior middleweight champion would be very attractive.

Alvarez has already racked up more wins at age 26 (two more wins to surpass Mayweather) than most fighters do in a career.  He could’ve made his legacy secure simply by staying active and fighting legitimate opponents, but he wasn’t content.  It would be great if that discontent translated into big fights against gatekeeper middleweights or stay-busy fights against everyone of importance at junior middle, but instead we get this third option.

In an interview with ESPN, Alvarez said making history in his career was important to him, but what kind of history is he writing?  The dominant junior middleweight who never passed up an opportunity to overreach?  The tiny middleweight who refused to take fights at 160?  Or does he expect us to see him as the Mexican warrior who took on all challengers?  The majority of fans won’t see him that way, I can tell you, regardless of the result of this fight.  For one thing, Alvarez has clearly been strategically avoiding Golovkin, and for another, fight fans who haven’t spent a lot of time on the Mexican history of the sport don’t care who beats Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at welter, middle or any other weight.

Names with the resonance of “Chavez” are few and far between.  Chavez senior set standards for the whole sport with the level of competition he faced, his longevity, and the excitement of his fights.  Alvarez, on the other hand, is building his history on names that won’t stand the test of time, and for reasons that are less and less compelling.  The fight against Amir Khan made sense because it was hard to imagine Alvarez losing, even on points, and because it’s satisfying to watch loudmouth pretenders like Khan put in their place.  Of course, it would’ve made just as much or more sense before the fight with Mayweather.  Liam Smith was undefeated and large for junior middleweight, so that made some sense, but because no one had ever heard of him, the result was just more padding on Canelo’s record.

These factors have conspired to constrict the potential of one of the greatest fighters of our time.  In this context, when you start to look at the names and numbers on his record, the biggest accomplishments for Alvarez start to look thin.  While he already had a lot of experience at that age, he was very young when he handled Kermit Cintron so easily.  Pretty good.  In his very next fight, he handled an aging Shane Mosley impressively.  Very good.  Then, he dismantled two oversized welterweights and lost every moment of every round to Mayweather.  Not so good.  Three more upper-level guys crossed off the list after that.  Not bad.  Then, in possibly his greatest performance, Alvarez showed us new levels of talent in an impeccable fight against the shopworn Miguel Cotto.   Truly great–except that it was probably the last fight of Cotto’s career.  It was probably the most beaten up, worn down version of Cotto (who is probably one of the most beaten up fighters of all time) ever to enter the ring, and that’s the version Saul Alvarez built his middleweight reputation on.  It was no more legitimate that Cotto’s coup of the middleweight title from the all-but-absent Sergio Martinez.

So Canelo’s greatest professional achievement is asterisked.  His second greatest accomplishment, also necessary to qualify.  The more general accomplishments of gaining experience and compiling an impressive record, now compromised by puzzling decisions and an utter defeat.  If Alvarez wins tonight, will he finally feel secure in his status as a Mexican legend?  Will that release him from his obligation to take fights that don’t further his career?  Maybe then he could sign a fight against a real middleweight, or more appropriately, a large junior middleweight with real talent, like Kell Brook.  Or will the prospect of fighting David Lemieux, Martin Murray, and Daniel Jacobs scare his team into signing more set-up fights?  If so, what will his team do when fans and analysts are clamoring for the fight with Golovkin and questioning Canelo’s courage even more than before?

I guess the best possible scenario is that Canelo will win convincingly and immediately take the fight with Golovkin.  At least then, his reputation will be restored and rankings will remain intact until he faces the guy who will likely be his beginning of the end.  Maybe.

Or maybe not.  I haven’t been able to bring myself to write up a prediction for this fight yet because I just can’t shake the feeling that it’s going to be the culmination of too many bad decisions.  There’s some metaphor there about trying to be the cock of the walk and chickens coming home to roost, but I don’t know what it is.  The only way I can think to put this in writing is to painstakingly (and it will be painful) go through individual elements of each fighter’s style and compare.  I know it won’t be fun to read, but since I’m the only one paying attention…Hopefully, I’ll feel differently at the end than I do now.

Speed:  Alvarez has the edge in speed though he’s not known for slick defense or fast combinations. Chavez can be sluggish but puts massive, fluid combos together when his opponent opens his defense.

Diagnosis: Non-factor.  Chavez is sturdy enough to handle sustained counter punching, Alvarez is smart enough to avoid 12-punch combinations if he’s not already badly hurt.

Size:  Chavez has the advantage in height, reach and weight.  If Alvarez can’t fight an active, powerful, precisely measured match, he loses either by points or by KO.

Diagnosis: Could be the deciding factor for Chavez.

Stamina:  Alvarez doesn’t seem to take rounds off toward the end of a fight, but doesn’t often reassert himself late either.  Chavez takes rounds off, but tends to hit a rhythm with high output that is rarely matched.

Diagnosis: Chavez has a bigger gas tank and a diesel engine, but if he needs much maneuverability he’ll end up in a fiery wreck.

Output and Activity:  Chavez has always had a high punch output in later rounds, but Alvarez is good at controlling distance and forward momentum throughout the fight.  Chavez leaves big openings when he’s being lethargic, but both fighters start slow.

Diagnosis: Whoever asserts this skill has a distinct advantage, whoever fails to prevent his opponent from applying this skill is vulnerable.  If someone starts faster than usual, his opponent will lose the early rounds and take some punishment.

Power:  Alvarez has the ability to apply enough power at the right time and in the right place for junior middleweights, but his record belies a more musclebound and less accomplished knockout artist.  Chavez has no sense of how to use the power he does have, and he hasn’t worked very hard at being powerful.  That said, he’s bigger and stronger and relies on volume and power in the later rounds for his wins.

Diagnosis: Chavez will demonstrate superior power even as he displays a superior chin.  In combination with volume, power could be Canelo’s undoing.

Chin:  Chavez takes a punch as well as anyone in boxing, and he’s larger than his opponent but doesn’t have a lot of power, and Alvarez is no slouch himself.

Diagnosis: Non-factor.  If Alvarez is getting hit enough for his chin to matter, the fight is already over.

Heart:  Alvarez has pushed through some tough moments in ways that we haven’t seen Chavez attempt, but neither one of them has had so little to gain in a fight against an opponent with such a size advantage.

Diagnosis: Chavez won’t have the fortitude (cojones) that Alvarez has, but he may not need it.

Footwork and Angles:  Alvarez can be impressive with his footwork and use of angles in both offense and defense, but he’s so much smaller he’ll have to use every bit of skill just to keep pace.  Chavez doesn’t do much with angles but he can move when he needs to, especially to cut off the ring, and he’s no more flat-footed than his opponent.

Diagnosis: If Alvarez isn’t at his best, all his tools will be negated by size.

Resistance to Damage:  Neither fighter has a history of stoppages for cuts or swelling, but Alvarez might have it a little better with his youth and resilience.

Diagnosis: Chavez could lose the fight on cuts or swelling.

Accuracy:  Precision punching and slipping is the only area where Chavez is helpless.  If Alvarez can build on what we’ve seen in the past and be in top form against someone this big, he could book himself for an extended stay in the elite ranks.

Diagnosis: Alvarez will probably outshine Chavez in every exchange, but if he doesn’t, there may be no chance.

Ring IQ:  Alvarez will be the smarter puncher all night long, but if he doesn’t hit the gas at the right moment he could easily lose a decision.  Chavez Jr. has Senior in his corner to pick up the slack.

Diagnosis: Chavez won’t evolve any brilliant strategies, but with a little luck and the help of Chavez senior he could adjust at the right moments and keep Alvarez from taking crucial rounds.


Okay.  I do feel a bit better.  Chavez could lose on cuts, swelling, sheer stupidity or inability to adapt.  Even so, and as much as it pains me to do this, I have to post my prediction now, and I have to guess that the larger guy, the one with deeper fan loyalty who’s more likely to get a close decision,  will take the win.  With any luck, tomorrow I’ll repenting for my lack of faith.  I’d be more than happy to admit my error.

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Time to Reflect

With no impending superfights on the horizon, the early part of 2014 will be a time for boxing fans to look back at the great fights of the previous year and speculate about where the results will take the sport in the coming months.  Some of the fighters to watch will be welterweights Adrien Broner, finally put in his place in his bout with the often overlooked Marcos Maidana, power puncher Lucas Mathysse, and Paulie Malignaggi.  Super Middleweight Carl Froch has had a resurgence in the past year, though his last win over George Groves was disappointing and clearly the result of hometown scoring; middleweight Gennady Golovkin had four impressive wins in 2013 bringing him to star status in the sport; Bernard Hopkins enters 2014 still a competitive living legend, winning impressively over Tavoris Cloud and Karo Murat; light heavyweight Adonis Stevenson surprised the boxing world with his dominant wins over Tavoris Cloud and Chad Dawson, and heavyweight Bermane Stiverne, who defeated Cris Arreola, may sign a rematch in the near future.  Of course, the mainstays of the welterweight division are still creating a lot of excitement for the sport with fighters like Ruslan Provodnikov, Danny Garcia, Juan Manuel Marquez, Brandon Rios, and Mike Alvarado.  Also, with the recent news that Miguel Cotto has turned down a huge opportunity, and ten million dollars, with Saul Alvarez, fans can see that the conclusion of the Puerto Rican star’s impressive career is quickly arriving.  Cotto is said to be negotiating a fight with Sergio Martinez, a former elite fighter who is himself fading to a vulnerable champion.

The best publicized fights of 2013 will lead to some interesting opportunities as well, as Floyd Mayweather further demonstrated the discrepancy in skill level between himself and the rest of the sport with dominant wins over Robert Guerrero and Saul Alvarez.  Manny Pacquiao rebounded from his loss to Juan Manuel Marquez with a victory over Brandon Rios, but the attention from fans and media was greatly diminished from what it was before his knockout loss to Marquez.  Pacquiao will struggle to ever again create the kind of buzz he once had and may now be more willing to negotiate what is still arguably the most exciting fight in boxing, against Mayweather.  Tim Bradley and Amir Khan also compete for a shot a Mayweather, Bradley being the more challenging opponent.

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Alvarez As Scheduled

Mayweather Guerrero weigh-in

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.

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Betting Against Bute, Froch Fights Forward

ImageLast night’s fight between Lucian Bute and Carl Froch was expected to be less than competitive with the critically acclaimed Bute getting an easy win over the fighter from the UK.  I saw Froch lose in the Super Six Championship in person and while I thought Ward would be less dominant than he was, I feel somewhat absolved in this demonstration of skill by Froch.  I had only hours before countered a fellow fan’s argument that Bute would “dominate” Froch by saying that Froch “punches straighter” and only because I knew so little about both fighters, hesitated to include that “Froch is as fast or faster.”  The critics were probably right that Bute has more technical control than Froch and therefore could adapt to more fight styles than his opponent, but some styles will always defeat others.   Froch did, in fact, demonstrate superior speed and infighting, as I had secretly anticipated.  I did not predict the severity of the upset, however, as Froch scored an increasingly inevitable knockout in round 5 in arguably the best fight of his career.  ESPN poses the obvious question about the two fighters’ futures.  Ward dominated Froch to the point that a rematch between the two is undesirable if not unwatchable and Froch did the same to Bute.

The next fight on the boxing horizon is Pacquiao-Bradley but for me, the impending headbutt-fest is eclipsed by the announcement of the next really significant fight: Williams-Alvarez.  I have been speculating about how the fight between Williams and Alvarez would play out since I first started considering Canelo’s prospects and, around the same time, first started doubting the talent and abilities, or at least the ring smarts, of Paul Williams.  The once “next big thing” is pitted against the new player in the role who, with fewer physical attributes to his advantage, has an incredible edge in youth and experience.  In my estimation, Alvarez has, at this early stage in his career, already matched Williams’ experience of competition save for Martinez.  Williams is more than a worthy challenge for Alvarez at 6’2″ with incomparable reach and at a trim 154 pounds.  After the Erislandy Lara debacle and Williams’ subsequent  narrow-mindedness about the dynamics of boxing, “The Punisher” has gone from my next most anticipated star (a possible opponent for Mayweather) to being a gatekeeper that I’d be more than impressed to see dismantled by the competent young gun Alvarez.

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Why We Watch, II

Both my fight predictions for the Cinco de Mayo lineup turned out to be pretty accurate, but that’s not why the 70$ high definition price tag felt like a bargain after last night’s tribute to athleticism. Four of the sports top competitors got in the ring and all of them brought their best effort and an impressive skill set. While popular opinion did prevail in predictions, the performances by Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley were entirely worthy of their venerable reputation. The projected record numbers for pay-per-view purchases and views have yet to be confirmed, but Mayweather’s unprecedented single-event guarantee of $32 million says it all. The future, for now, is uncertain for all those involved, but boxing grew a little this weekend.

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