by David P. Greisman
You couldn’t avoid the marketing.
They had to mention that Floyd Mayweather was older and smaller. They had to note that Canelo Alvarez was younger and heavier and punched harder. They had to sell this bout as a crossroads fight of sorts.
You couldn’t avoid the marketing, but you could ignore it.
You could ignore it by reminding yourself that all of those characteristics that generally would have been to a fighter’s disadvantage were actually to Mayweather’s benefit.
He is 36 now, has been wearing boxing gloves for nearly his entire life and has been a pro fighter for nearly half of it. This is an age and a point in this line of work at which most would be showing signs of declining, suffering defeats and standing in against less-experienced opponents for less money — hoping to prolong his career, or at least to pick up another paycheck.
Not Floyd Mayweather.
He remains undefeated, a winner of 45 fights against 44 foes, a titleholder in five divisions and a lineal champion in four. He has taken on and taken out 19 men who held world titles at the time, who had won them before or would win them after. His competition still struggles to compete with him. They may have their moments, but never do those moments come when the name of the winner is read. Nineteen of his fights have gone to the judges. Only two of those 57 scorecards have failed to be in his favor.
He got paid $41.5 million for his win this past Saturday over Alvarez. That was his contractual minimum, not including other revenue that will roll in. Take out those 11 one-minute gaps between rounds as unpaid breaks, and he brought in $3,458,333 per round, more than nearly every other boxer gets for a fight. He took in $1,152,777.78 per minute, a staggering $19,212.96 per second.
He got $82,178.22 for each of the 505 punches he threw, or $178,879.31 for each of the 232 shots he landed.
You can’t ignore Mayweather. His personality, even more than his performances, has made him the sport’s biggest star, a braggart of an antihero who will be rooted for, an abrasive villain who is rooted against, and a participant whose annual or biannual appearances bring out viewers who otherwise rarely watch the fights but who cannot miss the Super Bowl of the Sweet Science.
Fans can’t miss him. Fighters can’t hit him.
Prior to facing Alvarez, Mayweather had fought 10 times in the welterweight and junior middleweight divisions. In those bouts, his opponents averaged just 7.6 landed punches per round — less than three per minute, according to statistics compiled by CompuBox. That number included just 5.4 landed power shots per round, or less than 2 per minute.
His opponents in those bouts landed an average of just 17 percent of what they threw. Only one active fighter has been better defensively; Guillermo Rigondeaux, in five bouts reviewed by CompuBox, held his foes to a 16 percent connect rate. Yet Rigondeaux himself landed only 29 percent of what he threw. That “plus-minus” of 13 places Rigondeaux at sixth on CompuBox’s list.
Mayweather is at the top, highly accurate with 41 percent of his punches landing, giving him a “plus-minus” of 24.
Alvarez’s “plus-minus” of 18 in the seven fights counted by CompuBox prior to Saturday had placed him in the second spot, with 42 percent of his punches landing — the most accurate total of anyone on the list, and 1 percent higher than Mayweather — while his opponents landed 24 percent.
Mayweather would succeed as usual against Alvarez. That meant, of course, that Canelo would not.
Mayweather landed 232 of 505 punches thrown, a 46 percent connect rate, an average of about 19 of 42 per round. In his previous 10 fights, he’d averaged 17 of 41 per round.
Alvarez was held to 117 landed punches out of 526 thrown, a 22 percent connect rate — giving Mayweather his usual “plus-minus” of 24. Alvarez’s average on Saturday was about 10 of 44 per round, barely better than Mayweather’s recent run of opponents, who had landed an average of about 8 shots for every 45 thrown.
Alvarez was just 73 of 232 with his power shots, landing about 6 per round, less than a third of the 19 or so he threw every three minutes. That was a far cry from what he’d become accustomed to, throwing nearly 31 shots per round and landing 16, or more than half.
“He is a very elusive fighter, very intelligent, and I just couldn’t, I couldn’t catch him,” Alvarez said afterward in a post-fight interview. Many of those words repeated in answers to other questions, hammering home a point that had been his reality for 12 rounds.
“I simply couldn’t connect with my punches,” he said.
It didn’t matter how many of the announced 16,746 in attendance were there rooting Alvarez on, chanting “Sí se puede,” or in essence, “Yes, it can be done” — because it wouldn’t.
The marketing behind this fight was that Mayweather had met his match in Alvarez, that he was older and smaller while Alvarez had the advantages of youth, size and power.
Except Mayweather remains in remarkable shape. His maxim of “hard work and dedication” has become cliché, but phrases often become cliché because they are true. His routines in the gym are a point of pride, the steak behind the sizzle, the physical substance that excuses his personal style. The effort put into training pays off in the ring. It has allowed him the ability to retain his speed and reflexes, which still show on offense and on defense.
That makes him an incredibly young 36, particularly for someone who has fought for so much of his life. Those years have brought experience to an already talented and brilliantly tactical boxer; there is nothing he hasn’t already faced or dealt with — except defeat.
Alvarez said beforehand that he was studying two opponents who had success getting their punches through to Mayweather: Jose Luis Castillo, who lost a debated decision in his first fight with Mayweather in 2002; and Miguel Cotto, who put up a spirited effort against Mayweather in 2012 but also lost on the scorecards.
Alvarez didn’t fight with the same style as Cotto or Castillo, however. He boxed patiently instead of trying to smother Mayweather, and he threw fewer power punches, according to CompuBox estimates from the three bouts: Alvarez was 73 of 232, Cotto was 75 of 329, and Castillo was 173 of 377.
Rather than relying on brute force, Alvarez turned to timing and placement, attempting to box a master boxer. He rarely hit Mayweather flush. Mayweather moved, ducked and blocked most, and he withstood the rest.
Alvarez didn’t embarrass himself. He wasn’t picked apart the way other Mayweather opponents have been. Mayweather stood in with Alvarez but largely relied on his jab, which accounted for about two-thirds of what he threw. Mayweather only threw 175 power shots on the night, landing 93. He was accurate but not overly active with his hooks and crosses; that’s about 8 landed per round for every 15 thrown, which is less than his recent average of 11 of 23.
He still landed the better punches than Alvarez, and he landed them more often.
Nevertheless, one judge somehow had the bout a 114-114 draw, giving both men six rounds apiece. The other judges gave Mayweather the win, scoring the bout 116-112 (eight rounds to four) and 117-111 (nine rounds to three). Many observers saw even those official tallies as perhaps too charitable to Alvarez.
Mayweather became the true 130-pound champion when he was 21 years old, and he is now the true 154-pound champion at 36. He’s still performing at a high level when most his age would be showing signs of slowing.
There is no one as good as or better than him, not at welterweight, where his body now is best suited to fight, nor in the divisions immediately above and below his. The gap in talent is quite wide.
As much as people may call for him to challenge top fighters from the 160-pound weight class, that won’t happen. This was evident with the fact that his team sought a catch-weight for this bout with Alvarez, ultimately agreeing on 152 pounds, two pounds below what Canelo normally must make. Mayweather’s only other bouts at junior middleweight were against Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto, two men who did not dwarf him size-wise. Alvarez weighed 165 pounds, unofficially, on fight night, about 15 pounds more than Mayweather.
Only time might defeat Floyd Mayweather, then — only if the years finally begin to show, if Mayweather’s speed and reflexes fade enough that he gets hit by blows that never had a shot at landing before.
Even that isn’t a given.
Bernard Hopkins has been able to defy time, a 48-year-old light heavyweight titleholder who uses his intellect and training, neutralizing foes who have more energy but fewer dimensions.
Mayweather won’t fight to 48, though he’s expected at the very least to fight to 49-0, to finish the remaining four fights on his lucrative deal with Showtime, earning eight-figure paydays in front of seven-digit pay-per-view audiences.
Those involved in his promotions will continue to market his opponents, selling them as being capable of being the first to beat Mayweather.
It doesn’t matter what they say. It is only time that will tell.
The 10 Count
1. Canelo Alvarez of course wanted the win, rather than exiting the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with his first pro loss, a defeat that came in front of the very vocal Mexican and Mexican-American faithful.
There was no shame in the way he lost, however. He was not beaten up. He was just out-performed by a far better fighter.
At the post-fight press conference, Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions mentioned a possible future bout between Canelo and Miguel Cotto — a bout that had been floated before but never came to fruition. It’s logical that Schaefer would mention Canelo vs. Cotto, as it’s the one fight for Canelo at junior middleweight that would make far more money than any other potential pairing.
Cotto first has to win an October fight with Delvin Rodriguez. And I’d rather see Alvarez face some of the other titleholders and contenders at 154. Although Canelo was elevated into the No. 1 position in the division with his April win over Austin Trout, that was his sole victory over a Top 10 opponent. It doesn’t mean that he didn’t deserve the spot, only that he hadn’t yet proven his superiority over the other claimants.
2. The other story coming out of Floyd Mayweather’s win over Canelo Alvarez is, of course, that 114-114 draw scorecard from judge C.J. Ross.
Ross, as many might recall, was also one of the two judges who had Timothy Bradley beating Manny Pacquiao last year.
Contrast that with a survey of 86 press scores compiled by Twitter user @thefightscore and posted on BoxingNewsOnline.net. The average score was 119-109, or 11 rounds to 1, which is how I had it. A total of 21 of those surveyed had it a shutout for Mayweather. The closest score came from Doug Fischer of RingTV.com, who had it 116-113, with Mayweather winning seven rounds, Alvarez winning four, and one round being even.
3. Some folks have gone to Ross’s page on BoxRec.com and noticed that she has also had other occasions where her scorecard hasn’t been in line with the other two official observers. I can’t indict her on that alone, however, not without the context of me viewing or re-watching those bouts myself to see whether she was also out of line with those scores — or if in those instances she might have actually been the voice of reason.
I’m loathe to malign someone’s entire body of work based on two questionable performances, but her scorecards for Pacquiao-Bradley and Alvarez-Mayweather came in what were as high-profile as fights can be, and were rather far-off from what an overwhelming majority of fans and media saw.
I’d like to know what she saw, why she scored certain rounds the way she did. In both cases, she’s said only that she stands by her scores and hasn’t explained further.
4. In an interview with USA Today, Keith Kizer, the Nevada athletic commission’s executive director, made an interesting point that C.J. Ross’s scoring coincided with that of at least one other judge’s score for 10 of the 12 rounds. The only rounds in which that wasn’t the case were the first, which she scored for Alvarez while Craig Metcalfe and Dave Moretti scored for Mayweather, and the eighth round, which she scored for Alvarez and the other two scored for Mayweather.
Ross gave Alvarez rounds 1 and 3, as well as four of the final five rounds (8, 9, 11 and 12).
Metcalfe gave Alvarez rounds 2, 10 and 12. Moretti gave Alvarez rounds 3, 9, 11 and 12.
Amazingly, that means at least one judge had Alvarez winning in eight of the 12 rounds. With that said, at least one judge had Mayweather winning in 11 of the 12 rounds.
The rounds that the judges unanimously agreed on: round 4, 5, 6 and 7 (all for Mayweather), and round 12 (Alvarez).
I didn’t think the fight was so close that the judging would only be clear on five rounds.
5. Any credit I gave myself for correctly predicting that Carlos Molina would top Ishe Smith by split decision on Saturday quickly gave way to the crow I ate for my incorrect take on the bout between Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse.
I, like many others, thought Matthysse would win, and I felt it’d come via technical knockout in the first half of the fight.
I, like many others, was wrong. Very wrong.
(And that Molina-Smith prediction of mine was the only positive takeaway I had from that dreadful fight.)
On this site, 9 of 12 writers picked Matthysse to top Garcia. In an article that ran on RingTV.com, an astonishing 30 of 34 experts (including myself, among other writers, fighters, trainers and a couple fans) picked Matthysse over Garcia.
Credit to those who picked Garcia. And tons of credit, of course, to Garcia himself, who stood confidently against Matthysse, boxing strategically at the beginning but in a manner that made Matthysse respect him. He then brought bad swelling around Matthysse’s right eye, scored an 11th-round knockdown and won the 12-round unanimous decision.
Garcia took Matthysse’s powerful punches well and showed himself to be of a far higher class than those Matthysse had bombed out in the past. The kid’s got “it” — and he also now has far more respect than we gave him beforehand in making him the clear underdog.
We knew he was good, but thought Matthysse was that much better. We now know otherwise.
6. We also all thought Danny Garcia-Lucas Matthysse would steal the show. There was some combustion in spots, but the action never met our expectations.
This was one of those cases where both fighters were well aware of the other’s power, and so they sought the proper time to throw hard shots rather than trying to bomb the other out.
It reminded me somewhat of what ended up happening between Daniel Ponce De Leon and Jhonny Gonzalez.
Garcia-Matthysse still had suspense, though. And it brought the storyline of a true champion emerging at 140 pounds.
7. And it was still much better than the last highly anticipated fight between No. 1 and No. 2 at 140: Timothy Bradley vs. Devon Alexander.
8. I know the movement will now be to put Danny Garcia in with Floyd Mayweather — which is preferable to this talk of a possible bout between Mayweather and Amir Khan, a cash grab that would potentially take place in the United Kingdom.
If Garcia’s going to leave 140 behind for welterweight, then I’d actually prefer him to face lesser foes first. I want to see what he can do before I see him lose to Mayweather.
9. I’m not sure what’s more frightening: the thought of Angel Garcia trading trash talk with Robert Guerrero’s father, or the prospect of his exchanges with Floyd Mayweather Sr.
10. C.J. Ross has the Washington Redskins at 2-0 after their first two games…
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]