By Cliff Rold
This was almost a column on this weekend’s Flyweight clash between former titlists Tyson Marquez and Carlos Tamara. It should be a good scrap. For those who can find it, on a weekend when US TV goes dark in terms of the sweet science, by all means enjoy it.
It should be a good scrap.
Events of the moment dictate a format change. Oh, that Twitter…
Wednesday evening, lineal World Welterweight Champion and WBA “Super” 154 lb. beltholder Floyd Mayweather (44-0, 26 KO) tweeted he will be making his third foray into the Jr. Middleweight division. He will face off with WBC/WBA 154 lb. titlist Saul “Canleo” Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KO) in what should be the biggest fight of 2013 and, maybe, the biggest fight since Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya.
At the least, it should match or eclipse the second biggest non-Heavyweight pay-per-view bout of all time between Mayweather and Miguel Cotto.
So, yeah, this is a big deal.
Let’s get the elements worthy of bitching about out of the way first.
Floyd Mayweather made a point in the past, as part of the endless rhetorical war with Manny Pacquiao, about not fighting at catchweights. This Jr. Middleweight title fight is at a catch weight; 152 lbs. to be exact.
So Floyd Mayweather is a bit of a hypocrite. Maybe Canelo will serve Floyd some of the medicine Floyd gave Juan Manuel Marquez and just blow off the catchweight at the last minute, forking over some cash for the trouble.
It would be funny if he did.
Okay, that’s about it. That’s all there is to bitch about. Twitter, Facebook, and boxing message boards will see endless complaints about this between now and September because, well, when Mayweather fights there has to be something to complain about. In the grand scheme of things, it will add up to a whole lot of nada.
Outside of those couple of pounds, this is about as bulletproof a fight choice as could be made in the sport.
It comes with a little history.
Alvarez is already recognized by Ring Magazine as their Jr. Middleweight champion, though his position as the true king of the class remains disputed. Mayweather, who holds a belt in the division, is the dispute. After this fight, there will be no question. The winner is the one, true World Champion in the division.
If Alvarez wins, he locks down a talented division and picks up the most sought after scalp in the game. If Mayweather wins, he will have secured a lineal crown in a fourth weight division. Only one other fighter, Manny Pacquiao, has ever done the same. Mayweather’s previous historical crowns have come at 130, 135, and 147 lbs., with additional belts at 140 and 154 lbs.
It’s a special mark.
While title lineages can get messy in the modern era with split titles and promotional gulfs, credit is due when they are passed more or less clean. In Mayweather’s case, the lines have been ultimately legitimate. Wins over the division leader, Genaro Hernandez, in 1998 and later the consensus next best man in class, Diego Corrales, in 2001 validated his place as the Jr. Lightweight king. At 135 lbs. Castillo was recognized as the top man in class and Mayweather overcame him twice. Carlos Baldomir, while one of history’s lesser champions at Welterweight, won the title fair and square from Zab Judah.
He lost it fair and square to Mayweather.
Fresh off his career best win over Austin Trout, Alvarez’s place as the next best (if not the best) at Jr. Middleweight gives this fight competitive significance to go with its appeal as a box office dynamo.
Given the youth of Alvarez (22), and the age of Mayweather, this would likely be the sweetest of victories if Mayweather can remain unblemished. Think about so many of the fighters with whom Mayweather is compared. Sugar Ray Leonard was done at 34, undressed by Terry Norris only to attempt a final comeback years later best forgotten. Pernell Whitaker’s last notable performance, a controversial loss to De La Hoya, came at age 33. He showed spirit in losing to Felix Trinidad at age 35, but his chance to compete at that level was gone.
Mayweather remains, a testament to a Spartan work ethic over the years. Despite problems outside the ring over the years, Mayweather has never seemed to let himself go even during long layoffs and 'retirements.' He shares a professionalism akin to Bernard Hopkins and the Klitschko brothers, all of whom have lasted longer than history says they might have because they never let the good life ruin their bodies.
Does he have the sort of challenge in front to test the limits of all that hard work? It remains to be seen. Alvarez quieted a lot of doubters in defeating Austin Trout earlier this year. He’d been moved carefully over the years, as young fighters with superstar potential often are. Last September, he was supposed to make a big move up against Paul Williams but tragedy intervened. The step up waited until Trout and he passed.
Not we see a first chance to be a great fighter as well as an increasingly great attraction. Maybe we get a changing of the guard. Maybe we get something more akin to Alexis Arguello-Ray Mancini, with the younger man making a great show before the old master puts him down.
Either way, it would be a good show.
And in the end, that’s all anyone really wants. This is a fight people are already anticipating, that they are going to shell out money for, build parties around, and talk about for the next three months and change. Boxing has plenty of good fights, lots of solid events, but rare are the genuine superfights.
We have one set for September 14. The superfight is done.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]