COMMENTARY | When Floyd Mayweather enters the ring on Saturday night, September 14, and finds the undefeated 23-year-old Saul "Canelo" Alvarez staring back at him, all 170 pounds of him, will he be looking down the barrel of the toughest test of his career? That's certainly what Oscar De La Hoya, Golden Boy Promotions and Showtime want us to believe. But is it true, or is Canelo simply another one of a long line of world class challengers?
As Kevin Iole has pointed out, the level of Mayweather's much-maligned opposition is actually beyond reproach. Mayweather has defeated 17 current, former or future world titlists, with a collective record of 967-69-22, a .924 winning percentage. While records alone don't mean everything, those numbers do paint a picture of more than a decade of continued excellence at the pinnacle of the sport, from Super Featherweight up to Junior Middleweight.
Moving past the first year of his professional career, the two "worst" opponents Mayweather has faced, by record, have been Emmanuel Augustus, a fan favorite whose 22-16-4 record had absolutely zero bearing on his talent, and who Mayweather routinely cites as one of his toughest challenges, and Carlos Baldomir, 43-9-6, who happened to earn the fight by becoming the lineal Welterweight champion of the world.
Canelo's ledger currently stands at 42-0-1, with 30 knockouts. It's certainly an impressive mark - it even inches Mayweather's championship opponent's winning percentage to .928 - and it's nearly identical to Mayweather's mark of 44-0 with 26 KOs.
Yet, only about a third of Canelo's opponents could even be considered to be on the fringe of world class, and far fewer could be considered to be at an elite level. That's largely due to the fact that Canelo, like many a proud Mexican warrior before him, learned his trade on the fly as a teenage professional, turning pro in 2005 at the tender age of 15.
Fighting professionally at such a young age certainly weeds out the contenders from the pretenders, and allows those who survive the steep learning curve to reach the championship stage quite early on, but it also means that Canelo's level of opposition has largely been lacking. If you wanted to know the number of top caliber fighters Canelo has defeated, in their primes and in their natural weight classes, you wouldn't have to search his Boxrec entry for long. The very first name on that list, Austin Trout, is the only fighter you could say that fits the bill.
Mayweather, on the other hand, took on 38-1-1 Genaro "Chicanito" Hernandez just two years into his pro career, and dismantled him to win his first championship, earning an 8th round TKO victory. He fought an undefeated Diego Corrales in 2001, when he was a wrecking ball regarded as a top 10 pound-for-pounder, and knocked him down five times before Corrales' corner had seen enough in Round 10.
He made mince meat out of Juan Manuel Marquez after a nearly two-year absence from the sport, and an undefeated Ricky Hatton apparently couldn't help himself from running into a leaping left hook, flying off the turnbuckle and staring up at the bright lights.
All of this is to say that Mayweather has fought and defeated many a tough opponent. At the same time, Canelo does present a unique and difficult challenge. Youth, strength, punching power and size are all on his side. He'll have the crowd behind him, and he's brimming with the unbridled confidence of an unbeaten superstar in his early 20s.
Ultimately though, Canelo is not the toughest test of Floyd Mayweather's career -- but he is the toughest test out there for him right now.
Jake Emen runs the boxing news website ProBoxing-Fans.com, where you can find breaking news stories, interviews, rankings and more. You can also follow Jake and ProBoxing-Fans.com on Twitter, @ProBoxingFans.
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