COMMENTARY | This Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the 23-year-old Saul "Canelo" Alvarez will move up several levels in class as he takes on the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, Floyd Mayweather in a junior middleweight title unification bout.
As expected, Alvarez is a decided underdog in this battle, giving up a massive edge in experience, skill, and overall talent. To most informed observers, the idea of picking the red-headed battler from Guadalajara, Mexico over Mayweather is downright silly. But, surprisingly, Canelo has a steady stream of supporters picking his upset victory and keeping the betting odds relatively close (for a Mayweather clash).
So, what warrants this optimism and the feeling that, this time, the right opponent has been picked to end the reign of the controversial "Money" Mayweather? Here's a look at five reasons an upset may not be as farfetched as previously thought:
Obviously, the elephant in this room is the sheer difference in bulk between Mayweather and Alvarez. While Mayweather has to actively try to pack on pounds to make the minimum weight requirement of the junior middleweight division, Canelo has to work to cut his weight down. Often rehydrating to upwards of 170 lbs. by fight night, Alvarez is, in reality, a small light heavyweight smashed into a junior middleweight frame. The size, alone, isn't much of a factor in this bout. However, Canelo is a young fighter who understands how to use his bulk to his advantage and is adept at wearing down his usually smaller opposition with inside grappling and constant pressure. Mayweather will likely be giving up a twenty pound weight advantage, which is good for his speed-based game, but it's also good for a fighter like Alvarez, who looks to grind down his opposition.
At 23, Alvarez is the rarest of all young men in terms of focus, poise, and ability to learn (and execute) a coherent game plan. For those unfamiliar with his back story, Alvarez became a professional fighter at fifteen, a father at sixteen, and a promoter working with a small stable of fighters at seventeen. This is not your typical 20-something young, brash millionaire. In the ring, Alvarez has shown steady and consistent growth, perfecting just about everything placed on his developmental checklist by trainer "Chepo" Reynoso. If there's anyone, anywhere who can keep a well-formed game plan against Mayweather, it's Alvarez.
The age factor can cut both ways in this bout. Some may point to Alvarez's youth as a sign of him being too green. Others could just as easily point to Mayweather's thirty-six years of life as a sign that a fighter is ready for a fall. Take from it what you will, but a thirteen year age difference can be significant.
Undefeated and just approaching the prime of his physical abilities, Alvarez is sure of himself and sure of his ability to win. Of course, everybody says that they're confident in their ability to beat Mayweather before finding themselves absolutely not up to the task. In Canelo's case, his entire life has been one of victory and conquest. When he says that he envisions a victory, he means it. And that means a confident, dogged pursuit of that victory even when things may not be going his way in the bout.
Canelo is young, charismatic, and a potential icon for the huge Mexican and Mexican-American boxing fan base in the country. He's also the biggest draw Mayweather has faced since a past-his-prime Oscar De la Hoya. Although it shouldn't matter, sometimes business creeps into the way a fight is scored and officiated. Don't be surprised if Canelo gets the benefit of the doubt in close rounds that would normally have gone to Mayweather.
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Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
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