COMMENTARY | Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are the stars of this fall's two biggest bouts, but a good case can be made that both may be due for a big surprise. And that surprise may come at the hands of younger, hungrier opposition with more than enough drive and ability to shake up the boxing world with headline-capturing upsets.
In the case of Floyd Mayweather and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez on September 14, the argument for a possible upset is right there in the tale of the tape.
The red-headed Mexican star from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, at 23 years of age, will enjoy a 13-year age advantage over the 36-year-old Mayweather. And while age may just be a number in almost every aspect of life, in boxing, age is a great indicator of just how much life is left in a fighter.
Mayweather is on top of the world, but few fighters stay on top into their late-30s. The five-division champ, regardless of what his team and his dedicated fans may say, has shown signs of slowing down in recent fights. The legs just aren't there to the same degree that they were in his prime, and the untouchable "Money" is now threading the needle when it comes to getting out of harm's way, barely avoiding shots that would've missed by a mile just a few years ago. This trend will continue and, sooner rather than later, he may be getting hit with shots that normally wouldn't have connected. If this happens against Alvarez, it could be "lights out" for Mayweather, as hard as that may be to fathom at the moment.
Another factor in Alvarez's favor is his pure size and strength. Despite the 152-lb. catchweight clause in effect for this bout, Alvarez may enter the ring with more than a 20-pound weight advantage. By the opening bell, a smaller than small junior middleweight Mayweather may be fighting a strong super middleweight.
Last year, Mayweather faced Miguel Cotto at 154 lbs. and did well in dealing with Cotto's heavier punches. But Alvarez, unlike Cotto, is a real junior middleweight and much physically stronger than the Puerto Rican battler at this stage of his career.
Realistically, all it will take is one punch to change the pace and tone of the bout. Mayweather has never been hit by someone as strong as Alvarez, and it's completely plausible that Canelo may find the sweet spot on Mayweather's chin. Again, all it takes is one punch.
Two months later, on November 23, Brandon Rios has his chance to become a bigger star than anyone ever imagined by beating (and possibly retiring) eight-division former world champ Manny Pacquiao.
Stepping into the ring just three weeks shy of his 35th birthday, Pacquiao had been toying with the idea of leaving the sport for awhile before Juan Manuel Marquez almost made that decision for him with a vicious one-punch knockout last December.
But being the competitor that he is, Manny couldn't leave the sport with a face-first KO loss.
Most everyone assumed that Manny's comeback opponent would be a relative soft touch after his last bout, but the selection of 27-year-old Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios showed the world that Manny is serious about getting right back in the thick of things.
Rios may be coming off a decision loss to Mike Alvarado in March, but the brawling bad boy from Robert Garcia's gym is hardly damaged goods.
The former top junior welterweight contender and former lightweight world champ is one of the sport's most tenacious and ferocious fighters. Rios is all guts and fire, the kind of fighter who grinds down his opposition with relentless pressure and an indomitable will to win. In a face-to-face battle, nobody has been able to best Rios and, likely, few in the sport would be up to the task.
In this bout, Pacquiao will find himself immediately under pressure and swarmed by offense -- something that may be especially daunting after taking nearly a year off and with the memory of an ugly KO loss still fresh in his mind.
The Filipino icon will have to fight with a passion that he hasn't been able to muster since he was earning his stripes in wars against Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera. Slip up a bit or slack off a little, and he will find himself down by several rounds with a tireless Rios still applying pressure. This will be no time for Pacquiao to grow old or give anything less than 100%.
Stylistically, Rios may be a fine matchup for Pacquiao, but a pressure fighter like Rios can bust through all the chalkboard strategy by sapping the will and heart of the "better" fighter.
By the winter, we may be talking about Mayweather and Pacquiao and their continued excellence in victories over much younger opposition. But neither fight is a "gimme." Saul Alvarez and Brandon Rios have what it takes to shock the world. A victory for one (or both) can happen -- and it may be more possible than anyone currently imagines.
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.
- Sports & Recreation
- Manny Pacquiao
- Floyd Mayweather
- Brandon Rios
- Saul Alvarez