Main events: Troika of sports thrillers on tap

Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

If you like main events, this rarity of a sports weekend is sure to hit your sweet spot.
Unlike your typical weekend sports schedule, this isn't about just one must-see game, player or matchup.
The big three on your high-definition watch list are:
Boxing -- Saul Alvarez vs. Floyd Mayweather.
College Football -- Alabama at Texas A&M.
Pro Football -- San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks.
All three are marquee events that warrant your attention. The details of each make them even more exciting.
When brutish young Mexican Saul "Canelo" Alvarez gets into the ring against crafty veteran Floyd "Money" Mayweather Saturday evening, the crowd in the Las Vegas MGM Grand, and those millions of pay-for-view fans around the world (9 p.m. ET), will be electrified with excitement.
Two men in flashy underwear and slightly padded knuckles at center stage, each trying to inflict more damage than he receives. When it is all over there will be no excuses, unless the judges screw up a decision.
Saturday afternoon, defending national college champion and No. 1-ranked Alabama seeks retribution for its only loss last season. The Tide rolls into College Station, Texas, Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS) seething with evil intent for sixth-ranked Texas A&M and controversial quarterback Johnny "Football" Manziel, who embarrassed them in Tuscaloosa last season.
Despite the acute focus on Manziel -- including CBS intending to offer "Johnny-cam," which will follow his every move throughout the game, this is a team sport and, unless or until proven otherwise, is an amateur event.
The National Football League features perhaps its best match of the season -- Part I for the division rivals who meet again Dec. 8 at Candlestick Park -- when the Super Bowl runner up San Francisco 49ers visits the Seattle Seahawks Sunday evening (8:25 p.m. ET, NBC) at an inhospitable CenturyLink Link Field whose fans -- dubbed The 12th man -- could be a factor as the decibel level will be monitored by an official from the Guinness Book of World Records.
And despite eyebrow-raising attention on the quarterbacks -- San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick and Seattle's Russell Wilson -- this is very much a team event. It is such a compelling matchup that Electronic Arts, makers of Madden Football, got into the act with a commercial showing the two quarterbacks making a bet in which the loser must shave off an eyebrow.
In all three events, the single most compelling -- and usually deciding -- aspect is style. While it is more conspicuous in individual sports, it is nonetheless important in team events.
Mayweather is the supreme boxer who can punch, as his record of 44-0 with 26 knockouts shows. Alvarez is the supreme puncher learning to box, evidenced by his 42-0-1 record with 30 knockouts.
Alabama has a long and storied history for being as fancy as a punch in the mouth, featuring a persistent running game and a stifling defense. Texas A&M is the new kid on the SEC block that dazzles with a versatile offense and an opportunistic defense.
Until last week, the 49ers and Seahawks seemed to be somewhat mirror images -- crafty, young, athletic quarterbacks; thunderous running behind behemoth lines, excellent passing, and bruising defenses. Last week the 49ers raised the bar on their passing game as Kaepernick threw for 412 yards against the Green Bay Packers.
In boxing, beyond style, the layers of intrigue are imbedded in the background, the personality, and most definitely the nationality of the combatants. And, in an important undercurrent, boxing itself is fighting to remain relevant, which further enhances the importance of these mega-matchups.
Although interest in boxing is on the decline overall in the U.S. -- in direct and not coincidental contrast to the ascent of the more brutal Mixed Martial Arts -- the match between Mayweather and Alvarez is drawing international attention.
Mayweather was born 36 years ago in Grand Rapids, Mich., and into a family of boxers, most famously his father and uncle Roger, whose accomplishments he has now long since surpassed. This family fought not only in the ring, but in the streets and, famously, among its own.
Through it all Mayweather fashioned his own flashy style and life, reflected by nicknames such as "Money" and "Pretty Boy." He revels in it and literally cashes in on it. Still, although his abilities are undeniable, he didn't win the hearts of all boxing fans, many of whom were put off by his evasive shoulder roll defense in the ring and cocky attitude at all times.
Many more became non-fans when, in September 2011, Mayweather sucker-punched Victor Ortiz when referee Joe Ortiz was not paying proper attention after a stoppage to award Mayweather a point for being head-butted. Some also note that was Mayweather's only knockout in his last five fights since 2007.
By stark contrast, Alvarez -- nicknamed Canelo, which translates to cinnamon, in observance of his red hair -- was born 23 years ago in Juanacachtlan, Jalisco, Mexico into a family that fought to stay together. He turned pro at the age of 15 because the family needed the money and quickly became a national hero in a country that reveres his machismo style.
Among the key questions in this fight is this: Will Canelo impose his brute strength or will Mayweather elude, frustrate and out-point his young rival?
In College Station, if Alabama wants revenge for that 29-24 loss to the Aggies last year, it must show marked improvement in that area it historically dominates -- the offensive line, which was only so-so in a 35-10 win over Virginia Tech. If The Tide cannot roll time off the clock on offense, then that gives Manziel more opportunity to do what he does.
In Seattle, a Seahawks defense led by linebacker Bobby Wagner against the run and cornerback Richard Sherman against the pass, must impose its will against a huge 49ers offensive line, running back Frank Gore, tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
But watch -- and listen -- for that 12th man to make an impact. The 49ers have shown a tendency to take a long time to snap the ball under normal situations.
And this weekend, in Vegas, Texas and Seattle, the situation will be far from normal.

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