By Jason Keidel
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Not that he did it for you, but Floyd Mayweather, Jr. just did the right thing.
Suddenly and stunningly, the gaseous, Grand Rapids native agreed to fight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in Las Vegas on September 14. It breaks the monotonous, Mayweather habit of fighting once a year and fighting someone we all knew he’d beat.
Unlike the dearth of decent opponents that Mayweather plucked from the dumpster of has-beens and have-nots, Canelo can bang.
Alvarez, 22, is a young Miguel Cotto, but better. Like the brawling Puerto Rican legend, however, Alvarez’s defense is dubious. And if Austin Trout can bang through the Mexican’s armor, then Mayweather (44-0) will certainly find holes.
The good news for Canelo (42-0-1) fans and the rest of the world waiting for Floyd to finally lose is that Cotto gave Mayweather his toughest fight in years, if not ever. Mayweather is also 36 years old — a most tender and tenuous age for any athlete — but particularly for a fighter, whose reflexes are the difference between life and the afterlife of boxing.
Mayweather is a verified, vulgar vainglorious blowhard whose need for money is matched only by his lust for attention. He disrespects the sport he allegedly loves with infantile rants and spats with anyone who dares to question his eminence. He also spent a few months in prison last year for domestic violence. He carries cinder blocks of cash because he can. He drives big cars, makes big bets and bold statements, and sleeps with a woman so obscenely attractive that you literally rewind the tape to be sure that she exists.
But Mayweather, warts and all, is a brilliant boxer who seems to sleep on a treadmill. His impromptu training sessions include 3:00 a.m. jaunts to the gym, dragging his sleepy entourage to cheer him on. For all of his transgressions, his dedication to his craft is unquestioned and unmatched.
Mayweather is also a staggering contradiction, who dishes out epic portions of loving and loathing for reasons only he understands. He ducked Manny Pacquiao for years, fighting far inferior boxers, and then suddenly signed to fight the best young fighter in the sport.
For the Floyd apologists who still insist that their idol didn’t dodge Pacquiao, they will have to explain why Mayweather insisted on steroid testing on steroids, including blood samples up to the day of the fight — none of which is required in boxing — as well as demanding the lion’s share of the purse (60 percent) despite the fact that the Filipino star is a bigger draw worldwide.
No matter Mayweather’s reasoning for this fight — and he undoubtedly took a bout with more cash and cachet for selfish reasons, particularly to leave the swamp of sagging pay-per-view ratings following his soporific win over Robert Guerrero — we win. This has all the earmarks of a fascinating fight.
in a strict, sweet, scientific sense, this is the best possible match between any two active fighters. Their demeanors on and off canvas are complete contrasts. Alvarez is a boxing rhino who wins with volume and violence; Mayweather is the magician of pugilism, the ultimate matador who befuddles fighters into endless errors.
They’re fighting at a catchweight of 152 pounds, which, if you’re looking for an edge, would probably point to Alvarez, the naturally larger man. But Mayweather has a way of making larger men look small. Punching Mayweather flush on the face is like trying to hit a cobra in the eye with a spitball.
Perhaps Floyd looks at Canelo and sees himself about 15 years ago — young, handsome, wildly gifted, gregarious and with a gold-plated path to stardom just a few rounds away. Floyd, of course, still isn’t ready to cede the throne. But Canelo isn’t asking.
Something big will give in three months.
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