By Steve Silverman
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A generation or two ago, the sporting world would have come to a complete standstill for a fight as big as Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez.
It’s no secret that boxing is no longer one of the premier sports. Sixty years or more ago, New York sports fans cared about baseball, boxing and horse racing, and nothing else was even close.
Baseball is still in the equation, but the enormity of the NFL dwarfs everything else. Boxing may no longer command center stage, but it is still a remarkable show when two athletes who are committed to their craft step in the ring and do battle.
I am old school, but I don’t turn my nose up at mixed martial arts fighting. It is interesting at the least and it can be compelling. However, it does not have the gravity of a sensational boxing match.
Mayweather-Alvarez is likely to be just that, complete with the kind of drama that comes with a sensational sporting event.
Mayweather has plenty of faults, not the least of which was a domestic battery incident that caused him to spend time in prison last year. His penchant for betting huge sums of money on sporting events and then bragging about it is not exactly stellar behavior either.
But there is no denying Mayweather’s talent and ability. He is a great fighter and as his 44-0 record indicates, he simply refuses to lose.
Mayweather has it in the back of his mind to either match or better Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record. The Brockton Blockbuster retired as the undefeated heavyweight champion in 1955 and Mayweather would like to leave the game in a year or two with the same status.
Mayweather has handled every test he has had, but the Alvarez fight represents a new phase in his career. Mayweather has always been the stellar athlete who could rely on his physical gifts to get the best of his opponent. But he’s 36 now and Alvarez is 23, and it’s tough to claim the athletic edge on your opponent with that much of an age difference.
But that’s not the telling factor in this fight. Alvarez is a young, hungry power-punching fighter who has the ability to hurt Mayweather. If Alvarez can get in a series of punches, he may open Floyd up or hurt him badly for the first time in years.
In Mayweather’s last fight against Roberto Guerrero, Mayweather was never threatened by a good but not great fighter. Guerrero could not solve Mayweather’s defense and throw the kind of hard punches that could have set up a major rally.
That’s not the case with Alvarez. He has the ability to fire off power punches quickly. He can hurt Floyd and take him to a place that he has not been for years.
That’s when the fight will be decided. If Alvarez can get in his shots, Mayweather will have to react like a champion. He will have to show he can take a punch and stay on his gameplan even though he has been hurt.
That’s what great fighters do. Even the undefeated fighters get hurt. If the Rock was still around, he would tell stories of the punishment he took from fighters like Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles Roland LaStarza and Archie Moore.
Marciano had the power to finish 43 of his 49 foes, but he took some brutal shots along the way and regularly had to come back after taking significant punishment.
Mayweather’s skills are undeniable. Foremost among them may be his defense. He can avoid punches, and that’s probably the best way to fight.
But when your opponent is 13 years younger, even the most skilled fighters suffer some erosion.
Mayweather is going to find that out. He is going to get hit hard by Alvarez and he will feel real pain in the ring.
He will know he is in a fight and he will have to dig deep. In the end, he will be glad he got in the ring with Alvarez because it will test Mayweather as he has not been tested in a long time.
When that moment comes, Mayweather will be ready. He will not capitulate when he gets hit because he is one of the all-time greats. He will rally and fight on.
He will fight because Alvarez will press him. Mayweather may not have anything left in the tank when it is over, but he will find a way to win.
This fight will be a classic.