Friday, September 13, 2013

The Showdown on Showtime on Saturday in Sin City...Seriously

Big fight weekend.  If there is anytime to be in Las Vegas it’s on a weekend when Floyd Mayweather is fighting.  It’s when Vegas is at it’s Vegas-iest.  Overpriced hotel rooms, mobs of people walking around the strip, bumper-to-bumper traffic, old men with 20-year-old bottled-blonds on their arms, and nary a $10 table to be seen.  So are all of those people in town to see Mayweather win and keep his undefeated streak going? Or are they there to see Saul Alvarez defy the odds and give the old man the beating people have been hoping for since “Money” dispatched a broken down Oscar De La Hoya over a decade ago?

It’s nice to see a main stream, media-backed web outlet like Grantland give quite a bit of attention to the Mayweather/Alvarez tilt.  A couple of articles and a mention on the B.S. Report pod cast is more coverage than boxing has seen from basic sports sites in a long, long time.  One of the pieces, by Jay Caspian King, is a rather cynical piece delving into the hype that surrounds Alvarez - the young, undefeated Mexican boxer who has catapulted to international fame over the last year.

King posits that while Alvarez isn’t without some skill, he is more a product of Golden Boy Promotions never-ending search for the next De La Hoya than a serious fighter.  Personally, I thought the article came off a little harsh on Alvarez, making him seem little more than a red-headed puppet who can’t dance.

While it’s true that Alvarez has few world class victories under his championship belt, he has won against everyone put in front of him.  The last year has seen the 23-year-old  record his two best victories as he beat Josesito Lopez into submission in September of 2012. Then in  April of this year, Alvarez beat Austin Trout unanimously on the judges’ scorecards to earn his shot against Mayweather.

There is no question that the quiet Mexican is far from being a finished product. That’s part of the reason he is in this fight. If he was at the peak of his ability there is little chance that the aging Mayweather would have chosen to fight him.  “Money” is a master of defense in the ring, but his true genius might lie in his ability to pick opponents that match up well against him.  He knows that he has to fight someone that has the illusion of a chance against him, because no one is paying $70 to watch him whip Matthey Hatton’s ass.

Robert Guerrero was supposed to bring an elusive defense and enough hand speed to be able to counter Mayweather in the ring.  Which worked for about 3 rounds.  Still, going into the fight you could almost make an argument that “The Ghost” had a chance.  That helps sells tickets.

In Alvarez I’m sure The Money Team saw a popular fighter with power and a rabid fan base that can convince themselves Canelo has a chance.  Let’s face it, going back to the Rickey Hatton fight, most fans have rooted for Mayweather to lose, not necessarily for his opponent to win. Boxing fans like Miguel Cotto and Victor Ortiz, but they weren’t packing press conferences around the country three months before the fight to support them.

In King’s article he argues that Alvarez’s popularity is more of a myth created by Golden Boy and Televisia, the Mexican television network that has broadcast many of his fights.  I think he’s a bit off and based way too much on the lackluster showing at the Mexico City press conference.  I was at the Chicago Theatre with 3,000 other fans for their press tour.  At least 80% of that crowd was pro-Alvarez.  The same with the pre-fight weigh in on Friday night.

You can argue that some of that fame is based on his looks or the Mexican boxing fan’s unrelenting need for a hero. However, to say he isn’t popular, or that his popularity is a sham propped up by a media empire is just plain wrong.

That being said, I don’t think he has a shot against Mayweather. His hands are too slow and if by some chance he does land a few power shots against Mayweather early then there are going to be boos from the crowd later.  Floyd is smart enough, and still fast enough, to go into defensive mode.  Do enough to win a round with jabs and straight rights and then spend the rest of the three minutes dancing around in the ring.  It isn’t fun to watch, but it it’s good enough to win and cash a paycheck.

For Alvarez this is the defining moment of his young career. If he floors Mayweather with a lucky punch he instantly becomes the new face of boxing and HBO offers him 3 gazillion dollars.  The good news for him is that he doesn’t have to win the fight to gain popularity.  As long as he is willing to go blow-for-blow with Mayweather, as long as he stands in there and takes the beating that is coming his way and battles back he will earn the respect from those that think he is a paper champion.  This is the fight where he can prove that he embodies the “warrior spirit” that critics like to talk about when describing Mexican fighters.

There is little chance that the fight will live up the hype, it’s damn near impossible given the amount that has been generated over the past few months.  In fact, there is a more than likely chance that the Danny Garcia/ Lucas Matthysse light welterweight match-up will be the best fight of the night.

I’m hoping that Alvarez has a game plan for getting Mayweather to box. I’ll be sprinting from work to a bar and forking over a $20 cover just to watch the fight and I really, really don’t like running. Hopefully I’ll get my money worth and we see an action packed 12 rounds of boxing (I have Mayweather winning by decision). If not, then I’ll just go on with life and wait for the Manny Pacquiao/ Brandon Rios fight in November.  God knows there is no way that one isn’t a slugfest.


Marcus said...

I don't frequent Grantland, but when I do, it's always been high quality, enjoyable writing. But reading King's article, I was surprised by the cynicism. Not that Grantland's writers are always unbiased - usually they're not, and that's why I like 'em. But it just seemed like he had some kind of axe to grind against Canelo. Not that I really care about boxing either way...

Justin G. said...

That's why it kind of stuck out to me. I like most of King's writing, but yeah it seems like he has something against Canelo - or is just a big Mayweather fan.