Boxing: canelo alvarez
NEW YORK -- After a surprising, dramatic and one-sided bout in front of a rapturous Madison Square Garden crowd in which Miguel Cotto captured the world middleweight championship from Sergio Martinez, here are five things we learned:
1. Miguel Cotto still has it
We knew an inspired Cotto under trainer Freddie Roach had the potential to be competitive with Martinez despite giving away size, speed and power. But could any of us have predicted an absolute drubbing from start to finish? Not likely. While the impact of Martinez’s age and injuries certainly played a factor, that wasn’t the prevailing storyline. This was simply a different Miguel Cotto, who entered the ring with a renewed level of confidence that he wielded like an ax to the tune of three stunning knockdowns in Round 1. Cotto set the tone for his workmanlike dismantling of Martinez by his stealth ring entrance -- set to silence with the house lights dimmed -- and put on a vintage performance at age 33.
2. The Cotto-Freddie Roach marriage is a success
Cotto has never been immune to allowing outside-the-ring drama affect his performance inside of it. He also has never been afraid to switch things up in his corner at any time. Yet throughout his career, a happy Cotto has often meant a successful one, and there’s undoubtedly a unique comfort level between him and Roach -- a “player’s coach” who has gained Cotto's respect and focus.
Not only was Roach successful at resurrecting the Cotto of old, he appears to have melded the attacking style of Cotto’s younger dyes with the more refined boxer he became in recent years under the tutelage of Cuban trainer Pedro Diaz. The result was a version of Cotto who was equally adept at using his footwork to avoid Martinez -- never allowing him to develop his swagger by getting into a rhythm -- as he was able to stand and trade with him to destructive results. Cotto landed an astonishing 54 percent of his punches and did much of his damage with a looping left hook to the head that repeatedly exploited Martinez’s tendency to keep his hands too low. Roach’s preparation in terms of conditioning also prevented Cotto from the kind of late-fight fade that played a factor in each of his four defeats.
3. The end is very near for Sergio Martinez
Martinez showed tremendous heart to survive the storm of three first-round knockdowns and keep coming until his corner had seen enough before the start of Round 10. But this simply wasn’t the same fighter whose speed and elusiveness defied his advancing age in recent years. With his twice surgically repaired right knee compromising his mobility, Martinez looked every bit of his 39 years of age. The end is often abrupt for fighters such as Martinez, who rely on athleticism and a Houdini-like style above sound technique (see Roy Jones Jr.). Roach’s postfight comments were a harsh yet accurate summation of his growing vulnerability: “[Martinez] is a great athlete, yes. But I never thought he was a great boxer. You can’t fight with your hands down and think you’re going to be able to win fights.”
With one fight remaining on his lucrative deal with HBO, you can expect to see Martinez at least once more in some form of an orchestrated farewell. Martinez stayed true to form as a stand-up champion and person by offering no excuses in defeat, but his brief and memorable run as an unlikely middleweight king and one of the sport’s true elite has come to an end.
4. The Garden is still the mecca of boxing
After taking more than a year off for renovations, Madison Square Garden made an epic return to big-time boxing as Cotto once again headlined the big arena on the night before New York’s Puerto Rican Day parade. There’s still a certain level of electricity about a big fight between two stars at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” that can't quite be duplicated in Las Vegas or beyond. And with Cotto, the arena’s No. 1 tenant, able to reawaken his career at the highest level -- along with the rise of a potential replacement and possible future opponent in middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin -- one can expect to see MSG pick up where it had left off. Cotto’s raucous welcoming committee, fueled on by his unexpected trio of early knockdowns, provided the soundtrack for an intoxicating atmosphere that was boxing at its very best.
5. Boxing is simply better with Cotto in the mix
Boxing is a sport whose potential for crossover appeal relies almost exclusively on the dynamic qualities of its stars and their ability to make marquee fights. And with the majority of the biggest names pushing closer to 40 than their absolute prime, the arrival of a resurgent Cotto on Saturday can only be viewed as a positive for the sport. Fresh off a historic victory and armed with one of boxing’s few remaining glamour titles as the lineal middleweight king, Cotto has plenty of attractive options moving forward. Not only does his status as a promotional free agent make it easier for fights to get made, the Puerto Rican star brings with him one of the sport’s most passionate fan bases. Whether it be a crossroads showdown with rising star Canelo Alvarez in another chapter of the epic Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry or a marquee rematch with pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr., Cotto will satisfy fans' desire for the kind of significant fights between stars that attract a casual following. And with a new division of potential opponents in his future, his willingness to dare to be great and take on the very best provides Cotto with a throwback quality that fans covet.
The former junior middleweight titlist saw his original bout with interim titlist Erislandy Lara called off when Lara accepted a July 12 pay-per-view date with Canelo Alvarez. If Smith, 35, was put off in any way, he took out his frustration on replacement opponent Ryan Davis at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Smith jumped out of the gate to hurt Davis, 35, in the opening round with power shots before dropping him on a hard left hook in Round 2. Davis (24-14-3, 9 KOs), who entered the bout having lost his last four and five of his last six, was counted out at 2:59.
The performance was about as exciting as you’ll see from Smith (26-6, 12 KOs), who has often faced criticism for his defensive style.
“I understand the sport. You have to be exciting and you have to be a little more aggressive,” Smith said. “I’ve never been hurt and I’ve never been down, so I decided to be more aggressive tonight.”
Smith became the first native of Las Vegas to win a world title when he scored an emotional victory over Cornelius Bundrage in February 2013 before losing his title in his next fight against Carlos Molina on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Canelo Alvarez undercard in September.
Despite losing out on the chance against Lara, Smith remains confident that a better opportunity will come his way.
“The good thing about having great promoters is that they can go out and make all of the deals,” said Smith, who believes Alvarez will defeat Lara. “As long as I deliver on my end, it’s on me. No excuses. This time is on me. If I take care of business, I know I can get a shot.”
Bey outlasts Herrera
Well ahead late in the fight, Mickey Bey found himself in a precarious and unfortunately familiar situation after being floored by Alan Herrera in Round 7.
But for Bey, a Las Vegas native, this would be no repeat of his final-round knockout loss to John Molina in July.
Bey (20-1-1, 10 KOs), who suffered a cut above his left eye in Round 9, outboxed Herrera throughout and recovered well from the late knockdown to claim a unanimous decision (97-92, 98-92 twice).
Mexico’s Herrera (32-6, 21 KOs), 24, who surprised Bey with a left hook to force the knockdown, was unable to capitalize. Bey, who boxed well and countered cleanly throughout, came back in Round 8 to hurt Herrera with a right hand.
“I was kind of off balance and he caught me with a good shot,” Bey said. “He was tough. But I perfected what we worked on in the gym.”
Bey, 30, put a handful of early rounds in the bank by jabbing to the body and opened up a cut below Herrera’s right eye with a left hook in Round 5.
Cuellar defends title
Jesus Cuellar was aggressive throughout and held off a typical late rally from Rico Ramos to defend his interim featherweight title.
Cuellar (24-1, 18 KOs) overcome a point deduction for rabbit punching in Round 8 to claim a unanimous decision by scores of 116-110, 117-109 and 114-112.
The 27-year-old southpaw from Argentina beat Ramos (23-4, 12 KOs), a former junior featherweight titlist, to the punch throughout and consistently backed him up to the ropes. Although Ramos stepped up his activity level in the closing rounds, it proved to be too little, too late.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Alfredo "El Perro" Angulo opened camp in Northern California with the same cordiality as always when talking about the preparation for his next fight.
The Mexican will lock horns with countryman Canelo Alvarez on Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in a fight that will match two opponents who are coming off defeats.
Angulo looked relaxed and in a good mood as he remarked that he liked his camp, meticulously run by Virgil Hunter.
"All has gone perfectly," Hunter said. "We are already waiting for the preparation phase to get behind us so that we can then go to Vegas and fight."
Angulo avoided stressing any specific area of focus, but said he is ready for everything.
"We have truly worked on everything, including the slightest detail that could concern us," he said. "I think that we have done a phenomenal all-around preparation."
For Angulo, this will not be just another box office fight in his career. It will be the chance to avenge his last loss to Erislandy Lara, when he was unable to continue due to an injury.
"I think everyone saw what happened," he said. "My eye was completely swollen. Nothing could be done, and they stopped the fight. We'll keep working."
The fight against Lara was high profile, with the Cuban boxer hitting the canvas and Angulo kissing the mat one time on his own before having to withdraw in Round 10 due to a fracture of his left orbital bone.
Nevertheless, the Mexicali native said the fight was a learning experience.
His next opponent will basically be the opposite, given that Alvarez is a much more offensive boxer.
"These are two totally different boxers," he said. "One is an elusive fighter, a boxer, and the other has good, fast hands."
Despite this, Angulo acknowledges that, at the moment, Lara is the better fighter.
"I think Lara is a fighter with a lot of experience on both the amateur and professional levels," Angulo said. "I think that the fight with Lara will serve us well for this fight."
Angulo said he doesn't pay attention to the betting line that pegs his opponent as the favorite.
"Anyone can name anyone a favorite, but the only ones who will climb into the ring, the only ones stepping on the canvas, will be Canelo Alvarez and me," he said.
Regarding the progression of the fight and reading between the lines, it's clear that Angulo wants to have a battle.
"I would like to imagine a certain type of fight, but sincerely, I don't know," he said. "The fight is being called toe-to-toe, and if Canelo wants to honor this, then I'd be happy to oblige. But if not, we are ready. Don't worry."
Despite this, the former Mexican Olympian said that nothing would surprise him.
"The way 'El Perro' will fight, he will be the winner on fight night," Angulo said. "We have done excellent preparation for winning the 12 rounds, and that is all."
Regarding his opponent, Angulo agrees with the majority of experts and fans about Alvarez's performance against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
"I think that [Alvarez] fought a match that disillusioned a lot of people," Angulo said. "I think that many people expected more from Canelo Alvarez that night but unfortunately it wasn't to be."
Despite Mayweather's dominant performance, Angulo lamented not being able to use aspects of the American's strategy due to the stark difference in styles.
"I really doubt it because Floyd Mayweather and I have two totally different styles," he said. "If I were a boxer like Mayweather it would work for me, but we are totally different. He likes more punching. I've seen him fight live, and I can remember it perfectly."
Angulo (22-3) also hoped Alvarez wouldn't suffer from a loss of confidence in the aftermath of suffering his first loss, wanting instead to face the best that Alvarez has to offer.
"Each mind is its own world," Angulo said. "I hope he is 100 percent recovered so we can put on a good show for the people."
LOS ANGELES -- Canelo Alvarez kicked off the promotion for his impending return to the ring on Tuesday, going face to face with Alfredo Angulo, whom he’ll take on March 8 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
The matchup will mark the former junior middleweight titleholder’s first fight since a deflating split-decision loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in September -- Alvarez’s first defeat as a professional.
“"It was a great experience for me, a fight that taught me a lot, and that education is something that will serve me well in future fights," Alvarez said during Tuesday’s promotional event, held at an outdoor L.A. restaurant before a crowd of fans and media. “So I’m training with everything I’ve got to return this March 8.”
Why 'Perro' Angulo? Because he's a strong fighter who always comes forward, withstands punishment, someone who comes to fight.” -- Canelo Alvarez
It’s an interesting pairing -- two Spanish-speaking, Mexican-born fighters spearheading a pay-per-view event (Angulo’s first as a headliner) in the U.S. But both fighters resonate with American fans, and the hard-core among them surely recognize that an Alvarez-Angulo fight likely will make for far better theater than Canelo’s matchup with Mayweather.
"Why ‘Perro’ Angulo?" Alvarez asked at Tuesday’s event. "Because he’s a strong fighter who always comes forward, withstands punishment, someone who comes to fight.”
Then, in a clear swipe at Mayweather: “Fans want to see a fight, not someone who runs all the time.”
Angulo (22-3, 18 KOs), who won an interim title at 154 pounds, has been through some wars -- especially recently. But although he is just 2-2 in his past four fights, he is by no means a soft touch. Even in defeats to Erislandy Lara (June) and James Kirkland (2011) during that stretch, he nearly finished each opponent more than once.
"It’s a very hard fight against a difficult rival,” Angulo said of the Alvarez fight. “I want to thank all my fans. They are the best."
In the undercard, relentless puncher Leo Santa Cruz (26-0-1, 15 KOs) will defend his junior featherweight title against Cristian Mijares (49-7-2, 24 KOs).
"It's going to be a war, and I’m ready to finish with my hand held high, beating a great champion such as Mijares," Santa Cruz said.
Also on the card, Carlos Molina (22-5-2, 6 KOs) will defend his junior middleweight title against prospect Jermall Charlo (17-0, 13 KOs), and burgeoning action fighter Omar Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs) will take on Canelo’s older brother, Ricardo Alvarez (23-2-3, 14 KOs) in a lightweight bout.
Miguel Cotto enters Saturday's test against Delvin Rodriguez in a spot he's never previously been throughout his 13-year professional career -- on a two-fight losing skid.
That storyline alone only adds to the narrative of what is already expected to be an exciting 12-round junior middleweight bout at Amway Center in Orlando (HBO, 9:45 p.m. ET). For as much as the fight has been categorized rightfully as a showcase bout for Cotto, he will quickly find himself in an all-action affair against the battle-tested Rodriguez, should age and attrition catch up to him overnight.
But should Cotto, who turns 33 on Oct. 29, come out with his hand raised, the talk will quickly turn to what's next. And outside of pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr., there isn't another boxer in a better spot to call his own shots than Cotto, who can circumvent today’s promotional and network cold war by signing one-fight deals with the suitor of his choice.
Cotto's name still commands respect as the best available B-side on the pay-per-view level, with his fights against Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao having sold 1.5 and 1.25 million buys, respectively. And with the attractive combination of his exciting style and the realities of his vulnerability in the ring, one could make a marketable case for matching Cotto against just about any big name between 147 and 160 pounds.
True to his form, you simply won't get Cotto to comment on any future opponents before he handles the task at hand in Rodriguez. But the fighter did confirm to ESPN.com on Monday that his days at welterweight -- where he hasn't competed since his 2009 loss to Pacquiao -- are completely behind him. New trainer Freddie Roach, who also trains Pacquiao, also has been outspoken in squashing any hope of a rematch between the two fighters.
Outside of that, the world is essentially Cotto's oyster, if he can snap his current losing streak.
""I'm in the last stage of my career and I just want to finish it the best way possible," Cotto said. "I don't know how much time I have left. We are going to return to the winning path in my career on Saturday."
I'm in the last stage of my career and I just want to finish it the best way possible. I don't know how much time I have left. We are going to return to the winning path in my career on Saturday." -- Miguel Cotto
While Cotto wouldn't bite on the notion there might be some unfinished business in terms of his legacy, he outlined the clear reason for his desire to fight on.
"It's about being one of the best, you know?" Cotto said. "It's the reason I am still here. I just want to be one of the best."
Cotto carries a clear sense of pride when talking about his May 2012 loss to Mayweather, in which he inflicted more damage on the unbeaten fighter than anyone in recent memory. Although he's quick to mention he was unable to get what he prepared for -- which was a victory -- "I made a great fight, which proved I am still hungry. For that I am proud," he said.
But the veteran fighter's tone quickly changes when the subject turns to his unexpected December 2012 loss to Austin Trout, which spoiled a prospective PPV date with Canelo Alvarez. While Cotto reflected positively on his three-fight relationship with former trainer Pedro Diaz, calling him a true professional who pushed him to work hard, it’s clear the fallout from the Trout defeat fueled the switch to Roach.
"We didn't prepare ourselves with the right strategy to beat [Trout]," Cotto said. "That was our fault for that fight."
In the end, nothing helps rebuild confidence quite like winning, which Cotto is at least expected to do against Rodriguez. But it's refreshing to see a fighter who has given so many thrills in such an unforgiving sport find himself in this strong of a position regarding his future.
Quite honestly, it's a rarefied position to find himself in, and one that, unlike at times with Mayweather, is profitable for all parties in question, from the fighter to the networks, promoters and fans due to Cotto's insistence on being matched against the very best.
The twilight of the Puerto Rican icon's career promises to be as exciting and dramatic as the first 41 fights, and the next chapter will be written Saturday, where a victory would launch Cotto right back into the mix against the sport's elite.
But through the eyes of an expert like Hall of Fame trainer Nacho Beristain, Alvarez committed a series of crucial mistakes that helped take him out of the fight from the very beginning.
From Alvarez coming in without suitable preparation to his lack of control against an opponent who dominated him in every aspect from start to finish, Beristain identified five keys that ultimately led to the 23-year-old's demise.
1. He entered the ring with no clear strategy
"When Mayweather came out of the corner to attack rather than wait on the punches, that was when [Alvarez's] strategy ended and there was no definite plan. Canelo was quickly frustrated and from the time when [Mayweather's punches] came at him right on target, he already didn't know what to do. [Mayweather] broke the attack strategy with his combination of left-right hooks and [Alvarez] couldn't adapt."
2. Lack of defense
"Given a minimally effective offense, perhaps it would have been good to show some defense to see if that way he could wait for a mistake by Mayweather and use it as has happened with other fighters. But because he was getting hammered from all sides, the fighter doesn't know what to do, he loses hope and everything becomes a madhouse."
3. No control in the corner
"In that group, there's no control. It's not like throwing more gasoline on the fire, but [Mayweather] ate him up. From the beginning it was thought that Mayweather's team was better and there ended up being no comparison. There [in Mayweather's corner], everybody knows their role, and here [in Alvarez's corner] they do whatever they want."
4. He failed to take risks
"Not only did we not see a change in strategy, we did not see any other kind of combination beyond what they have taught him, which is the left-right hook. Although, if [Alvarez] had gone at it in there with everything, if he had really put on the full press, maybe even he would have knocked [Mayweather] down, but we didn't know what could have happened. Because that's easy for [Mayweather], when they go looking for him, he puts you on the canvas like Ricky Hatton or Juan Manuel [Marquez]."
5. Not prepared for Mayweather
"The questions I had increased at the time, and if the opponent that you face is not like you had been told and it turns out you don't compete in defense, that you don't compete in speed, if you don't compete in effectiveness, they didn't tell you the truth. Given that [Alvarez's corner] created false hopes, that gave us this as a result. This is not about hitting the gloves and guard -- this is about seeing each factor that can change the fight for you."
Time flies, and last week’s festivities at the MGM Grand brought home a sudden realization that Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s master class on Saturday night came 10 years and one day after my first credentialed fight.
There were a fair few differences between that first fight and my latest: In 2003, my credential was red (signifying I rated only a bleacher seat) instead of ringside green, my affiliation was merely "freelance," and in the identifying photo my mouth was smiling and my hair wasn’t gray. But there were similarities, too: Both bouts were at the MGM, both involved the most popular boxer in the world at the time and both were the culmination of weeks of hype and publicity.
My memories of that first fight are as fresh as though it had been fought 10 months, rather than 10 years, ago, and the passage of time has spawned reflections on the numerous notable memories from a decade of being paid to watch fights.
So here’s a list of my top 10 (12, actually, because I kind of cheated) ringside recollections -- not necessarily the best fights (although some of them were terrific) but what, for me personally, have been my most memorable ringside experiences so far.
Shane Mosley W12 Oscar De La Hoya -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Sept. 13, 2003
From my seat in the bleachers, I thought the Golden Boy had eked out a decision in a good fight; most of those ringside, where the power of Mosley’s blows were more telling, seemed to agree with the official verdict. Personally, I most remember the thrill of experiencing my inaugural big-fight atmosphere, and the strange feeling of anticlimax on Sunday morning when it was all over.
Antonio Tarver TKO2 Roy Jones Jr. -- Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, May 15, 2004
The defining moment of postfight shock and awe. Jones had looked mortal in the first encounter between the two men, but that had widely been attributed to his struggles returning to 175 pounds after his brief and successful excursion to heavyweight. But Tarver had his number, and when he landed the big punch that marked the end of Jones’ era of dominance, the crowd responded with an initial roar, followed by a stunned silence, culminating in 12,000 people reaching simultaneously for their cellphones to tell friends, “Holy ****, Roy Jones just got knocked out!”
Diego Corrales TK10 Jose Luis Castillo -- Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, May 7, 2005
Manny Pacquiao TK10 Erik Morales -- Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Jan. 21, 2006
Manny Pacquiao KO3 Erik Morales -- Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nov. 18, 2006
For reasons I can’t quite remember, but presumably related to a lack of money, I watched the first tilt between these two on TV in my cabin in Alaska. The indelible memory of their second contest, apart from Pacquiao turning around a fight he was losing and storming to a stoppage win, was the unrelenting volume inside the arena, as rival Mexican and Filipino fight fans shouted themselves hoarse. I imagined it was like sticking your head next to a jet engine. The third was much the same, and at the end of that contest the feeling was of one man reaching the end of his career and another about to launch his into the stratosphere.
Floyd Mayweather TKO10 Ricky Hatton -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Dec. 8, 2007
Ah, the Brits. My people. So very many of them, so very drunk, and singing so very loudly. For a week, Las Vegas became Manchester with better weather and colder beer, as Hatton’s fans sang constantly to remind themselves how many Ricky Hattons there are; and even when that one Ricky Hatton was stopped in the 10th round, they sang and drank some more.
Antonio Margarito TKO11 Miguel Cotto -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas, July 26, 2008
Miguel Cotto TKO10 Antonio Margarito -- Madison Square Garden, New York, Dec. 3, 2011
Manny Pacquiao W12 Joshua Clottey -- Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas, March 13, 2010
The fight itself was kinda meh. Clottey spent most of his time impersonating a turtle as Pacquiao bang-bang-banged away. But there was a real sense of occasion about it all: Jerry Jones, Cowboys Stadium, that scoreboard … One can only wonder how immense it all would have been had the man across the ring been, as originally intended, not Joshua Clottey but Floyd Mayweather.
Lamont Peterson W12 Amir Khan -- Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C., Dec. 10, 2011.
For all but seven of the nearly 20 years I’ve been in the United States, I’ve lived in the District of Columbia or its northern Virginia suburbs, so to have an HBO fight in what is effectively my hometown, and with a hometown fighter -- a hometown fighter who had grown up sleeping on the streets near the arena where he was now fighting, even –- scoring an upset win over a big star, with a fevered crowd screaming “D.C., D.C., D.C.” … it was all very cool, even if a pair of point deductions by an over-officious referee (to say nothing of the later revelations of Peterson’s synthetic testosterone intake) fouled the punch bowl.
Juan Manuel Marquez KO6 Manny Pacquiao -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Dec. 8, 2012
Floyd Mayweather W12 Canelo Alvarez -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Sept. 14, 2013
From the massive throng that spilled out of the MGM Grand lobby to watch the fighters’ arrivals on Tuesday, to the crowd that stood three-deep to catch a glimpse of even the undercard fighters working out the next day, to the incomparable weigh-in experience in front of 12,200 fans -- and, of course, the enthusiastic but ultimately futile cries of “si se puede” and “Ca-ne-lo” during the main event -- this was, from beginning to end, almost certainly the most intense big fight week I’ve yet experienced.
Note to the “this was boxing’s last big fight” crowd: At the time of my first fight, nobody would have predicted that in 10 years’ time, Mayweather Jr. would be the man carrying the sport on his back, as De La Hoya did before him, as Mike Tyson did before him. Someone out there is boxing’s next big superstar. He may already be on HBO, he may be fighting undercard six-rounders, he may not yet have turned pro. But when he hits the highest heights, his biggest fights will be true events, just as much as Mayweather’s are now. And if I’m fortunate, I’ll be there covering them.
While the buzz about Mayweather's next challenge included facing Amir Khan at London's Wembley Stadium or Danny Garcia in Las Vegas, the options for Alvarez are quite interesting, including the possibility of pursuing another world title.
Alfredo Angulo, Erislandy Lara and Carlos Molina -- who became a junior middleweight titlist on Saturday after defeating Ishe Smith -- are at the top of Golden Boy's list to become Alvarez's next opponent in 2014.
Molina is the only one of the three candidates who is not promoted by Golden Boy, but a title defense against Alvarez is viable. Despite recently losing to Lara, the crowd-pleasing Angulo (22-3, 18 KOs) still belongs to the elite group at 154 pounds. He is a bit slower than Alvarez, but has more punching power, so it could be quite a competitive challenge for both fighters.
Lara (18-1-2, 12 KOs) got off the canvas twice to defeat Angulo in June, after Angulo could not continue after suffering an eye injury in the 10th round, but left a few doubts. The interim junior middleweight titlist from Cuba is an effective and elusive fighter.
Molina (22-5-2, 6 KOs) is not exactly a powerful puncher, but he can be a nightmare inside the ring. According to Mayweather, Molina would be a nice fit for Alvarez to show his boxing skills, something he wasn't able to do Saturday.
Victor Ortiz (29-4-2, 22 KOs) also might be another option, despite being out of action for more than a year. Ortiz was next-in-line to fight Alvarez last September, but a broken jaw suffered in a clash against Josesito Lopez in June 2012 scratched those plans.
Former junior middleweight titlists Cornelius Bundrage and Cory Spinks are also possible opponents who, despite their recent slumps, could generate an attractive fight for Showtime.
The Alvarez camp also may wait for the winner of the Miguel Cotto-Delvin Rodriguez bout, set for Oct. 5 at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., due to Cotto's status as a promotional free agent.
For everything Floyd Mayweather Jr. has accomplished as both a fighter and a businessman, one might always wonder about what his legacy could have been.
Few, of course, question his abilities in the ring and his status as an all-time great. But since becoming the face of the sport, Mayweather’s control over his own matchmaking has made it difficult to compare him to past legends.
The gripe about Mayweather’s selection of opponents, specifically above 135 pounds, slowly loses steam the more often “Money” takes on dangerous opponents who many previously claimed he would avoid. The perfect illustration is Saturday’s junior middleweight title unification bout against fellow unbeaten Canelo Alvarez.
But the gripe is still there – not out of spite for Mayweather or out of doubt about his special talent in the ring. The timing of certain Mayweather opponents and the avoidance of others has made it problematic because the calling card of other all-time greats has been a deep-rooted desire to test themselves against the best -- that whole dare-to-be-great mentality.
So as we enter the stretch run of Mayweather’s equally marketable and remarkable path toward perfection, there remains a haunting feeling about whether the fighter left a little bit too much of his potential greatness on the table.
Most will point, almost involuntarily, to the Manny Pacquiao-sized hole on his resume. It’s frustrating when you consider how rare it is in history for the sport’s top two pound-for-pound fighters to find themselves in the same division. And it’s doubly frustrating when you consider the damage done to the sport when the fight, with unrivaled potential for breaking records financially, failed to come off during a three-year window of prime viability.
To a smaller degree, Mayweather never faced Kostya Tszyu, the recognized 140-pound champion at the time, after moving up to junior welterweight.
But the biggest void may be the timing of Mayweather’s absences from the ring during his prime at welterweight, when the division was loaded with difficult opponents. Mayweather, of course, stepped away from the ring with multiple retirements following his star-making 2007 victories over Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton.
After building his brand further with crossover appearances on “Dancing With The Stars” and even in the main event of “Wrestlemania,” Mayweather fought just two times over a stretch of nearly four years between the Hatton fight and his 2011 return against Victor Ortiz.
One could argue the time away from the ring kept Mayweather fresh physically, allowing him to stay closer to peak condition today at age 36. But you also have to wonder what would have happened if Mayweather had remained active during that 45-month window, when he fought just twice -- against an undersized Juan Manuel Marquez and a 38-year-old version of Shane Mosley, who was 16 months removed from his career-saving TKO of Antonio Margarito.
Had Mayweather fought and won five more times during that stretch, consistently fighting two times per year, how would we view him historically if he were entering the Alvarez fight on the verge of 50-0?
More importantly, had he cleared out the division with victories against an unbeaten Miguel Cotto, Margarito, Andre Berto, Paul Williams and, yes, Pacquiao, would Saturday’s fight be the biggest in history? Would a victory have vaulted Mayweather into the top five in history, pound-for-pound?
Such a grind could have led him closer to his first defeat. But the truth is, Mayweather likely would have won all of those fights, and things could have been different today had he maxed out his potential just a little bit more.
An alternate reality in which Mayweather is universally beloved and adored probably couldn’t exist because he doesn’t seem to care much about being liked. Instead, he appears to thrive off playing the villain and managing his career on his own terms. That might be a more fitting legacy than even his pursuit of perfection.
But when you watch Mayweather perform on the highest level, as he hopes to do again Saturday, it always leaves you wondering a bit of what might have been, even if it is splitting hairs.
On a personal level, fight week is a milestone of sorts because it marks 10 years since I was first credentialed for a fight. That fight was the rematch between Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley, and a few weeks before the bout, I was in Big Bear, Calif., for a media day at both men’s training camps. That was where I met a young Las Vegas-born junior welterweight prospect named Ishe Smith, who was sparring with Mosley.
I had no intention of covering boxing on a regular or ongoing basis. My intent was to write a book on boxing and Las Vegas, and to that end I focused on a number of Sin City-based boxing figures -- cutman Stitch Duran, referee Joe Cortez and ringside physician Margaret Goodman, among others -- as well as a trio of Vegas boxers at various stages of their careers. One of them was Smith.
For the previous couple of years, Smith had been a mainstay of Guilty Boxing’s Friday Night Fights, held once a month at The Orleans casino west of the Strip. But when we talked, he was moving up to the major leagues; he had been signed by Gary Shaw Promotions and had recently appeared for the first time on Showtime’s ShoBox series.
A good technician who was adept at working the body, Smith looked destined for a title shot, but things didn’t quite work out the way he planned. I was ringside in Santa Ynez, Calif., when he scored a tough, close win over Randall Bailey -- an impressive win for a young fighter, but one that wasn’t aesthetically pleasing or clear cut. Then his relationship with Shaw cratered acrimoniously, and Smith was a man without a promoter.
By this stage, my book project had foundered, but I had been bitten by the boxing bug and continued to write from ringside. And I stayed in close touch with Smith, who told me one evening at a Guilty Boxing card that he had been approached to participate in a reality show called "The Contender." He had some doubts about the project but went ahead with it anyway, and although he didn’t win the Contender title, he became one of the show’s standout stars.
Then it all slowly unraveled. He parted with the people behind the "Contender," was signed by Golden Boy, lost an ugly bout to Sechew Powell, was released by Golden Boy, signed with Lou DiBella, lost a few other fights, went a long time between bouts and was released by DiBella, who said he was having a hard time getting Smith fights and suggested he may find more success with someone else.
By this stage, Smith and I weren’t in touch as much. He was adrift, his family life in turmoil, his career stalled. For a while, his thoughts turned suicidal, and even when he emerged from that darkest of places, he had all but resigned himself to being finished with boxing.
Then, suddenly, everything turned around again. Floyd Mayweather Jr. hired him to spar prior to Mayweather’s bout with Miguel Cotto last year. Then Mayweather signed Smith to Mayweather Promotions and promised to get him a title shot. A couple of wins led to a bout with Cornelius Bundrage in Detroit earlier this year, and with Mayweather in attendance, Smith finally achieved his dream of becoming the first Las Vegas-born fighter to win a world title.
Now here he is, on hometown soil, about to defend that title against Carlos Molina on the biggest boxing card in years. Ten years after we first met in Big Bear, I interviewed him once more, in a packed MGM Grand lobby.
That book of mine? Never happened. But for Smith, everything finally turned out right. The path may have been much longer and more tortuous than either of us might have expected a decade ago, but the destination wound up better than he could ever have imagined.
A great deal of the talk surrounding whether Canelo Alvarez truly does have a shot at staying competitive with Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Saturday has centered around Alvarez’s breakthrough April victory over Austin Trout.
Stepping up against top-end competition for the first time against the fellow unbeaten Trout in a junior middleweight title unification bout at a sold-out Alamodome in San Antonio, Alvarez showed different facets of his ever-expanding arsenal that, frankly, we didn’t know he had. The rising Mexican star utilized head movement and heavy counterpunching to claim a decision that most felt was closer than the judges’ scorecard indicated.
Still, the victory was an impressive one for Alvarez, who implemented a game plan and had the poise to carry it out to completion against a difficult southpaw.
But if you’re wondering whether Mayweather was impressed by what he saw out of Alvarez while watching at home ... he wasn’t.
“That fight was a lot closer than people had,” Mayweather said during Wednesday’s final news conference. “But it’s a business, also. The fight was extremely close, I thought. But they had the open scoring and the scoring wasn’t right. If [Alvarez] did win, he probably only won by a couple of points.”
The talk quickly centered around whether Alvarez's win over Trout at 22 years old was an achievement comparable to a then-21-year-old Mayweather winning his first world title in 1998 by stopping Genaro Hernandez at 130 pounds.
“OK, [Trout] got a close fight against [Miguel] Cotto, but who else has Trout beaten?” Mayweather said. “Trout came in and fought one fight and as easy as he came in, [now] we forget who he is. I don’t think Trout is no Genaro Hernandez. And at that time you also had Angel Manfredy [who Mayweather stopped two months later]. I fought the two top guys, back to back, at 21.”
Mayweather turned many questions on Wednesday into a platform for him to call out Alvarez’s resume as a major factor toward him not being ready to face a fighter of Mayweather’s caliber.
“I guess [Alvarez] is a good boxer-puncher, but I don’t know if he has faced the same competition as [Juan Manuel] Marquez,” Mayweather said. “That’s how you weigh the situation. I look for certain things and that’s how I go into a fight. Has he fought the same caliber of fighters as Cotto has? That’s how you look at it.
“[Alvarez] fights Miguel Cotto’s brother, but he don’t fight Miguel Cotto. He fights Ricky Hatton’s brother, but he don’t fight Ricky Hatton. Really, just go back and do your homework.”
Floyd Mayweather versus Canelo Alvarez on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas might be the super-fight, but it is not the only fight of interest on the card. On the undercard, the undefeated unified junior welterweight (140 pounds) champion Danny Garcia (26-0-0) will defend his titles against knockout artist Lucas Matthysse (34-2-0, 1 NC). Here are the numbers you need to know about Saturday’s fight.
(32) Fights Matthysse has won by knockout. This includes knockout victories in his most recent six fights, and his 89 percent knockout rate exceeds that of Garcia, who has won by knockout 16 times in 26 fights (62 percent).
(1) Common opponents of Garcia and Matthysse. Zab Judah won a controversial split decision against Matthysse three years ago and lost by unanimous decision to Garcia in April of this year.
(19) Jabs Garcia has thrown per round, on average, in his last six fights. According to CompuBox, Garcia has landed an average of three jabs per round in his last six fights. Matthysse has thrown an average of 17 jabs per round and landed an average of two.
(73) Percentage Matthysse’s punches that are power punches. According to CompuBox, this percentage is fifth-highest among qualified boxers, and his 17 power punches landed per round ranks seventh.
(28) Percentage of power punches Garcia’s opponents land. According to CompuBox, this is the eight-lowest among qualified fighters.
(60) Average number of punches thrown per round among junior welterweights. According to CompuBox, the average punches landed per round in the junior welterweight division is 18. Garcia has thrown an average of 54 punches per round in his most recent six fights and has connected on an average of 17 of them. Matthysse has thrown and average of 63 punches per round and has connected on an average 19 in his last seven fights. Of the combined 36 punches landed per round by Garcia and Matthysse, 31 (86 percent) are power punches.
(5) Fights Danny Garcia has fought at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Matthysse has never fought at the MGM Grand; in fact, only eight of his fights --including both of his losses -- have been held in the United States. All but one of Garcia’s fights has taken place in the United States.
(6) Streak of fights for Garcia against current or former world titleholders.
Top-Ranked junior welterweight boxers according to The RING:
Champion: Danny Garcia
1. Lucas Matthysse
2. Amir Khan *
3. Mike Alvarado
4. Lamont Peterson **
5. Zab Judah *
* Lost to Danny Garcia
** Lost to Lucas Matthysse
-- Statistical data provided by CompuBox
"I can rate myself," Mayweather said, at Wednesday's final press conference. "In the Robert Guerrero fight, I gave myself probably a 'D' I wasn't impressed with myself. I knew I could have done better."
Judges scoring the bout in Las Vegas disagreed, awarding Mayweather unanimous scores of 117-111. The welterweight title fight was Mayweather's first appearance after serving a two-month jail sentence for a domestic battery case.
"I had been off a year. My body had totally changed," Mayweather said. "I got big from doing pushups every day. Things happen in this sport and we live and we learn, but I wasn't impressed with myself. I go back and watch that fight and say to myself, 'I look like s---.'
"I know me as a fighter and I could have done better, but this fight I'm going to be totally different. Watch."
MEXICO CITY -- It has been 21 years since the epic battle between Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. and Hector Camacho, but if memory serves, it's the only thing here that can compare to the current phenomenon of Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Canelo Alvarez. Just as it was for J.C.-Macho more than two decades ago, Floyd-Canelo is virtually the only thing being talked about in Mexico today.
Some of this can be attributed to the country's national soccer team, the biggest attraction in Mexican sports, which hasn't produced the expected results in the Confederations Cup or Gold Cup and is struggling to clinch a place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"Maybe it's not the best fight in history," said Jose Sulaiman, the WBC president whose organization will award the Mayweather-Alvarez winner its junior middleweight belt. "But it is the fight of the year and one of the major bouts, along with the fights between Chavez-Camacho and [Juan Manuel] Marquez-Manny Pacquiao.
"Pound for pound, Mayweather is the best in the world. He's one of the 10 best boxers in history and the best American boxer in the last 10 years. And beating him would be the most significant achievement in recent years and one of Mexican boxing's greatest achievements."
According to research by the Mexico Tourism Board, the Sept. 14 fight broadcast will reach 1.5 billion people around the world and more than 80 million in Mexico alone.
"This is the sporting event of the year in Mexico," said Gerardo Llanes, MTB's marketing director. "The significance of this fight is huge."
Since the fight was announced, both Alvarez's fans and those who doubt him haven't been able to stop talking about the duel. His followers swear that Canelo will finish off Mayweather; the naysayers believe "Money" will dismantle the myth in the making.
"It's a historic fight: It will be seen in homes, at restaurants," said Llanes, who noted that the MTPC has made a significant investment in the match -- and is confident that it will be worth every penny. "It will be a very important hit; 80 million Mexicans will be watching the fight."
Jesus Mena, a former Olympic medalist and director of the National Commission of Physical Culture and Sports, said that nothing could be more important in Mexican sports than a Canelo victory over Mayweather.
"In our country, boxing meets the highest standards we have," Mena said. "Entire books have been written about boxers' exploits, raising Mexico's name high.
"We hope that Canelo will be the winner in a fight that has evoked great interest. This belt is engraved with Mexico's name, and that is a good omen."
Alvarez had been scheduled to face Austin Trout in the co-headler at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but when Mayweather wouldn't commit to a follow-up September fight with Canelo, the undefeated junior middleweight titlist quickly broke away to put on his own card, set for Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
"I applaud him. It was not an easy decision to make, but it was the right one," said De La Hoya, who during his time as a fighter helped transform Cinco de Mayo weekend into a celebration that encompassed some of boxing's biggest blockbusters. "The fact that Mayweather did not want to sign the contract to fight Canelo in September, I think I would have done the same thing -- set my own card -- to show the fans that I can tell Mayweather, 'I don't need you.' It was the right choice."
Alvarez says that he initially didn't want to be part of the May 4 card, but he agreed to it only on the condition that Mayweather face him a few months later. It wasn't long, though, before Canelo and his team decided that, without a contract signed by Mayweather, it wasn't in the fighter's best interest to remain on the card and help boost pay-per-view sales for someone else's main event.
"We are a team -- my father, Saul and myself got together," said Alvarez's trainer, Eddy Reynoso, whose father, Chepo, is Canelo's manager. "Mayweather did not want to sign the agreement that was made to fight him in September. We don't need to do whatever everybody else says. Each person must take care of his own business.
"We are not in a hurry. [Canelo] is 22. He already has five title defenses. He is making very good money, so we do not need to depend on other fighters."
De La Hoya praised Alvarez and the Reynoso family for knowing what they want and sticking to their guns to achieve it: "They want to become the best in the world, the best in this sport, the best in history.
"I think we made the right decision for Canelo's career. Because Mayweather is already established. He is the king of pay-per-view. And I'm taking care of Canelo, to develop him and make him a superstar."
And then De La Hoya made a promise: that the September card his company is scheduled to put on -- most likely on the eve of Mexican Independence Day -- will be headlined by Alvarez.
"He is Mexican," De La Hoya said, "it is Mexico's Independence Day, where a Mexican fights on that date. Like Julio Cesar Chavez did. Like I did. Even though I was born in the U.S., I've got Mexican heritage. So Canelo wants to fight in September, and I will deliver the promise I made."
Alvarez was a main-eventer on Mexican Independence Day last year in Las Vegas, beating Josesito Lopez by TKO in the fifth round, and was a co-main event fighter in Los Angeles on split cards in 2011 and 2010 against Alfonso Gomez and Carlos Baldomir, respectively.
After it was all said and done, De La Hoya said, the reason Mayweather wouldn't commit to face Canelo came down to a healthy respect.
"They know it is a dangerous fight," De La Hoya said, casting an eye to the future, "but in the end, they will have no choice but to take the fight."