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A real-life fantasy fight

6/1/2013 - Boxing

The orgasmic exhilaration that greeted the announcement of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Canelo Alvarez match was, to a certain extent, because of how quickly the superfight came together. We are not used to such expediency, especially when it comes to making a hot fight before it turns cold.

Most folks are still trying to forget the excruciatingly prolonged and ultimately failed negotiations for a Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight. Although that charade went on for years, Mayweather-Alvarez was finalized less than a month after Floyd's most recent fight. It almost seems too good to be true, but apparently a rare outbreak of common sense has prevailed in Palookaville.

It has been suggested in some quarters that Mayweather-Alvarez is a consolation prize, solace for a fight that never happened.

If Pacquiao had won his two most recent fights, a possible showdown with Mayweather would still be alive, and "Money" versus "Canelo" would not be as huge an attraction. But Manny, currently in rebuilding mode, has a date with Brandon Rios in Macau, leaving it up to Mayweather and Alvarez to hold down the fort stateside.

The Sept. 14 Mayweather-Canelo fight gives each man an opportunity to elevate his game and give boxing what it needs -- a highly competitive fight in which the peerless Mr. Mayweather's skill and will are tested to the utmost.

Whether Canelo is capable of forcing Floyd into that sort of fight is the crux of the matter. If he is up to the task, we will witness something very special. If he's not ... well, we've seen enough Mayweather fights to know what will happen.

Could Mayweather-Alvarez turn out to be an even better fight than the mooted Pacquiao-Mayweather match? To answer that question, you have to ask if we're talking about Manny and Floyd now or when their fight was virtually the only topic of boxing conversation.

As Pacquiao began to shown signs of decline, more and more pundits opined that the Filipino icon wouldn't have a chance against a consummate craftsman as masterful as Mayweather. There was, however, a time not all that long ago when a victory for the American wasn't considered such a sure shot.

At the end of 2009, Pacquiao was riding an incredible winning streak, having stopped Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto over a period of less than 12 months. He was still devilishly quick of hand and foot, punched in devastating salvos and had added a measure of finesse to his whirlwind attack. That particular Pacquiao would not only have given Mayweather an extremely tough fight, he just might have beaten him.

Alas, Manny's prime appears to have passed, and even if by some chance he fights Mayweather in the future, it won't be the same. Moreover, although he hasn't deteriorated at the same rate as Pacquiao, Mayweather isn't what he used to be either.

Don't let Floyd's waltz with Robert Guerrero fool you. Guerrero was hopelessly outclassed and ran out of ideas as soon as he began running into Mayweather's right hand. Look to Mayweather's struggle with Cotto when evaluating Canelo's chances. It's a much better gauge of where Floyd is during this current stage of his career.

Granted, Alvarez isn't as savvy and experienced at the top level as Cotto, but his grinding style is similar enough to draw comparisons. If Cotto could rough up Mayweather on the ropes, it's reasonable to think Alvarez could do likewise. And let's not forget that Canelo, 22, is considerably younger than Cotto (31 when he fought Mayweather) and much fresher. The redheaded Mexican star also holds the same advantages over the 36-year-old Mayweather.

In other words, Floyd might have slowed down just enough to make the Canelo fight a lot of fun to watch, which is great news for everybody, with the exception of Mayweather and his faithful legions. And in the off chance that Alvarez wins, it would arguably prove to be the most significant fight since the turn of the century.

You can almost smell the money already. Mayweather is the undisputed pay-per-view champ, and Alvarez will have millions of Mexican and Mexican-American fans behind him. Even so, their fight won't have quite the same cachet as Pacquiao-Mayweather would have enjoyed. PacMan was, and still is to a degree, a global phenomenon and far better known worldwide than Alvarez, which most likely would have led to notably larger PPV numbers.

Still, once the opening bell rings, none of that will matter.

There is, of course, a chance that Mayweather-Canelo will turn out to be a lackluster encounter along the lines of, say, De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad. After all, once Floyd gains control, he has an infuriating habit of coasting home, instead of striving for a knockout.

We'll never know for sure if we're getting a better fight with Mayweather-Canelo than we would have with Mayweather-Pacquiao. Although it's enjoyable to speculate, you can't really compare fact and fantasy.

Life is basically one trade-off after another, and if you want to think of Mayweather-Canelo as a consolation prize, so be it. But the truth is that it deserves to be judged on its own merit, and on that basis, the match is worthy of the terrific buzz it's generating.

Best of all, unlike Mayweather-Pacquiao, Mayweather-Alvarez is no dream fight. It's actually going to happen.