2013 has been a bountiful year of good bouts and key match-ups and September 14th plays host to likely its biggest fight night. Boxing's hottest commodity in Saul "Canelo" Alvarez finally gets to meet its biggest money-maker in Floyd Mayweather, Jr in a long-awaited match, and as an added bonus, the not-so-beloved Danny Garcia is set to fight one of the sports most feared fighters in Lucas Matthysee.
I could have called this "Someone's O's Gonna Go", "FTL (For The Loss)", or something along those lines, but perhaps the best alternate title might be "Boxing's Most Wanted". Mayweather undoubtedly has his fans, but without uncertainty his detractors, be it for his life (and troubles) outside the ring or his choice selection of opponents and/or fight conditions. A good many people will cheer him on as much as others will be to see him get knocked out, and for that crowd, Canelo is the one that they would like to see do it. The red-headed Mexican (hence his Spanish nickname of "cinnamon") sensation has already been anointed the next big thing in the sport, a combination of Gatti-like, crowd-pleasing tenacity, appeal among a large Latino contingency and beyond, and a promising bud of skill and acumen. Along with definite power and hand-speed, it was a no-brainer selling the marquee of the fight to Mayweather and abroad.
For the public, you had a hungry, young fighter who could potentially give the long-reigning champion a run for his--well--money. The Beloved versus The Despised. Many would love to see such an upset happen and on paper, it appears like a possibly dangerous match for the latter. Yet such dilemma would fly in the face of Mayweather's machinations and if the past is any indication, he didn't pick this fight for nothing. For yet another record-breaking payday ($40+ million(?!)), The Boxer Formerly Known As "Pretty Boy" is banking on a big particular point: Alvarez is still not fully polished and a shade of green. While he has shown improvement, the 23-year-old still has not put his portfolio of arsenal together and has a propensity for absorbing more punches than he should. Even with a step or two advancement, there remains the fact that he has not faced someone at or close to Mayweather's level yet. There is a big gap between an Austin Trout and a fighter like his opponent in Las Vegas, who he is probably two to three years from facing in reality.
Bluntly, the bout has the feel of "too much, too soon". Alvarez does possess the physical tools necessary put Mayweather away and there is always the chance of a Mosley Moment--only this time, he's a real finisher that can flip the switch and see a fault through to its end. What he does not (yet) have is the most important tool of all--the boxing brain--and without that, none of that quite matters when your opponent already does and also possesses the speed necessary to dodge you and pick you apart (particularly with your still-imperfect defense). Alvarez will most likely try to start off hot, but cautiously so, but if he cannot 1) hurt, 2) impose some of his will upon him, or 3) lure him to trade more and keep on the move, it will be one miserable night for the upstart and another easy exhibition match for Mayweather.
Prediction: Mayweather, TKO8. (If Alvarez is going to be beaten, I see it in a rout and him not going the distance. I don't believe weight will play its perennial role, unless his re-hydration weight makes him too slow or the swing between training weight, weigh-in, and fight weight is too great. A good amount of smart pressure and careful, mindful precision punching could help him stave off Mayweather and shave off some of his game, but has he developed enough I.Q. to pull it off and earn an early- to mid-stoppage? That would be nice to see, but I doubt it. If so, then Alvarez, KO6.)
Outcome: Mayweather, MD. (By the reports, same ol', same ol' as Mayweather schooled an overmatched Alvarez. Thought he would beat him enough for a stoppage, but a MD's no surprise, either (except for them "M" part, thanks to a suspect card from suspect judge CJ Ross. How much so remains to be seen until the replay…)
Final Thoughts: As thought, and not, Mayweather had no real trouble in handling Alvarez throughout the match. It was, however, more active a match than I was expecting, as he was willing to mix it up against him, and he deserves some credit for not merely picking him off here and there and playing it more safe than necessary. It was wasn't too risky a travail, though, with Canelo throwing too many single/2-punch combos and waiting around too often, not using his physical abilities to apply constant, smart pressure. That is also coupled with the fact that much of his combos where being thrown to "hit", not thrown to "land", and wasting away on Mayweather's guard rather than being distributed from different angles Again, the boxing mind & "too much, too soon"…
In all honesty, this was the first time in a long time that I can say that a Mayweather fight was entertaining, but it was. However, I am unsure about whether him eating as many shots as he did was a product of his fight plan or there was something more to it. Yes, he was fighting Canelo, but that was a little strange… (And as for the wayward judge, I can only see more than 2-3 rounds for the Canelo if you are easily swoon by a guy throwing a bunch of punches…or if you can't properly judge a bout right by a fighter's effectiveness and ring generalship. And that's why she's gone…)
A similar popular dynamic is also at play in the sub-main event of Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysee, though perhaps in reverse. Danny Garcia is the up-and-comer that boxing fans seem to love to hate (or just plain hate). Be it for his bigmouth of a father/trainer, his fighting style, his perceived ducking or delaying of fights, his "luck" in gaining victories over Erik Morales, Amir Khan, and Zab Judah, or just merely being "Danny Garcia", there are many that treat him like the red-headed stepchild of boxing. In contrast, Matthysee is like the favorite son--a hard-hitting brute of a warrior that has everyone in the 140s scurrying in the other direction. He has KO'd all but two of his 34 victims and he can ice you at any given time, and to make matters worse, he has a granite chin (as Lamont Peterson found out as he got KTFO'd when the two connected at the same time and the Argentinian's head didn't even move!).
Garcia, in all honesty, does not truly excel in any category, just being good, but not spectacular, in power and speed, having decent durability, and pretty good, but not entirely stand-out, skill. And with a record that--while unblemished--only shows 16 KOs out of 26 wins, Matthysee seems to have a clear path towards notching another head onto his mantle. However, Garcia's apparent unimpressiveness is exactly what makes him a dangerous person to pick against.
On their own, his attributes are nothing to write home about, but when put together, they form a very solid whole that might bend, but doesn't break easy, and Garcia has made the most of them all. The speed and strength isn't great, but enough is there to make his opponents' fights against him not a walk in the park and he has a good amount of skill to still give people trouble. You don't have to be a wunderkind or a specialist to succeed or even beat one, and Garcia has thus far proven this in his victories. He is an all-around good pugilist not lacking in any area, and sometimes, those are the most dangerous ones you can face, especially with the heart he has.
Matthysee is a machine and not easy to beat, himself, but he has a tendency to get sloppy with his power punches going for a bomb. That can leave a lot of opportunities to score some good shots, as Garcia has the edge in speed and skill set. Garcia has little chance of stopping him and though he is able to take a punch and is willing to brawl, he will have to weather his fair share of grueling shots. He could very well get KO'd even in the first round ("La Máquina" is that potent), but if Garcia is able to stick-and-move, use his combo work, and make Matthysee's persistence work against him, he has good chance at shocking everyone (and drawing their ire) by eking out a decision win.
Prediction: Garcia, MD. (Maybe it's a no-brainer (and the only right decision) to pick Matthysee by (T)KO and I'm incline to think that it would be by Rd. 4. But Garcia's not undefeated for nothing, nor is he a slouch, and knows what he is getting into. If he keeps clear of trouble early and takes advantage of openings and said opportunities, and keeps busy and moves, he has a good shot of at least a split decision. If tastes too much of Matthysee's power, even on the low side of connects, it could be curtains for certain--and it can only take a punch or two from him. If that occurs, Matthysee, TKO3-4.
Outcome: Garcia, UD. (Despite my pick, I still held onto a strong possibility that Matthysee might be able to bull rush and catch Garcia. But I've learned from past experiences to stick with the facts and analysis in front of me and I stuck with Garcia. But even then, not only did Garcia get a unanimous decision, but he also scored a knockdown on a one-eyed Matthysee in Rd. 11! Major props to Garcia, and hopefully, the victory will get a load of critics off his back…)
Final Thoughts: It was a close fight early on, but by the mid-point, Garcia clearly pulled away. People have pointed towards Matthysee's right eye quickly swelling shut (via legit punch) as the biggest reason for the shift (though not taking away from the winner's work), but more notably, Matthysee looked like a fighter that didn't know what else to do as Garcia was still standing after taking some good, hard shots. The skill gap and the Argentinian's lacking defense were present, too, as Garcia was able to put together precise combos and power punches that stopped or held him off, which ultimately led to the shocking KD in the 11th (…which itself was ultimately nullified when Garcia was deducted a point for one low blow too many in the following round).Maybe the best moment in the bout came in the closing seconds, as Garica and Matthysee went into a frenzied, "Hey, what the heck?"-kind of brawl and began battering the stuffing out of each other, providing an unexpectedly enthralling ending to an entertaining fight--with an unexpected winner.
As fine a job and account Garcia made for himself, does that mean he is prepared for an expected showdown with the winner from the top of this post? As much I as like him, I am not sure how well he matches stylistically with Mayweather, as being all-around solid (and deceptively, very much so) may not be enough to match up with his heightened level of skills. He's not invincible and can be beat, but is Garcia necessary that fighter? I suppose that is why you fight the fights, but a Matthysee-type bout that wouldn't be…