Now that Canelo Alvarez is firmly ensconced in the discussion of the pound for pound best fighter in the world, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. is “fighting” in exhibitions against YouTube personalities, I thought it might be interesting to revisit their one and only fight against each other, and ask the question:
“Would prime Canelo have beaten prime Floyd?”
One thing you have to give Mayweather (beyond his prodigious skill set and athletic talent) is his gift for matchmaking. That’s not to say that Floyd’s resume isn’t full of impressive names, it’s more that he knows when he should fight them to not only get the most bang for his buck, but also to get after his best opponents just a little bit past their prime.
Check the ‘rec on some of Floyd’s sexiest scalps: Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley, and Miguel Cotto were all within spitting distance of their finest years, but in hindsight (or Floyd’s foresight) they were a little beyond them.
What’s so brilliant about the timing of each of these bouts is all of those fighters were still huge names even if they weren’t at peak anymore.
Like I said, bang for the buck.
In the case of Canelo, it was the other way around. Floyd knew his 23-year-old opponent was a big name and a big talent, but simply too green to deal with Floyd’s shoulder rolls, pot-shotting, and “now you see me now you don’t” footwork.
It’s easy to forget that Floyd has been great for so long that he was just on the other side of 35 when he and Canelo met back in 2013. Say what you want about Floyd’s behavior in and out of the ring, the man is no dummy. He was not interested in fighting a slightly older and wiser Canelo. He wanted the young’un.
I’ve long believed that the only way to beat Floyd (and since no one has ever done it, feel free to take my “expertise” with a grain of salt) is to train like hell for endurance and be willing to let your hands go knowing you are absolutely going to look silly from time to time ( maybe the whole damn time).
Beating Floyd on points is a fool’s errand. You have to get to him and rough him up. Oddly, with all the fancy notches on Floyd’s belt, the guy who did this best was Marcos Maidana in their first fight in 2014.
Sure, I’ve seen Floyd stung before (well, exactly twice, by Chop Chop Corley and Shane Mosley), but Maidana was the only fighter I’ve seen who had the will to go rough and tumble for 12 rounds with the defensive magician. While Maidana’s majority decision loss (114-114, 111-117, 112-116) may seem like nothing more than a moral victory, it was a great template for a better, more talented fighter to follow.
With all that said, back to my original question: “Would prime Canelo have beaten prime Floyd?”
Canelo is a much more seasoned and mature fighter now. He picks his spots better, has improved his endurance, has always been hella strong, and comes at you with rocks in his gloves.
Today’s Canelo would be in a much better position to adopt the Maidana method at 31 than he was at 23.
I think where the trouble comes in is the Maidana method is not Canelo’s natural jam. Sure, he can bring the offense, but he’s just as much a counter-puncher as he is an offensive force. That’s not how anyone can beat Floyd.
As well, while Canelo is fitter now than he was at 23, he still has a tendency to fight in spots. Again, this would not do against any version of Floyd. Canelo would have to force himself to be the bully. A bully who would on occasion look a bit of a fool trying to find Floyd for 12 rounds.
What Canelo would need to do during those moments he needs to rest is to lean on Floyd, hold the smaller man, push him back, make Floyd feel his weight for 12 rounds and hope that before the final bell is struck he could land that decisive blow that may seem nearly impossible to land, but really is his only logical shot.
Now, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably thinking, “you aren’t selling me on Canelo’s chances here, chief.” And you’re right. Hell, I’m not selling myself either. Even so, I don’t think it’s so impossible. This Canelo would be the best fighter Floyd ever fought while still in his prime. Maybe the question isn’t so much “could Canelo do it?” (I would give him a 20% chance), but would Floyd even entertain the fight? I doubt it.
I suspect Floyd would wait a couple more years. He’d let Canelo get into a few more wars, see that slight slippage that might be invisible to all but the most trained of eyes (his), and then, and only then, sign on to fight Canelo.
I know this is all an exercise in dreaming out loud (or at least in print), but it’s one hell of a fun game. And look, we have to account for the judges too.
Ironically, the scoring of their only bout came out exactly the same as Mayweather-Maidana 1 (114-114, 111-117, 112-116) even though I know of no rational person who thought Canelo won a single round.
If Canelo could follow Maidana’s game plan, he would surely get closer, and, even if he didn’t land that one big blow that no one’s ever landed against Floyd, a better showing with the help of at least two sight-impaired mice, I mean judges, could lead to that O of Floyd’s turning into a straight up and down line.
Alas, we’ll never get that fight. There are no time machines, and you’re more likely to see Floyd wrestle a bear than you would see him get back into the ring with Canelo now, but as Billy Shakes once said, “To sleep, perchance to dream.”