Sat, Sep 21, 3:15am by Kevin Pitstock
Gambling experts in the United States predicted a “perfect storm” this last weekend and they got it. The headlining fight was the long-awaited showdown between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Not only was it the biggest boxing match of the year, but it was the biggest fight of the last several years, the closest thing to the long-awaited Mayweather-Pacquiao fight which never happens.
The leading event of the weekend was the much-anticipated boxing match between undefeated Floyd Mayweather, widely considered the pound-for-pound best boxer in the world, and previously unbeaten 23-year old Canelo Alvarez. Canelo was considered by many to be the toughest opponent Floyd Mayweather had faced.
The joint promoters, Team Money (Mayweather) and Golden Boy Promotions (De La Hoya), hoped to break the previous record of 2.4 pay-per-view purchases for the Mayweather/De La Hoya match back in 2007. While the fight sold only 2.2 million unique pay-per-view purchases, the overall rake was $150 million, making it the most lucrative boxing match in the history of professional boxing. Wagering on the fight also reached a new high.
The fight went the distance, with Floyd Mayweather winning a majority decision–meaning he won on two judges’ cards, while the third card had it a draw. The judge who saw the fight as a draw was so heavily criticised in the United States that she has since retired as a boxing judge (this was a second high-profile controversial decision in two years by the same judge). When the fight was over, even Canelo Alvarez admitted he had been defeated. For his part, Mayweather credited his opponent, saying he was the future of boxing–just not the present.
Love him or hate him, Floyd Mayweather Jr has a remarkable story. Considered by many to be the best defensive fighter in boxing history, the 36 year old fighter has been champion in 5 weight classes and has won 8 world titles. With a 44-0 record and 26 knockouts, Mayweather has an aura of invincibility which hasn’t been seen since the heyday of Mike Tyson.
Unlike Tyson, the reputation has been a lasting one. Floyd Mayweather has defeated a who’s who of welterweight and lightweight boxers in his career. Oscar de la Hoya, the previously-undefeated Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo (twice), Arturo Gatti, Ricky Hatton, Zab Judah, Carlos Baldomir, Juan Manuel Marquez, Sugar Shane Mosely, Miguel Cotto, and now Alvarez are the biggest names to have been defeated by “Money” .
The nickname is apt. It’s Mayweather’s game plan outside the ring which makes him such a unique attraction. Using his undefeated status to the greatest effect, Floyd Mayweather Jr promotes his own fights. This allows him to cut out the middle man and collect huge paydays from his once-a-year fights.
Mayweather is also the best businessman in the history of boxing champions. He’ll collect $41 million (at least) for his fighting with Canelo Alvarez, and he is expected to rake in as much as $100 million for the fight. If he were to lose, he has an immediate rematch clause.
It’s these kind of extraordinary purses which make the boxer the admiration not just of the boxing public, but also of other athletes and celebrities. He’s his own manager, his own sports franchise, and his own production company, so he rakes in insane profits. In 2012, Mayweather was named the highest earning athlete in the world, drawing in a total higher than even Tiger Woods. No doubt he’ll win that title again in 2013.
Despite his success, Floyd Mayweather Jr has a legion of critics. Because of a cautious, speedy style which emphasizes “not getting hit”, the boxer is criticised by some as a boring champion. In many ways, he’s too good for his own reputation, because he doesn’t get into the kind slugging wars that capture the imagination. The style has been the key to his longevity in a sport where attrition makes even the best fighter old before their time.
Critics dislike the man’s swagger, though much of it can be dismissed as a stage act. He’s developed an obnoxious personality in order to sell tickets. This persona, along with his business acumen, has made Floyd Mayweather (according to several studies) the most popular boxer in history among African-Americans–which is saying something, given the massive popularity of counter-culture figures like Muhammad Ali.
Of course, the long and failed negotiations with Filipino fighter Manny Pacquiao did nothing for Mayweather’s reputation. The fight never happened when both boxers were at the top of their careers, and now the fight will will never happen in those circumstances–Pacquiao lost his last several fights. Fans from both camps still blame the other fighter for the failure of those negotiations.
Mayweather’s natural caution has protected his biggest asset, which is the charisma which comes with being seemingly unbeatable. The fighter’s massive drawing power is his undefeated record. Mayweather claims he intends on retiring as the only major boxer to post a 50-0 record. Rocky Marciano, former World Heavyweight Champion in the 1950’s, is the current record-holder, having retired with a 49-0 record. It’s his pursuit of history which keeps most boxing fans interested in Mayweather’s career.
Saul Alvarez, dubbed “El Canalo” (“The Cinnamon”) by his legion of Mexican fans, was seen by many as the boxer with the best chance to defeat Mayweather. Some had criticised Mayweather for choosing opponents with big names at the end of their careers, when their skills had eroded and they were more beatable. This cannot be said of Alvarez, who came into the fight 43-0-1 with 30 knockouts and only 23 years old.
Even after a defeat, this is a fighter on the rise. If anything, he hasn’t reached the peak of his skill level. The young fighter comes from a family of boxers; he and his 6 brothers all appeared on the same card for one fight night.
Another reason people saw Alvarez as a legitimate threat was his size. Mayweather took more punishment than usual the last two times he moved up to 154 pounds to face an opponent, when he fought Zab Judah and Oscar de la Hoya. This time, he’s meeting Alvarez at the catch weight of 152.
While this forced the welterweight to struggle a bit harder to make weight, Alvarez gained up to 165 by the time the fight starts. Mayweather began the day of the fight at 146 and ended up at 150, so Alvarez was 10% heavier than his opponent. Such a weight difference would have been dangerous for Mayweather, as he was fighting a younger, stronger fighter. Of course, his advantage has always been speed, so Money might have preferred to see his opponent gain enough weight that he lost some of his quickness.
Even though Canelo was only 23, his reflexes were not enough to catch up to his opponent. In the post-fight interviews, Canelo said he simply couldn’t catch Mayweather.
The gambling weekend was enhanced because of a major showdown in college sports. In American college football action, the contest between the #1 University of Alabama Crimson Tide and the #6 Texas A&M Aggies was the most-anticipated game of the year. Alabama, led by no-nonsense coach Nick Saban, who has won an unprecedented 3 of the last 4 BCS National Championships. The Aggies, led by sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel, upset the Crimson Tide last year.
It was on the strength of that game that “Johnny Football” built his resume to be the only freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy, which is awarded to the finest college player in the nation. Manziel has become a cottage industry in the United States, as the brash young man from Texas trademarked his iconic nickname and is seen attending NBA games and sitting in $2,500 courtside seats (despite no pay-for-play in American colleges). Manziel’s every move is followed, and most of those have caused controversy since he won the Heisman award.
In the Bama-A&M rematch, the #1 team in the country won 49-42. Johnny Manziel led his team to a 14-0 lead, but Alabama roared back to score 35 unanswered points as the Aggies defense simply could not stop their opponents. With the game 42-21, it appeared the Aggies had no chance to win, but Johnny Football led three scoring drives to cut the lead to 49-42. Only when Alabama recovered an onside kick with 15 seconds left did they finally know for certain they had won. In the post-game interview, coach Nick Saban said Johnny Football had taken 20 years off his life.
To most world gamblers, this weekend will be remembered for the Las Vegas fight between “The Last Great American Prizefighter” and “The Last Best Contender”. If nothing else, Americans, and especially Mexican-Americans, paid top dollar for the chance to see (arguably) the most arrogant man in the world get knocked out. Those people were disappointed, as they had been every other time up until now. That’s just how Floyd “Money” Mayweather likes it.
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