Analysis: Mayweather toys with Canelo in snoozer

September 15, 2013 in Boxing, Sport by pacejmiller

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People who wanted to see him lose have gone home disappointed yet again. At the end of 12 rounds at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Floyd “Money” Mayweather cruised to his 45th win in 45 fights (and earning about AU$45 million doing it) by outpointing Mexican idol Canelo Alvarez — and it wasn’t even close. Mayweather danced, moved, blocked, deflected, pot-shotted and countered all night on his way to what should have been a near-shutout, though the ineptitude of (at least one of) the judges gave us a majority decision with laughable scores of  116-112, 117-111 and 114-114.

Mayweather was dominating so much that he didn’t need to take any real risks. That’s probably why the fight was so boring. If there was any tension at all, it was from the anticipation that maybe Canelo could catch Money with a big shot, a big shot that looked less and less likely as the fight progressed. Big fights at this level are rarely the slug fests boxing fans hope for, but this one was a snoozer. And to be fair, it wasn’t all Mayweather’s fault.

I was surprised, not by the outcome, but by the way the fight progressed. The fight was made at a catchweight of 152 pounds, which favoured the natural welterweight (147 pound limit) Mayweather over the natural junior middleweight (154 pound limit) Alvarez, but the 23-year-old young gun did little to impose his 15-pound advantage over the 36-year-old veteran on fight night. (Canelo weighed in at 152 but ballooned to 165 while Floyd dropped from 150.5 to 150)

It was almost as though Canelo resigned himself to the fact that he would have to knock Mayweather out before the opening bell. I thought he would rush Mayweather early, catch him off guard, and put the pressure on early; not allow the master craftsman to adjust so he could dictate the pace. But instead, Canelo was super cautious in the first few rounds, feinting more than punching, and even then mostly throwing just straight body blows. I suppose the strategy was to try and take Mayweather’s legs away from him early to slow him down a little, and then come on strong in the middle to later rounds to take advantage of their perceived fitness advantage from the 13-year age difference.

It was a horrible idea, because it allowed Mayweather to relax into his game plan without any sense of real danger, and more importantly, rack up a huge lead on the score cards. With Mayweather’s unmatched accuracy, foot speed and defense, it was always going to be impossible for Alvarez to outbox him, but that was exactly what he tried to do. There were a couple of rounds where neither guy did a lot that could have gone either way, but after six I had Mayweather winning each and every round.

Then Canelo’s corner finally urged him to start putting on the pressure, and he did, but it wasn’t enough as Mayweather found an answer for every onslaught. The most success Canelo had was when he had Mayweather on the ropes (an extremely rare sight all night, mind you), where he would tag him with successive heavy body blows. But those punches are never as impressive to the judges as the snapping counters Mayweather landed to Canelo’s head.

Instead of Mayweather tiring and slowing down, it was Alvarez who started to look like he needed a break. His stopped using his jab and allowed Mayweather to get into his pocket and tee up sharp lead rights and one-two combos. On the other hand, Canelo’s power punches started getting wider and more telegraphed, allowing Mayweather to easily dodge or deflect them.

It was a boxing clinic that purists will appreciate, but it was also frustrating to watch Canelo get so frustrated by his ability to catch his opponent. It wasn’t that Mayweather was unwilling to engage in exchanges — it was just that he didn’t need to. Even when they did exchange, Mayweather seemed to get the better end of it, always finishing off with a sharp punch before tying the young man up. Before the fight analysts said that Canelo was probably still a few years off reaching his prime, and they were probably right. He never gave up, but he just seemed more and more deflated by his failure to launch any sort of meaningful assault as the fight wore on.

The experts, most of whom picked Mayweather, only gave Canelo a puncher’s chance. That’s what I gave him as well. And it looked like that’s all he had all night long. At least he is US$5-12 million richer, and losing against the pound-for-pound king won’t drop his stock by much.

Compubox numbers are generally misleading, but here they paint a compelling picture. Mayweather landed 232 punches at 46%, while Alvarez landed just 117 punches at 22%. Game. Set. Match.

At the end of the day, it was a very disappointing superfight because it did not come anywhere near to fulfilling the hype. A lot of early posturing, very sporadic action, no knockdowns, no big shots landed, no fighter in any serious trouble, and an early foregone conclusion regarding the result. Canelo (who fell to 42-1-1) was supposed to be an exciting young stud who would give Mayweather a run for his money and even potentially end the unbeaten reign, but instead he simply walked right into the Mayweather steam train. Apart from the huge speed disadvantage in hand and particularly foot speed (not to mention technical skill), Canelo also failed to make the fight more interesting because of a silly game plan. You just don’t try to outbox the best boxer in the world.

I still think stylistically, the only guy out there who could potentially give Mayweather trouble is a prime Manny Pacquiao (and even then Pacquiao would be a major underdog), but we all know that ship has already sailed. A bout with the recently-KO’ed Pacquiao could still become an eventual reality, but let’s just see how the Filipino congressman does in his upcoming November 23 bout against Brando Rios first.