So Far in
2013, fight fans have been treated to some wildly exciting fights.
Timothy
Bradley´s WBO welterweight title defense against unheralded Russian challenger
Ruslan Provodnikov was off-the scale in terms of raw excitement, mainly down to
Bradley´s insistence on making a statement in the ring.

The Palm Springs
native, stung by the derision his controversial points win over Manny Pacquiao
had gained him in 2012 was out to prove a point when he stepped into the ring
against Provodnikov in – another Freddie Roach fighter – in March. Bradley
wanted to win impressively, not controversially. He wanted to prove to fight
fans the world over that he could be a warrior if he wanted to be.

And boy oh
boy did he prove it. He also came perilously close to being kayoed – not once,
but on three separate occasions: in the 1sdt, 2nd and 12th
rounds – he was on the verge of losing his title via a knockout. Yet each time
he dug deep and showed a heart that we never knew he had. Tim Bradley, like
Ruslan Provodnikov, is a true ring warrior, and their fight was a genuine
contender for Fight of the Year 2013.

What made
Bradley v Provodnikov such a fistic treat was that fans were not expecting the
fireworks that unfolded. The same could not be said for the rematch between
Mike Alvarado and Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios later that month. When these two met last October it was as if
the entire boxing world held its breath in order to take in the sheer primal
brutality of the war these two gladiators were waging. For sheer intensity, it
was on a par with Gatti v Ward, Corrales v Castillo and Zale v Graziano.

Sometimes
one gets the feeling that some fighters are able to cross a line where nothing
else matters except the fight they are in, not life, not death, not family, not
wealth, not health, not love, not hate: just taking part in the fight. Even if
they are losing hopelessly, even if they know they have suffered a dreadful
beating and they are aware deep down inside that they have no chance of
winning, they will never ever give up.

Brandon
Rios and Mike Alvarado, like Gatti, Ward, Zale, Graziano, Corrales and Castillo
before them, and many others, are such men. Is it a good thing to be that way?
To be prepared literally to die in the ring?
From a
fight fans perspective, absolutely. From a fighter’s perspective, there is no
greater badge of honour than to be brave, and they should be allowed to brave in
the ring, knowing that boxing is a civilized sport and that no real hard can
come to them. The referee
is there to protect the fighter form taking excessive punishment – that is his
job. It should not be up to the fighter.

If he is beaten to death in the ring
because he is too brave, like Benny Kid Paret, Deuk Koo Kim and Johnny Owen, to
name but three, it´s not because he was too brave, it´s because of the incompetence of the referee. The referee is not just there to protect a fighter taking too
much punishment – he is also there to protect a fighter from himself. Thankfully, the vast majority of today´s boxing referees do an outstanding job, and the amount of ring fatalities due to refereeing errors has been almost totally eradicated. Boxers today are free to fight their fights safe in the knowledge that the third man in the ring is more likely to end a fight too soon as too late.

Returning to the subject of this year´s exciting fights,
we can only speculate on just how exciting and entertaining the biggest fight
of 2013 – the upcoming mega-clash between Floyd Mayweather (44-0, 26 KOs) and Saul “Canelo”
Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs) at the MGM Grand on September 14 will ultimately be.

Floyd
Mayweather may well be one of the biggest draws in boxing and the current PPV
king, but one would be hard pressed to remember an exciting fight he has been
in recently. And even if one did remember his bouts with Diego Corrales, Jose
Luis Castillo and Zab Judah for example, even they were hardly back-and-forth
wars.

The simple
fact is Mayweather – unlike other historical master boxers like Sugar Ray
Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roy Jones Jr. – will never risk taking
shots to get the KO win. The aforementioned quartet were warriors at heart that
would always go for the spectacular finish if it were available, and even force
it if it wasn’t. Mayweather, on the other hand, has occasionally had opponents
ripe for the knockout – Zab Judah and Miguel Cotto spring to mind – yet instead of
going for the spectacular finish, he has instead taken the safety-first approach
and cruised to a comfortable victory, and only afterwards stated that he “wished
he had got the KO.”

After
Mayweather took more punches than normal in his fight against Miguel Cotto in
2012 (Floyd received a bloody nose), he decided to bring his father back into
the training camp for this year’s fight against Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero to
tighten up his defence.

Tighten up
his defence?

Isn’t that
a little like saying that Lucas Matthysse needs to work on his power? In other words, it´s overkill. 

The worst
thing is that no sooner had Mayweather finally given fans a relatively (let’s
face it, Mayweather v Cotto was hardly Bradley Provodnikov) exciting fight with
Cotto, than  he takes it away with his
display of athletics (i.e, the 100 metres) against Guerrero.

So, if Team
Mayweather considered Guerrero dangerous enough to batten down the hatches
and go ultra-defensive, what on earth have they got planned for his fight
against Canelo?
Make no
mistake about it, at 22 Alvarez may still be a little green, but he is the biggest
threat to Mayweather´s precious “O” since Diego Corrales. Like Corrales, Alvarez
is undefeated and hits hard. Unlike Corrales, Alvarez is a thinker in the ring,
a tactician who knows when to step up the pace and when to box steadily. 

He is
also completely unflappable: ever notice how the guy barely changes expression
no matter what he is doing? A press interview – deadpan. Defeating Austin Trout
for the biggest win of his career – a slight smile, but otherwise, deadpan.

If this
boxing thing doesn’t work out, Canelo has a great future as poker player! 

Mayweather
will be perfectly happy if he can get away with staying on his back foot,
keeping his chin tucked behind his shoulder, pushing out the jab, throwing his
trademark slapping right hand, and cruising to yet another points win (he has
scored precisely one legitimate stoppage win in eight years as a welterweight,
and that was against junior welterweight Ricky Hatton. The blind-siding of
Victor Ortiz don´t count!)

That tactic
works fine, especially when faced with an opponent who is grateful for the pay-day
and doesn’t want to rock the boat, or bite the hand that’s fed them, if you
like: step forward Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley and Robert Guerrero. Victor
Ortiz and Miguel Cotto at least tried to make a fight of it. I still believe that
the outcome of the Ortiz fight was up in the air until the sucker punch ending.
Cotto came to win, but his reflexes let him down. Had the two met six years earlier when they were supposed to it would have been a completely different
fight.

Like Cotto,
and like Manny Pacquiao would have if he had gotten the chance, Alvarez will enter the ring with no
intention of playing along and being grateful for his career high pay-day. He is
coming to win, and he believes quite rightly that he has the youth, size, speed
and skill to defeat Mayweather. Like Cotto, Alvarez is a master at cutting off
the ring, and Mayweather will be forced to exchange with a man who has never
been floored and looks impervious to damage.

From very
early in the fight, the 36-year old Mayweather will become aware that for the first time in
years, maybe ever, he is going to have to have to dig deep and use every ounce
of skill and tactical nouse he has developed in his long career, not just to win, but to
survive. Mayweather is no Austin Trout. Trout is a big framed 5’10’’ guy who
has fought at middle and super-middle in his career, and never been lighter
than junior middle. Mayweather could surely still make lightweight. Yet Canelo
bullied Trout around the ring, floored him and dominated him for much of the
fight.

Mayweather
may be a better boxer than Trout (although Trout is certainly no slouch in that
department) and it is those skills that will keep him in the fight. But it is
going to be interesting to see how he copes with being hit hard to the head and
body – often.

The fact
that Alvarez cannot fail but force Mayweather out of his comfort zone and make him
fight the fight of his life guarantees that this won´t just be a thriller, it will be a classic.


Dan Hunter is the editor of The Boxing Post and the author of the weight training and fitness ebook Urban Muscle 
http://www.amazon.com/Urban-Muscle-New-Edition-Illustrated-ebook/dp/B005TFU15K

 

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