Saul “Canelo” Alvarez might not be the oddsmakers’ pick for his bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr., but the Mexican boxer certainly has the makings of a fan favorite.
The two undefeated superstars of the sport will square off Saturday in a Showtime pay-per-view bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in what could be the most competitive bout of Mayweather’s career.
A five-division world champion, Mayweather has won every fight in his 44-0 career by unanimous decision, knockout, technical knockout or referee technical decision (where the fighter refuses to continue or a fighter’s corner refuses to allow him back out) – save for a lone split decision in the Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya bout in 2007. And anyone who watched that bout knows it was a pretty decisive bout.
But Alvarez, the reigning 154-pound champion, is undefeated at 42-0-1. Alvarez is confident he can stop Mayweather when so many others have failed, even if many boxing aficionados question Alvarez’s ability to make the so-far impossible happen.
Alvarez, at just 23 and already accomplished, represents the future of boxing at a time when the sport’s future relevance is being questioned. The light middleweight champ represents a new superstar at a time when talk of the sport’s decline dominates almost as many headlines as its marquee title fights.
It’s hard not to pull for Alvarez, die-hard Mayweather fans notwithstanding. Sports fans love an underdog story – and Saturday’s fight is no exception. While Mayweather is the favorite to win, most of the bettors are putting their money on Alvarez.
Sure, Alvarez comes across as more likeable. But it’s not that simple. Mayweather has built his empire on a “love me, hate me, I don’t care” persona. With a $40 million-plus payday ahead of him this weekend, Mayweather’s methods have worked. From a business perspective, Mayweather’s methods – and/or the minds around him – have been successful even if the bravado and swagger have worn a bit thin as the eight-time champ edges past his mid-30s. (Mayweather’s lengthy list of legal and civil court run-ins certainly don’t endear him to the masses.)
The question is whether Alvarez can buck this trend. He’s not the under-the-radar underdog. He is the underdog because he is largely unproven and possibly not ready for a contender of Mayweather’s caliber. No ones doubts Alvarez ability to one day become the sport’s No. 1 boxer. The doubts are whether Saturday is that day.
What makes Mayweather frustrating to many fans of the sport is his often-criticized and admitted handpicking of opponents who rarely seem to bring much more than hype into the ring. Many view Alvarez as one more name on this dubious list. While bouts have brought in millions of dollars, the super-fights-turned-super-letdowns have hurt the sport.
A win by Alvarez has the potential to provide a much needed boost for boxing. If Alvarez can’t make it happen, Mayweather-Alvarez will serve as just one more example of being let down by boxing’s big-bout hype.
Maria Burns Ortiz is a freelance sports journalist, chair of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' Sports Task Force, and a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. Follow her on Twitter: @BurnsOrtiz