"By far," stated Oscar De La Hoya, when asked if the Saul "Canelo" Alvarez who will fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Sept. 14 is better than he was when he fought Mayweather six years ago.
In May of 2007, Floyd Mayweather Jr. rose into the 154-pound division to dethrone Oscar De La Hoya as WBC titleholder by split decision in a clash that holds the all-time pay-per-view record with more than 2.5 million buys.
On Sept. 14 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Mayweather (44-0, 26 knockouts), THE RING's No. 1 fighter, pound-for-pound, will face a junior middleweight for only the third time in his career when he challenges RING and WBC 154-pound champion Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs) on Showtime Pay Per View.
Not only does De La Hoya say that he believes Mayweather, 36, to be facing a better fighter in Alvarez, who turns 23 in July, but he also contends that Mayweather-Alvarez will set a new record for pay-per-view buys.
For last month's one-sided unanimous decision victory over Robert Guerrero for THE RING's welterweight championship, Mayweather was trained by his father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., for the first time in 13 years.
It was a much different performance from the one a year earlier, when Mayweather, who was then training under his uncle, Roger, emerged victorious but bloodied after a more physical fight against Miguel Cotto.
De La Hoya said he has also worked with Mayweather Sr., most notably during a fifth-round stoppage of former titleholder Arturo Gatti in March of 2001, a unanimous decision over Javier Castillejo for the WBC junior middleweight belt in June of that year, and an 11th-round stoppage of Fernando Vargas for the WBA belt in September of 2002.
In his most recent fight, Alvarez scored the most impressive victory of his career to date with a unanimous decision over previously unbeaten southpaw Austin Trout.
De La Hoya shared his thoughts on Canelo's chances against Mayweather, and also addressed the effect of the contracted 152-pound catchweight.
RingTV.com: Have you ever used a catchweight?
Oscar De La Hoya: Never in my life.
RingTV.com: What are your thoughts on what effect the catchweight could have on the Mayweather-Alvarez fight?
ODLH: Actually, the effect that it's going to have on Canelo is a positive one. The reason why I say that is because for the first time in his career, he's going to hire a nutritionist and eat all of the right foods.
Before all of his other fights, he would eat anything. Now, imagine him with a nutritionist, and imagine him doing the proper training physically. He's going to have his game plan down to a tee.
He's not a reckless fighter who gets frustrated. He's going to put together a team that is going to have him ready to throw punches in bunches, and to throw punches with power and to not get tired, to be able to go 12 hard rounds. It's a fact. So 152 is actually going to be good for him, because he's going to come in light, and he's already as strong as a ox, but he's going to come in light, which will make him faster.
RingTV.com: How many fights did you have Floyd Mayweather Sr. as a trainer, and what do you think he adds to his son's repertoire?
ODLH: I had him with me for about four fights. He was with me for Arturo Gatti and he was with me for Castillejo, and he was with me for Vargas.
We're not going to see a different Mayweather. The only thing that we're going to see is a Mayweather that is going to be in better shape. That's what Floyd Sr. adds. Floyd Sr. taught his son.
That style comes from Floyd Sr., so we already know what Mayweather's going to bring to the table. Canelo knows what he's going to bring to the table. But one thing for sure is that Floyd Jr. is going to be in great shape, because Floyd Sr. gets you in great shape.
When I saw him against Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero, I already knew what he was doing. That's why he was so fresh and light on his feet.
We saw a Floyd that was bouncing around, a Floyd that was fresh, and a Floyd that was confident. So a lot of credit goes to Floyd Sr. for getting him into great shape. There is no nonsense with him.
RingTV.com: So you saw a difference in the Mayweather that fought Guerrero and the one that stood more toe-to-toe against Cotto?
ODLH: Of course, because he had legs to move against Guerrero. With Cotto, he didn't have legs to move. Floyd Sr. brings confidence because you know that going inside of that ring on fight night that you're going to be in great shape.
I don't know what Mayweather's going to do. It all depends on what happens after he feels that first punch. Obviously, when you get hit with one of those bombs from Canelo, I don't think anybody would want to stay in front of him.
RingTV.com: How does Alvarez compare to the De La Hoya that fought Mayweather, and how does the Mayweather today compare to the one who fought you?
ODLH: Not to degrade myself, but I do think that Canelo is a stronger, heavier puncher, and he's a smarter boxer than I was when I fought Floyd.
I never threw five or six punches in a row against an elite fighter like Austin Trout the way that Canelo did. He stood right in front of him, moving, dodging, boxing, you know? I never did that stuff, you know?
Today, well, I mean, obviously, when I fought him in 2007, he might be the same Floyd. Fresh, better shape, young, strong, I don't see any difference. I still see the same movement.
I still see the same Floyd that I faced back in the day, and that's the same Floyd that Canelo is going to face come fight night in September.
RingTV.com: So you think that the Alvarez that is facing Mayweather is better than the De La Hoya that faced Floyd in 2007?
ODLH: By far, yes.
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com