LAS VEGAS – Floyd Mayweather, Jr. toyed with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez for 12 rounds, playing peek-a-boo, hide and seek, pitty-pat and ring around the rosy. Unfortunately Alvarez didn’t have the speed or the power to put an end to Mayweather’s games.
The result was that Mayweather punished Alvarez and took away his WBC, WBA and RING magazine 154-pound titles in a 12-round majority decision before a raucous, celebrity-studded, sold out crowd of 16,746 at the MGM Grand Garden arena on Saturday night.
Most ringside observers gave Alvarez one round and some had him winning no rounds. But the three judges were much more generous to Alvarez. Judge C.J. Ross scored the fight 114-114, a draw. Judge Dave Moretti had it 116-112 and Craig Metcalfe scored it 117-111. Ross scored the fight for Timothy Bradley in his controversial split-decision victory against Manny Pacquiao.
“I’m not in control of what the judges do. Things happen in the sport of boxing. Everything is a learning experience,” Mayweather said regarding the curious decision.
It is a bad omen for Mayweather (45-0, 26 KOs), particularly in a fight that he completely controlled from start to finish. In the future, Mayweather’s first loss may not come at the hands of an opponent, but it could be dealt to him by the judges.
At times the fight looked like nothing more than a $100 million sparring session. Alvarez, a 23-year-old Mexican icon, was swinging for the fences, but he whiffed more than he connected.
“I couldn’t connect,” said Alvarez, who suffered the first loss of his pro career. “He’s very elusive, intelligent and has a lot of experience. I honestly couldn’t find him. In the late rounds I was frustrated. I recognize that he beat me and he’s a great fighter.”
Alvarez’s ring walk took a long time. He was coming in with great expectations as the man who would finally hand Mayweather the first loss in an unblemished, 17-year professional career. Once Alvarez mounted the steps, he stood on the ring apron and faced the crowd, which cheered his name. Mayweather was escorted to the ring by the rapper Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber. As Lil Wayne finished his rap, the crowd began to cheer “Canelo! Canelo! Canelo!”
It was definitely a pro-Alvarez crowd. But it soon became obvious that it was going to be Mayweather’s night.
“My dad had a brilliant game plan. If I would have pressed the attack, I could have gotten the late stoppage,” Mayweather said.
While the undercard was playing out the public address announcer tried to ignite the crowd at the MGM Grand Garden arena on Saturday night by constantly referring the match between Mayweather and Alvarez “as the greatest event in boxing history.”
Perhaps his history books had omitted references to “The Rumble in the Jungle” and “The Thrilla in Manila.” But the legendary status of those matches was earned by what happened in the ring. And that was the true burden that Mayweather and Alvarez carried with them when they stepped into the ring before a sold out crowd on Saturday night.
Almost since the day the match was announced, the bulk of the attention has been focused on making it a record-breaking boxing event. The marketing, the 11-city promotional tour, the Showtime All Access programs were designed to lure eyeballs to a match that featured the highest paid athlete in the world against an emerging Mexican icon.
But with all the hype and the talk over, it was time to focus on what really matter – the fight.
The first three rounds were uneventful as Alvarez (42-1-1, 30 KOs) couldn’t find his range and couldn’t establish a jab against the fleet-footed Mayweather. About the only punches that were landing were Mayweather’s jabs. In the fourth round Alvarez threw a low punch that caught Mayweather on the left thigh. Referee Kenny Bayless called timeout and warned Alvarez about the low blow. When he called time in Mayweather tried to touch gloves with Alvarez, but he wasn’t having anything to do with that. Perhaps he had already noted what happened to Victor Ortiz after he deliberately fouled Mayweather.
By the sixth round you could see the frustration start to settle in upon Alvarez like a thick fog. Mayweather continued to pop him with his jab and sharp right hands and Alvarez was flailing at air when he tried to counter. Mayweather took off the first half of the eighth round, allowing Alvarez to land a few punches as Mayweather fought with his back to the ropes. But those opportunities for Alvarez were fleeting and Mayweather finished the round, landing the same one-two combination in the same steady rhythm that he had during much of the match.
As the fight progressed, Alvarez grew weary and wary. Weary from missing so many punches and wary that whenever he threw and missed something painful was coming his way from Mayweather’s fists. By the 10th round the only fans still into the fight were those that picked a late stoppage by Mayweather.
But the Alvarez faithful didn’t want to give up all hope. They put up a chant of “Canelo! Canelo! Canelo!” once more to try to spark their man near the end of the 10th round. He would need something more than that to track down Mayweather and land something telling.
Some fans started filing out before the start of the 12th round, having reached their own conclusion about the final outcome of the match. The only thing left was the scoring from the judges. And when they were read, they were as laughable as Alvarez’s chances of beating Mayweather.
“He’s a young strong champion. I take my hat off to him,” Mayweather said. “Canelo is a true champion. He will take the loss and bounce back.”
As for the future, it is going to be interesting for Mayweather, who fought as brilliantly as he possibly could have and yet still walked away with only a majority decision. Convincing fans to continue to shell out top dollar at the gate and for the pay per view for singular performances will be tough.
Two future opponents, Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse, fought on the undercard with Garcia scoring a 12-round unanimous decision to retain his WBC, WBA and RING magazine 140-pound titles. Mayweather was in no mood to commit to another opponent after just beating Alvarez.
“Both of those guys looked good tonight,” Mayweather said. “I will take it one day at a time. I’ll talk it over with my father, talk it over with my team, talk it over with (manager) Al Haymon.”
Photos / Chris Trotman-Golden Boy / Getty Images