Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Vs. Canelo Alvarez: Keys To The Fight Part I

So continues our marathon coverage of one of the biggest fights of 2013, Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez on Showtime pay-per-view on Sept. 14. Previously: the meaning of Mayweather-Alvarez; a special edition of TQBR Radio; the undercard and week's schedule, previewed. Next: how good Mayweather-Alvarez could be.

Mind. Matter. How do Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Saul Canelo Alvarez stack up in those categories? In the first of two parts, we compare their more physical attributes.

The keys (of cocaine) to the fight.

Size. These first two categories could be the keys to the fight, period. Certainly for Alvarez, superior size is his key to winning. He's a bulky, powerful junior middleweight who went up from 154 to 170 from the Friday weigh-in to his Saturday bout with Austin Trout. At 5'9" with a reach of 70 1/2", Alvarez won't come in with the traditional disadvantages opponents of the long-armed Mayweather (72" reach) do. Miguel Cotto, the last junior middleweight Mayweather fought, was a comparably stubby 5'7"/67". The question for Canelo is whether he's TOO big. He'll have to get down to the 152-pound catchweight, and that could prove very draining for such a growing boy. It stands at least a chance of robbing Alvarez of his greatest weapon.

Mayweather has proven himself a nice-sized, physically strong welterweight over the years, but this fight isn't at welterweight. The difference between Mayweather against Cotto and Mayweather against Robert Guerrero was profound — he was lighter on his feet against Guerrero at 147, less flat-footed, although some of that might have had to do with his trainer switch from offensive-minded uncle Roger to pa Floyd, Sr. I'm not sure it entirely does, because he tended to linger on the ropes some against Oscar De La Hoya at junior middleweight, too. The point remains: In Mayweather's two cameos at junior middleweight, Mayweather hasn't been as good as at welterweight. Edge: Alvarez

Speed. Even at age 36, Mayweather is one of the quickest fighters in the sport, of both hand and foot. It is the clearest physical asset he brings to every fight, and only a handful of fighters have come close to matching him. Canelo won't. This is no contest.

That said, Canelo has improved his quickness. When he was first coming onto the scene, by my eye, he made molasses look like Usain Bolt. He was flat-footed and threw punches in slow motion. As he showed against Trout, he really has evolved into a quicker-fisted fighter. Trout wasn't that much faster than him, and Trout is pretty fast. Alvarez's reasonably good sense of timing helps on that count, too. He is still a bit on the flat-footed side, though. De La Hoya said Alvarez has improved his footwork for this fight, and he will need to have in order to track down the elusive Mayweather. Edge: Mayweather

Power. At 147, Mayweather, not exactly a knockout artist, punches hard enough to keep anyone from charging in on him. His opponents are usually a bit more daring in the early rounds until they sample his power (and until they become totally flummoxed, too), and most everyone who has fought Mayweather has said he hits harder than they thought he would. Some of that is about accuracy and placement more than pure strength. But, again, this isn't 147. At junior middleweight, it took until late for Mayweather to start hurting De La Hoya or Cotto.

Alvarez is more of a natural puncher. Trout had never tasted the canvas in his pro career before Alvarez got a hold of him. Other fighters who have proven themselves to have good chins have also tasted the canvas or been knocked out by Alvarez. A lot of his power comes less from one punch than from combinations where the sequence does heavy damage. Canelo's knockout ratio (30 KOs in 42 wins, compared to 26 in 44 for Mayweather) is deceptive given how many tomato cans are on his pre-2009 record, but make no mistake, he'll be the bigger puncher of the two come Saturday. Edge: Alvarez

Condition. This is a category that encompasses stamina, wear and tear, susceptibility to cuts, that kind of thing, and here, there are pretty clear advantages for either man. Neither cuts all that frequently, so that's not going to be a big factor. Mayweather's clear advantage is in stamina. I've never once see him get tired in a fight. He comes into every one of them in ideal shape and doesn't exactly waste energy besides. Alvarez's stamina has been questioned. Reviewing his fights, I'm not convinced he fades late so much as he takes his foot of the gas when he knows the fight is his. He fights in spurts, though, and that's not the sign of a fighter who has tremendous stamina, anyway. Depending on how the catchweight affects him, his stamina could be even worse against Mayweather. This is another crucial category for Canelo. If he can fight approximately how he did against Trout, only more consistently and with a greater volume of punches, then he will have a far greater chance of victory.

Alvarez does, at least, have youth on his side. At 23, he might have taken more punishment in his career than the unhittable Mayweather, but not very much overall. He's not been in any crazed brawls or anything. But Mayweather tends to suffer hand injuries, and as All Access has shown, his body requires a lot more work to maintain than it did when he was younger. This advantage is narrower for Alvarez than Mayweather's stamina advantage is, though, so… Edge: Mayweather

Chin. You actually have to go back to the same night in 2010, to find the last examples of Mayweather or Alvarez being hurt in a fight. On the same May 1 card, both men were shaken as badly as they ever have been. Alvarez was surprisingly wobbled early by Jose Miguel Cotto, who had spent most of his career at lightweight or below. Mayweather got his world rocked twice in the 2nd round by Mosley, and it was worse than any flash knockdown (the Zab Judah knockdown was legit, even if it wasn't ruled properly) or other previous flirtations with Queer Street he had ever experienced. Both men got their sense back pretty quickly, though, and went on to win convincingly. Mayweather, in particular, has shown extraordinary recovery powers over his career. He can be hurt. He never stays hurt.

That makes this a tough call, especially since we don't know how any weight drain might affect Alvarez's punch resistance. Since Canelo has regularly stood up to the overall physically bigger punchers of the two (at lighter weights, Mayweather has handled some pretty big punchers within those divisions), he'll take it narrowly. Edge: Alvarez

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.