The marquee event of 2013—Floyd Mayweather Jr., versus Saul Alvarez—improved dramatically with the recent announcement that Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse will clash on the undercard. That means more violence, less glitz, and a new junior welterweight kingpin.
After weeks of haggling over contractual details, the fight was finally sealed two weeks ago. Hopefully Garcia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, squeezed every dime he could out of the lengthy negotiations. Garcia-Matthysse is a fight that should end spectacularly; when the collective jaws drop, Garcia’s jaw stands to be the most radically unhinged. A frightening mashup of carnage and tranquility, Matthysse gives every indication of being the superior fighter. His skeptics, now largely regarded with the same distaste grubby placard-wavers on Speakers’ Corner are, were silenced when Matthysse destroyed normally durable Lamont Peterson in May.
Equipped with heavy-hands, sharp timing, and the poise found only in a bloodsport, Garcia, 26-0 (16), will go neither quietly, nor willingly. Still, it is hard to distinguish one thing he does better than Matthysse, including absorb leather. On closer inspection—and perhaps with a jaundiced eye—Garcia-Matthysse looks like a sanctioned hit, with Garcia getting offed to provide Mayweather with a more alluring opponent than Devon Alexander or Amir Khan. If a victorious Matthysse next finds himself opposite Floyd Mayweather Jr—and this is certainly his goal—Garcia will be the trophy kill that got him there. True, the above logic works perfectly well if the names are reversed; but Richard Shaefer betrayed a deeper promotional allegiance in effusively praising Matthysse after the Peterson massacre.
The general consensus—probably influenced by Garcia’s stalling, and certainly influenced by each man’s last performance—is that Garcia is out of his depth. Whatever stock you put in divisional clarity, a scrap between the two best junior welterweights loses appeal because of this perceived difference in class. Yet this fight has generated truckloads of enthusiasm. Where does this enthusiasm come from? Is it curiosity regarding Matthysse’s dreadful potential (against both Garcia, and by extrapolation, Mayweather)? Or is it the chance to watch angel Angel Garcia react when his son is spilled across ring? Maybe it is that Matthysse is an intriguing figure, and suffering another Guerrero family in a Mayweather promotion would be unbearable? Whatever the reasons for the enthusiasm surrounding this fight, the possibility of a Garcia victory hardly factors.
This is also the case, though less drastically, with Mayweather-Alvarez. Alvarez represents the greatest threat to Mayweather since Jose Luis Castillo. He is young, wings hurtful combinations with deceptively quick hands, and exudes the confidence befitting his unwavering success and immense popularity. No crude slugger, Alvarez compliments his knuckle game with a surprisingly nifty defense, and used both to decision respected Austin Trout in May. Unlike Miguel Cotto, who bloodied Mayweather’s face in a losing effort last May, Alvarez, 23, is a natural junior middleweight who will outweigh Mayweather by nearly twenty pounds on fight night.
But Alvarez is adorned in caveats. Against Trout he gassed early, and was inactive for long stretches of time. Due to open scoring, Alvarez knew he was comfortably ahead, which probably explains some of his inactivity. But what would he have been able to muster if the fight were close? Or if he had been behind? The answers to these questions are crucial as Alvarez should not expect to build a comfortable lead over Mayweather. Trout is a good fighter, and difficult to look good against, but he is no Mayweather, who is a cut or three above anyone Alvarez, 42-0-1 (30), has ever faced. Youth and size should abate the gap in class between the two fighters, and Mayweather, 36, has shown flashes of vulnerability above welterweight. Nevertheless, recognizing the danger Alvarez represents is easier than blueprinting how that danger produces a Mayweather loss.
After the lukewarm response to Mayweather-Guerrero, Showtime and Golden Boy Promotions surely encouraged Mayweather to make his next appearance a blockbuster. That does not mean Mayweather was backed into this fight. Long beholden only to himself, Mayweather’s choice of Alvarez is more proof of his desire to fight Alvarez than the result of external needling. Nietzsche wrote, “There lies an infinity between one and none.” No fighter ascribes more value to this boundless expanse than Mayweather, whose persona depends on his flawless record. If Mayweather, 44-0 (26), chooses you as an opponent, then he has determined you cannot beat him. He could be wrong, and the possibility of a misstep increases as he ages, but when Alvarez’ prospects are largely dependent on Mayweather turning in a career-worst performance it is hard to anticipate a cliff-hanger.
Despite these criticisms, “The One” is the most enticing pay-per-view in recent history. Mayweather-Alvarez is boxing’s premier pageant, and it is unlikely to be surpassed by anything but a publicly mandated rematch. Garcia-Matthysse promises to make the judges superfluous. We are getting exactly what we asked for. But what we asked for doesn’t appear particularly competitive.
This article was originally posted on July 31, 2013.
Read about the chaotic career of Roger Mayweather on The Living Daylights. From the producers of The Cruelest Sport!