Money MayweatherTakes Canelo to School!

Floyd Mayweather Jr. v Canelo Alvarez
The Master and Apprentice

 Notes on the Sweet Science

When the great boxing writer A. J. Lieberling called boxing “The Sweet Science” he must have had Floyd Mayweather Jr. in mind. For the term was meant to distinguish those pugilists for whom boxing is both science and art from run of the mill pugs who stand stiff as stuffed pandas and batter each other into bloody pulps until one of the brutes succumb to the merciless battering of his opponent.  It is this crude spectacle of un-restrained violence that has earned boxing a bad name and spurred repeated efforts to ban the sport as a relic of man’s barbaric past that should be outlawed and their promoters imprisoned.

These people, who are generally civic minded paragons of rectitude, mean well, but alas their senses of charity and commitment to good works is usually dwarfed by their ignorance of pugilism, a blood sport that can bring out the best and worst in human character.   At its best boxing is certainly an art whose techniques require many years of devoted study and practice to perform well, is more physically demanding than ballet, and requires greater discipline to master.  Floyd Mayweather is a grand master of the art and he conducted a clinic on the Sweet Science as he danced with Saul Canelo in the fabulous ballroom at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas last Saturday night.

Since I am travelling way out west in the Golden State I had to scout out a place to view the fight.  Canelo is a national hero in Mexico – where boxing is a much beloved sport, having replaced the bull fight as the test of machismo among many young men –  hence the fight was bound to be an emotional affair in the Mexican communities.  This is especially true among the working class immigrant population, who has little to cheer about in America these days.  So I wanted to make sure that I didn’t end up in a watering hole for “Vaqueros” – those cowboy hat wearing Mexicans who appear to move back and forth across the borders pretty much at will.

In fact these people have good reason to loath people like us, the arrogant “gringos” who stole vast portions of Mexican territory by force of arms.  I wonder what they think when the cross their northern border yet continue to see a landscape with the geo-physical profile of the lands they had just left in Mexico, and endless towns with the same Spanish names…the evidence of “Yanqui” piracy and lawlessness.  Yet they are labeled “illegal aliens” and criminalized for having returned to the lands where their fathers died.

All of these under currents and contradictions were clearly on display in the crowd who attended the fight at the sports bar in San Francisco – a largely middle class crowd that was mostly white and Hispanic – whose jubilance was motivated by something much deeper and profound than a boxing match.  It was easy to discern a kind of wish fulfillment that Canelo take the cocky, mouthy, braggadocios, Mayweather and mop the floor with him.

But that would soon prove to be easier said than done, despite that fact that “Pretty Boy Floyd” was challenging an undefeated young champion who has an impressive knock out record and was merely six years old when Floyd won his first world championship 17 years ago.  No one has managed to lay a glove on Floyd well enough to remove one of his crowns since then; he entered this fight with six championship belts and left with seven.

Despite the fact that Carnelo has displayed a cool confidence that he is “The One” that would end Mayweather’s nearly two decade reign as the best “pound for pound” boxer in the world, I believe he was intimidated by the flawless record compiled by Mayweather, who fought a gaggle of world champions to maintain it.   Therefore, defeating “Pretty Boy Floyd was, to be sure, an ambition of historical importance in Mexico.  On more than one occasion Carnelo has said as much.

The Greatest fighter in the World!
Mayweather_belts_ai He collects Championship belts like baseball cards

Despite the hoopla surrounding this match, to most boxing wise guys there was never any real doubt as to the outcome.  Even actors like Jack Nicholson – one of many Hollywood luminaries who sat in ringside seats costing a king’s ransom – called it just right.  Interviewed at ringside just before the main event Jack picked Pretty Boy Floyd, pointing out that while the young Mexican packed a powerful punch it was irrelevant because he would never land one on the illusive Mayweather.  This proved to be prescient commentary, as if he were gazing into a crystal ball.

It was apparent from the opening round what the script for this drama was going to be.  It was going to be a game of hide and seek in which Pretty Boy Floyd would prove harder to find than a needle in a haystack and harder to hit than the Lotto Jackpot.  A cock of the walk with a Napoleonic complex, Floyd was not just content to win the fight, but to do it with such consummate skill that his opponent would wonder what possessed him to do this.

Of course there is the glory of winning, which all great fighters enter the ring believing they are capable of, and then there is the matter of six million dollars, a lordly sum for which a multitude would willing suffer a humiliating ass whipping for twelve three minute rounds…I know I would.  Hence I felt no sorrow for Canelo as Mayweather repeatedly led him into cul de sacs from which there was no escape without suffering punishment.

It was as brilliant a demonstration of the complex art of counterpunching as I have witnessed in a thousand and one nights at ringside.   In fact, if I managed a gym and had a stable of young fighters, the video tape from this match would serve as our catechism.   It was textbook fundamentals executed by a great and gifted innovative artist.  Mayweather’s saber like jab soon proved indefensible as he popped the slower Canelo all upside his head, constantly beating him to the punch and keeping him of kilter, never allowing him to gain his rhythm or find his mark.

All fighters are encouraged to develop an effective jab, although some knock out punchers never bother because they are always trying to take their opponent out with one or two power punches.  But even when a good fighter like Canelo is confronted with an opponent who has a great jab and superior foot speed, they are at a disadvantage.  Since an effective jab is a precursor of things to come, especially for the skilled combination puncher, it was clear early on in the fight that the effectiveness of Mayweather’s jab would open up other opportunities for him.

As the fight progressed we saw Mayweather employ his foot speed to sting Carnelo with his flickering jab and flit away like a bumble bee.  After he took the measure of his opponent’s hand and foot speed he began throwing combination punches.  Jabs were followed by lightening uppercuts, left hooks and overhand rights…all power punches. After a few rounds of this Mayweather decided to demonstrate his mastery over Canelo by putting on one of the all-time great demonstrations of boxing as a sweet science.

It was as if he could hear the taunts from the Latin’s in the crowded bar to “stop running!”  “Stand and fight like a man!”  They said.  My feeble attempts to remind them that the essence of the art of pugilism is to hit and not be hit in return was drowned out by the impassioned rhetoric they hurled at the screens in Mickey Coyle’s Sports Bar in the Haight. Then Mayweather stopped dancing and flitting away from the power punches of Canelo and stood right in front of him as if to dare him to land a punch. Pretty Boy Floyd proved impossible to hit with a hand full of rice, while hitting Canelo with every punch in the book at will.

Floyd embarrassed Canelo, who can only take pride in the fact that he stayed in the fight til the end, he never quit and showed no traces of having any dog in him.    He was over matched alas.  It was as simple as that.  This fight will no doubt spark much commentary; partially because that’s what the sports pundits are paid to do.  But in the final analysis it all boils down to the fact that Canelo was outclassed, he simply was not ready to step into the ring with the greatest fighter pound for pound of this moment in boxing history.

But Canelo should feel no shame in this, because so is everybody else…that’s why Pretty Boy Floyd is 45-0 with seven championship belts.   He is simply the best!  As Renaldo Rickets, a bon vivant and seasoned fight fan watching the fight at Coyle’s said to me: “This was no contest, it doesn’t seem to matter who they matchup  with him Floyd makes them all look like amateurs.”   True dat!  However the question that the princes and powers who rule the world of professional boxing must now ask, and aggressively seek an answer to, is how in the world one of the three judges could call this one sided fight for Canelo?

The sooner the Grand Poobahs  of pugilism make the judge’s explanation for this shocking aberration public the better it will be for boxing; a blood sport that is being challenged by “Mixed Marshall Arts “ – which strikes me as more barbarism than sports.  It is boxing’s integrity that distinguishes it from exhibitions such as the “world Wrestling Association.”

To have that integrity questioned, even when major championship bouts are involved, could spell the death knell for this sport, whose beauty and nobility was displayed in fine fashion last Saturday night in Vegas, where Floyd Mayweather took Saul Canelo to school as the world watched.  And he was paid forty one million dollars for the performance….no wonder they call him “Money Mayweather.”

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Playthell G. Benjamin
San Francisco, Ca
September 15, 2013

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