Will Father Time catch up to Floyd Mayweather tonight?
Floyd Mayweather is undefeated with the kind of talent that gives him the right to call himself the greatest pure boxer of his generation. This is not disputed — even by those who are not cowed by his brilliance. He is what a boxer should be when you close your eyes. And yet, sooner rather than later, he will face an opponent he cannot best. It is an opponent whose mention causes limbs to shake, eyes to bulge, and mouths to grow dry. He has never lost, never been tested and has won every fight by knockout. This opponent? Father Time.
Now, if you’re Floyd Mayweather, you might imagine this to not be true. You might imagine that since everyone has always proclaimed you to be special, different from everyone else who came before him and lost to Father Time, you won’t suffer its power in the same way others have. Floyd believes he’s different from Ray Leonard — who was beloved in a way and with a fervency that Floyd could never be, no matter how hard he tries. Ray Leonard lost to Father Time too. He lost twice. First to Terry Norris and to Hector Camacho. No one beats Father Time, ever.
No matter how good you are or how many titles you win, the rules of the game don’t change. Eventually, when you don’t see it coming, Father Time comes for you. Joe Louis had it come for him when Rocky Marciano knocked him through the ropes and out. Ray Robinson, the best pound-for-pound fighter to ever lace up a pair of boots, had it happen against Paul Pender. Erik Morales felt it against Danny Garcia. I could keep going on and on but I’m pretty sure the point is clear.
And the other common thread that links all of those great champions I just mentioned? They woke up one day and it was all gone. From what I’ve read on this subject, it’s not even that uncommon. Just came to the ring one day, prepared the exact same way that they normally did, and it was all over.
But again, and I don’t say this to be demeaning, so many of Floyd’s fans believe him to be sui generis — so different than any other great fighter before him. Floyd fights less, and with a less offensively intense style than any of the greats since Pernell Whitaker. He’s not a blinding combination puncher anymore like he was from 130-140, a style that can lead to quicker dissipation than his defense-first style which he’s been employing more and more over the past few years.
(Author’s Note: As an attraction, his peak has come as he has moved up the weight classes. But as a fighter, I could make a very reasonable argument that his apex was from 130 pounds to 140. He was never better as an all-around force than he was there. His greatest, and most dynamic, performances came here. Corrales, Gatti, Manfredy…all of them happened there.)
No matter how many slick boxers come out of Mexico, men like Salvador Sanchez and Ricardo Lopez, the ones that get remembered and adored are somehow different. The perfect example of this, of course, is Julio Cesar Chavez but it’s not just him. It’s Barrera and Morales. More than that, it’s an idea. It’s the idea that you win over your opponent — not by being more skillful and more talented — but by superior application of will and grinding your opponent down until he breaks. At its core, it’s Mexican boxing in a nutshell. While people still wait for the “Next Chavez”, Canelo Alvarez has an opportunity for his own career-defining win. Like Marco Antonio Barrera when he put the lie to Naseem Hamed’s reputation as a great fighter. The same win Antonio Margarito had when he broke down and forever changed Miguel Cotto. Canelo Alvarez is a young, hard puncher in his physical prime.
The question is this: On Saturday, September 14th, does he get what he wants? Does the spirit of Mexican boxing get a new hero? Or does Floyd Mayweather take one more young star and put him down a peg?
My answer: I don’t know. I don’t pick against Floyd Mayweather, but something about Canelo feels different, stronger even more than anyone Floyd has faced over his last few fights (maybe all the way back to Hatton.) Maybe for the first time in a while, I won’t be surprised if Floyd loses.