Thursday, August 29, 2013

Which Lion Will Win This Battle?

Will A Legend Rise in the Fall?

Artwork By: Shane Heron

In the plains of the eastern, sub-Saharan area in Tanzania, Africa, there is a ritual which is embedded in the DNA of its participants. The young lion, its mane coming fully into form, battling the established pride leader who has held dominion over all it surveys. The dominant male lion must defend his rule until it can no longer fight for victory. One will ascent or remain while the other descents and perhaps, lives to fight again.

Almost 10,000 miles away, a similar ritual will be performed at a familiar venue. September 3, at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, Nevada, Floyd "Money" Mayweather will defend his rule over boxing for what seems like the umpteenth time against yet another young, hungry fighter foaming at the chance: Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.

Mayweather has been atop the boxing throne, both professionally and financially, for nearly a decade. The former Olympic bronze medalist has experienced few challenges inside his natural domain. Only Jose Luis Castillo (in their first fight), Oscar De La Hoya, and Sugar Shane Mosley (for only a quarter of a round) can boast pushing Mayweather to limits he never previously thought possible.

But still he remained, his mane roughly coiffed, yet his rule firmly in place.

Mayweather likes to boast about his undefeated record (44-0, so far). It is of the utmost importance to him. More so than any of the titles he has won. He wants to ascent to a number that he fights to attain, possibly 50. Because while there are many undefeated fighters in boxing, only Rocky Marciano retired the heavyweight ruler and is recognized as the fighter with the most wins to retire undefeated. Mayweather would like to retire with 50 wins, no losses, in many divisions--a record the tough-as-nails Marciano did not attain.

Enter Alvarez, a fighter who himself is no stranger to the undefeated record. Alvarez is no stranger to an undefeated record (42-0-1), though his resume pales in comparison to the long-established Mayweather. But you can't fault Alvarez for that time gap. Alvarez has been a professional since his teenage years; 15 to be exact. And in this age of rampant social media, he has also been a huge star in his native Mexico the way Mayweather is a star in the States. Alvarez's atypical looks (red hair and freckles) has long been a selling point in a country familiar with Incas and Aztecs, even if the telenovelas do not celebrate the dominant ethnic traits of Alvarez's countrymen.

However, Alvarez's looks aren't the only thing atypical of his countrymen. His boxing skills have progressed more than just the celebrated left hook to the body (he does that well too). In his most recent challenge, Alvarez showed both boxing ability and power against one of the slicker boxers in the jr. middleweight division: Austin Trout. The fact that the fight was close was not the point of contention. Rather the head movement and slick boxing skills Alvarez displayed was something even seasoned veterans were impressed to see out of the young power hitter, including former heavyweight champion Chris Byrd.

"The kid can fight, flat-out fight," Byrd said through his YouTube channel.

Another multiple-division former champion and heavyweight belt holder, James Toney, has called this a “high-paid sparring" match.

And Mayweather, ever the promoter, said, "Name 10 champions [Alvarez] has beat; just 10."

But Mayweather, who often says things to hype a fight, forked-tongue-in-cheek, has only amplified this fight even more. With high-attendance press conferences in all major markets in the U.S.A. and Mexico, he continually proves that he is the Pay-Per-View king as the fight is already a sell out and the PPV numbers are being predicted to be at or to exceed record numbers.

And that sits fine with Mayweather, who likes to play the villain during promotions while talking degrading facts about his opponents all the while praising them and promising to break them down. These media ventures are one Mayweather is very accustomed to, from HBO's documentary series 24/7, to Dancing With the Stars, to stints in the WWE, Mayweather relishes the limelight and does not mind casting a brooding shadow over his image to get fans to tune in.

Alvarez, while a star in his native Mexico, has already said that the tours are harder than training. He has, however, remained poised throughout the promotional tour. The only break in his concentration was during a recent stare off where he snickered at a poker-faced Mayweather. Whether that's a sign of weakness that Mayweather will capitalize on is up for debate.

What is not for debate is the fact that this will be the first time Alvarez has faced a fighter of Mayweather's dominance. The closest competitor Alvarez has had to Mayweather was Mosley, and Alvarez hardly looked like the man to take the mantle from either Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao, both fighters who beat Mosley more decisively than Alvarez.

This will be the tale of two fighters who will go in different paths after the fight. One will ascent or remain on the throne, and the other will descent o an unfamiliar place and an obscure future. That much is sure. What is unsure is whether or not Alvarez can bring out the best in Mayweather or vice versa.

Mayweather is secure in winning a fight by cautiously placing his counter shots and staying out of harm's way. He does not feel the need to "close the show" even against fighters he has proven his dominance midway through the fight. He has endeared some boxing purists with his style but alienated just as many who want blood, guts, and every second that passes in the ring to correspond to every cent they've spent outside of it.

In this age of rapid information and glossy records, the onus lies, fairly or not, on Alvarez's young shoulders. It is his duty to cut off the ring and make the proven, successful boxer brawl. And whether he is ready for this fight or not, this fight will let everyone know his future. Some say he is too young and not yet ready. But so was a young Cassius Clay (before he became Muhammad Ali) against Sonny Liston, and so was fellow Mexican Salvador Sanchez until it was his turn to face the elite from his division.

Alvarez has everything to prove and gain. Mayweather has only a record to lose. What he has accomplished to this point is secure, even though boxing is the only sport where a lifetime of work can be wiped away in 10 seconds. Boxing fans don't remember records, they remember memorable fights. It's what's talked about the next day and for years on end. It's what makes legends. And aside from watching two undefeated fighters battle wit and grit, fans always look for the fight they will tell tales about to their family and friends both today and tomorrow. Will a legend rise or will a fighter's record merely descend? We shall all find out Saturday night, September 14.

1 comment:

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