It was not even close on Saturday night at the MGM in Las Vegas when Floyd Mayweather expertly tamed Saul Alvarez over 12 repetitive rounds to claim a couple of pure gold light-middleweight world title belts.
Mayweather made $19,213 per second, cleared $3.4m per round and collected a record guarantee of $41.5m (£26m) when he improved his record to 45 fights without defeat. He also raised a few questions after his punches took Alvarez to the very tipping point of quitting and the main two are: how good is he and who is next?
“I could have pressed it and got the late stoppage but experience played a major key,” Mayweather said at the end of a fight that had the type of crossover appeal that has eluded the sport since Mike Tyson’s best and worst days. However, the brutal truth is that Tyson delivered something easily digestible in his controversies and violence, but Mayweather is far more difficult to understand because of his aversion to risk. There was a clear sense of confusion inside the arena on Saturday night and the crowd became less vocal as Mayweather won without too much glitz. Some veteran Vegas hacks insisted that the crowd was too “white collar” to appreciate the fight, claiming the traditional fans had packed the city’s sold-out big screenings, where 25,000 watched for $100 each.
In the hours after the fight Alvarez looked like a man who would gladly have traded the cash for what Mayweather had robbed him of during the 36-minute boxing lesson. The Mexican, who lost his unbeaten record, is only 23 but he looked desolate as he slumped through the obligatory post-fight search for an answer to the Mayweather enigma.
“I didn’t know how to get to him,” admitted Alvarez. “It’s as simple as that and the frustration was getting to me in there.” It is the latest typical dejected, savage and pitiless assessment from one of Mayweather’s broken opponents; it has become a familiar lament, a weary offering in the fading glow of a losing fight. It is also a lame excuse for a seasoned prizefighter to use, knowing that he is about to trouser in excess of $12m. Mayweather took his heart and that is a pact that no fighter agrees to.
Alvarez was, let us not conceal the truth, poor and came close in my opinion to walking away during the fight in what would have been a spectacular repeat of what the great Roberto Duran did in his rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980. Duran simply waved it off, uttered the deathless cry of “no mas” in round eight and walked to his corner; Leonard was not hurting Duran but the iconic Panamanian simply could not get close enough to connect. On Saturday I saw that same look of total hatred a couple of times on Alvarez’s broken face as he found his heavy legs in bad positions and was made to look clueless for most of the fight.
Mayweather never wasted a punch, clearly held back several times, and it is this seeming reluctance to finish fights that creates the one potentially damning blot on his brilliant resumé. The great boxers finish fights and the very best, such as Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, do it with an instant savagery that just seems to appear from a secret place once an opponent has been broken.
On Saturday Alvarez was broken, his choristers in the building had packed away their hopes, and yet Mayweather let him survive. In private some of the best welterweights and light-middleweights from the last 30 years can barely contain their resentment at Mayweather and dismiss any claims that he belongs in their company.
Also, critics – and there are many in the boxing business – point out that at various times in the last 10 years Mayweather has chosen to avoid certain fighters. He has often, as a sensible businessman, waited a few years before agreeing terms and only then when it seemed that the fighter was no longer at his peak. It is a claim that has definite legitimacy but there are dozens of other similar instances in the boxing record books.
It is the fights involving Leonard, Duran, Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler, a quartet dubbed the four kings, that cause so much confusion in any debate about Mayweather’s place in history. It is the lingering memory of their sensational and fearless fights which casts a historical shadow over Mayweather’s greatness. Perhaps it is also the case that there are just so few moments of raw excitement in a Mayweather fight that his ring brilliance is continually neglected.
However, there was some real drama on Saturday when it was revealed that one judge – who, by the way, was paid $8,000 for her night’s work – returned a scorecard of 114-114. This was gross in every way and a simple glance in Alvarez’s direction at the final bell told the real story of what was a ridiculously easy night for Mayweather.
The American, who is 36, must now plan a potentially tricky future and an end to his glittering career, knowing that his last natural and genuine opponent, Alvarez, has just been exposed. The boxer has four fights left on a six-fight contract, worth $200m, that he signed with ShowTime earlier this year; there is the very real chance that he will fight until he is 40.
The plan now seems to be that he will meet Bolton’s Amir Khan in May next year, but Khan has first to beat world champion Devon Alexander in their December fight. Mayweather plans to have another payday in November.
There is a chance that the middleweights Gennady Golovkin and Sergio Martinez are on Mayweather’s shopping list for his farewell tour. However, any attempt to boil the pair down to a suitable weight should be discouraged. Mayweather truly is a victim of his time and his ability, and pointing that out should not be considered a slight. He is a great fighter; he just needs a great fight and perhaps it is too late.