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Ladies and gentlemen, the big fight weekend has arrived.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez will end months of promotional build-up and weeks of premium cable sniping on Saturday night, when they meet in the ring at the MGM Grand for both a pair of 154-pound titles and the enviable position as the sport's top drawing card.
The fight was initially announced in the spring, shortly after Alvarez had improved to 42-0-1 with a defeat of previously unbeaten Austin Trout and Mayweather scaled to 44-0 after a 12-round clinic against former two-division world champion Robert Guerrero.
The men faced off in 10 cities during a two-country press tour, then appeared in dueling video segments during the four-part Showtime All Access documentary series, which ended Wednesday.
The official weigh-in for the fight, at which both men contractually agreed to arrive at 152 pounds or less, is scheduled for today at 6 p.m. ET. The fight card will begin Saturday at 5:30 p.m. ET, with the Showtime pay-per-view broadcast set to open at 9 p.m. ET.
Big numbers are expected for the event, which could approach the record of 2.4 million buys set when Mayweather fought the since-retired Oscar De La Hoya in May 2007.
"It's hard to predict where we'll end up on this fight," said Stephen Espinoza, Showtime's top boxing executive. "De La Hoya/Mayweather was a perfect storm. Oscar was at the peak. Floyd was just starting to make a lot of noise. You had the perfect good guy/bad guy storyline. It's hard to replicate that.
"That may be one of those numbers that isn't approached again, because of the virtue of technology and the division of the audience's attention and all kinds of things. I don't know whether we'll see that number again. But if there are two guys who can do it, these are the two guys."
The 23-year-old Alvarez is a fan favorite in Mexico, where he debuted as a 15-year-old in 2005 and most recently fought two years ago for a successful title defense against Kermit Cintron. He's been stateside for three performances since, including the defeat of Trout – which drew nearly 40,000 fans to the Alamodome in San Antonio, one of the largest domestic fight crowds in decades.
He defeated Trout via punishing unanimous decision after recovering from early struggles with a slick boxer and gradually taking control thanks to a withering body attack. A knockdown in the seventh round came courtesy of a straight right hand to the chin and marked the first time Trout had been dropped in 27 fights as a professional.
Two fights earlier, Alvarez won a one-sided decision over Shane Mosley, who's one of two fighters – Argentine Carlos Baldomir is the other – to face both Alvarez (in 2012) and Mayweather (in 2010).
Both men beat Mosley by precisely the same margin on the scorecards, winning 11 rounds on two cards and 10 on the other. By contrast, Alvarez knocked out Baldomir in six rounds in 2010, four years after Mayweather outpointed him.
"Mayweather will beat you with speed. He might cheap-shot you. He does all things necessary to win a fight," Mosley said. "You can underestimate Canelo Alvarez because of his baby face, thinking this guy can't be on the same level, and he can fool you. He does have a lot of speed and the sort of power that Mayweather hasn't seen in a few years."
|Tale of the Tape|
|Floyd Mayweather Jr.||Saul Alvarez|
|Record||44-0, 26 KOs||42-0-1, 30 KOs|
|Weight||150-1/2 lbs||152 lbs|
|Hometown||Grand Rapids, Mich.||Guadalajara, Mexico|
How does Mayweather win?
The five-division champion has handled a vast array of fighters who were hyped going in as the ones who'd finally be able to rough him up and crack his sublime defensive code. He'll beat Alvarez by using that same unique ability to evade shots and deliver quick precise counters that ultimately dissuade such outright youthful aggression.
How does Alvarez win?
He's 13 years younger, looks physically stronger and has successfully imposed his will on each of the 42 fighters he's beaten leading up to this week. If he arrives in the first round Saturday and finds himself able to consistently land shots that move Mayweather, while staying true to his normal approach of chopping away at the body, good things will happen.
Prediction: Mayweather via TKO in the 10th
Most 36-year-old fighters wake up one day and, all of a sudden, feel every bit of 36 years old. Mayweather's uniqueness – at least in part – has been the ability to train as hard as he did as a 20-something and see similar results in the ring as a 30-something. Unless his day of age reckoning arrives this weekend, he's still the faster and more skilled fighter and represents a gigantic leap in class over anything Alvarez has been in with. The longer the fight progresses, the more that'll matter and the more the disparity in landed punches will grow. Ultimately, it'll mean an intervention from referee Kenny Bayless, somewhere past the halfway point of round 10.