When Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saúl “El Canelo” Álvarez step into the ring on September 14 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, they will both be undefeated in their careers. Mayweather Jr. is 44-0 with 26 knockouts to date while Álvarez is 42-0 with one draw and 30 knockouts.
The two are in very different stages of their careers. Mayweather, at age 36, is one of the richest athletes in the world and is locked into a pay-per-view deal that will keep him rich for quite some time. He has also been through a thicket of legal troubles and extracurricular altercations. Álvarez just turned 23 and is quickly coming onto the boxing scene. A professional since age 15, most of his early bouts were against unknown rivals. But every bout over the past few years, against welterweight and middleweight champions, has gone in Álvarez’s favor.
In April, Álvarez and Austin Trout, two of the top-rated junior-middleweights, fought in what was at the time a bout between two undefeated boxers. Trout was fresh off an impressive victory five months earlier against the heavily favorited Miguel Cotto. Álvarez won in a unanimous decision, though it was closer than it was scored, and his status as a rising star was secure.
2013 has been quite different for Mayweather. After his own not-to-be-sniffed-at victory over Miguel Cotto in May of 2012, which netted the 36-year-old the largest guaranteed purse in boxing history ($32 million), he was sentenced to an 87-day jail term for domestic abuse. He returned to the ring in May of 2013 and beat Robert Guerrero, retaining his WBC Welterweight title and winning the vacant The Ring Welterweight title, a top honor given out by the respected boxing magazine. He will enter September’s bout with as many fans as people rooting against him.
The Álvarez-Mayweather Jr. bout could easily top the $120 million in PPV revenue generated by the Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya bout in 2007. In that infamous match, Mayweather contemplated retirement afterwards believing he had nothing left to prove. Six years later, he is still at it and seemingly has nothing left to prove — only money to gain. Álvarez isn’t necessarily strapped for cash, but the 23-year-old has not left his footprint on the sport yet.
A loss for either boxer would do serious harm to both of their legacies. Álvarez could take over boxing with a win over arguably the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. But a loss to Mayweather would put him in his place and among many other 23-year-old boxers with a one in the loss column. There’d be time for him to get back to the top, but this is the stage for him to prove himself. For Mayweather, a loss this late in his career would signal the end of it. He would go on the books as one of the best, but not without a blemish on his record. If not for his deal with PPV that will showcase him in four more fights after Álvarez, a retirement would seem imminent.
The September bout consolidates the WBA Super World light middleweight belt and the WBC light middleweight belt and will be fought at a catch-weight of 152 pounds, five pounds heavier than Mayweather’s usual 147 and only two pounds lighter than Alvarez’s usual 154. One of the two will end 2013 with a loss on their record, but it might soften the blow for whomever fails knowing how much money this bout will put in his pocket.