In 1974, “The Rumble in The Jungle”, Don King’s promotional debut, featured a high profile heavyweight fight between George Foreman and Muhammed Ali. Foreman entered as a 3:1 betting favorite, while Ali and his “bombaye” chants quickly made him the favorite and honorary hero of Zaire. Notable for its underdog victory, what makes this fight more prescient to the upcoming September 14th fight between Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez are the interesting parallels involved behind the scenes, the case studies of a fighter and their half life of "heart", as well as the crystallization (soon to be reaffirmation) of the importance of fight I.Q. in the eyes of the voyeurs; albeit all occurring at a lighter weightclass and thirty-five years in the future.
“Rumble in The Jungle” featured a powerful, heavy bag breaking Heavyweight Champion, Foreman, who dehydrated and neglecting his once formidable jab after power punching himself over Joe Frazier, lost a chess match against Ali and his superior fight I.Q. Without fearing "Big George's" newly archived jab, Ali allowed Foreman to tire himself out via (now, in hindsight) futile attrition work on his body, which coupled with Foreman’s skilled ability to cut off the 18 foot ring, cheer leaded his ego into a sense of mental confidence that occluded his tiring body and Id until the moment in the eighth round when Ali dropped the curtain and dropped the now exhausted Foreman with a wonderful straight right.
Ostensibly Mayweather agreed to the fight “for the fans”; but upon closer analysis, the blueprint, one revealed before, the bug light of Mayweather Promotions is obvious. Just as when he watched Oscar De La Hoya’s bouts with Bernard Hopkins and Ricardo Mayorga, taking mental notes; watching for breaks in confidence,the half life of their conditioning, the fatigue, the frustration(De La Hoya's half life of conditioning in the Hopkins fight was about 5 rounds, the Mayorga fight was much better, this may be to the lack of frustration aiding his confidence, conditioning; he was fighting well and blocking Mayorga's flurries); one can see the mental jotting that led to Mayweather signing the fight contract. De la Hoya’s loss to B-Hop showed his inability to break through high level defense players who utilize shoulder rolls and a Philly Shell defense, and the six round (mas o menos) half life of his conditioning when facing this frustration. His win over Mayorga showed his best chances were in matches where his jabs could neutralize a wild brawler with zero defense skills. And so Mayweather drained De La Hoya to his weight class and ran a clinic of elusory, pure boxing, much like Hopkins. Interestingly, as with the B-Hop fight, De La Hoya's half life also occurred in the sixth round.
The parallels are telling. What did Mayweather see in Canelo’s recent fight against Austin “No Doubt” Trout? Canelo showed improved head movement and stunning power but no noticeably threatening jab; the jab that De La Hoya had, allowing him to move within clinch range. Noticeably absent as well is the footwork, a la Pacquiao, that would allow Canelo to correctly angle in on the elusive Mayweather. Moreover, De la Hoya, being a Mexican fighter in costume only, did not have the requisite bodywork to properly neutralize Mayweather after having moved in behind the jab. It was this body work that allowed Jose Luis Castillo to test Mayweather more than any other boxer in his career. The body work is there in spades with Canelo, but without the piercing jab to allow entrance or the footwork to cut off the ring, it is all but impotent. Canelo, on the tip of fair-weathered boxing fans tongues, will lose money for all those who thought Pacquiao would have done better than Marquez.
On thing to note is the politics that are the undertow with any Mayweather fight. He is the highest paid athlete, and his fights consistently sell well, but he does not have the knockout power or the wild animal excitement of other boxers. What he does have, is a legacy. A 42-2 Mayweather would not sell as many fights for the casual fans. It is the American desire to watch the privileged fail. This is not placing Mayweather on the status of a Charlie Sheen. The genius of Mayweather is the way he hides his extreme work ethic behind his flashing of money; his genius is his bullet like lead right that comes from behind his artifice, his defense. People want to see the brash fighter lose, but this is all prestidigitation, sleight of hand. He does not fight with his mouth, he lures with it.
And so Mayweather drafted up his demands, simultaneously luring and draining Canelo to his big pay-day fight at 152. Granted, Mayweather’s closest calls have been in the fights at a higher weight class, but the most noticeable benefit is his speed advantage when moving up in weight. At 147 he is quick as a whip, at 152 he operates on a different frame per second rate. Dehydration and likely one the largest fight in 35 years aside, the other parallel to the “Rumble in The Jungle” will be the significant difference between fight I.Q.
Mayweather’s most recent scare was a right hand from Shane Mosley, that noticeably rocked him. This straight right was not the result of blinding speed or excellent timing on Shane Mosley’s part, but rather the carelessness Mayweather had gifted by continually parrying Mosley’s jab with his lead left hand. Soon after that right cross, Mayweather readjusted and proceeded to tutor Mosley in the art of pure boxing. It says a lot about a fighter when them getting hit rocks the richter scale.
Canelo's key to success lays in the half life of his confidence. In his fight with Shane Mosley, his speed was the notable advantage, and his landing shots on the slower, older Mosley, though not enough to put him away, allowed for a confidence that was evident, one whose curtain Mosley (unlike Ali years ago) was not able to pull. The pace of the fight auto corrected many fans previous thoughts on the volume of his gas tank. He was throwing and landing punches with the same piston like speed and accuracy as in the opening frames.
Mosley, however, does not have the humbling, I.Q. test defense of Mayweather. Canelo never questioned himself, never had to call an audible, never had to adapt in his fight with Suga Shane. The slope on the hill that is Mayweather is much greater than Mosley. Can Canelo adjust on a dime, can he change and play jazz in the moment? This is what i believe to be the deciding intangible factor. Changing midstream saps mental and physical energy, makes muscle memory dim into a physical senility and introduces repetition and paralysis in many fighters (Mosley, any Klitschko opponent, Rashad Evans, Nick Diaz). Mayweather will undoubtedly test this, will more than likely have to adjust himself against the onslaught of Canelo; the question is a matter of physical wit, can Canelo dance with him, meet his round by round demands tit for tat? There is not enough evidence for Canelo yet, but there is reasonable doubt. Eyewitness testimony is in the tapes and Mayweather has been watching them with us.
As of right now, Vegas has Mayweather at a near 2 to 1 favorite. In America, he is a general -225 favorite (reaching up to -250, interestingly, the same odds he had against Oscar De La Hoya). The United Kingdom and Ireland both have huge odd differentials -250 and -333 respectively. This puts juice on the fight, as a successful bet on Canelo could equal a sizeable jackpot, but as seen through this analysis, it is the equivalent of betting against the house, the house that has the strategy, makes the rules, and has the experience. On a short enough timeline, the house can lose, Mayweather could “get old”. Outside of that, a Canelo victory requires a certain amount of skill, probability and surprise; all but one has been accounted for by Mayweather.
If you squint you can see this fight happening; a 12 round, unanimous decision for Floyd Mayweather. “Money's" gravity speeds up the half life of "Cinnamon" in less than 5 rounds. 117-111, .