It’s fight night! Well, it’s actually mid-morning on fight day at the moment, but the buzz is already slowly building as now we’re just a few hours before the start of the Mayweather-Canelo card. The months of hype have finally come to this. No more All Access episodes, weigh-in check-ins or interviews. Now is the time for all the fighters to deliver. With that said, let’s get fight to my picks for tonight’s anticipated card.
PPV Opener, Welterweights, 10 Rounds – Pablo Cesar Cano (26-3-1, 20 KOs) vs. Ashley Theophane (33-5-1, 10 KOs)
This will be Theophane’s debut under the Money Team banner. Both fighters are in desperate need of a “name win.” Cano has had three tries already, coming up short against Erik Morales (late, bloody TKO loss), Paulie Malignaggi (controversial split decision defeat) and Shane Mosley (close decision loss). Theophane’s only standout name is a young Danny Garcia, who he dropped a split decision to.
Theophane has characterized Cano as a fighter that’s lost every time he’s stepped up. That is true — has has failed to secure a win against three faded veterans. But is Theophane a step-up? I don’t see a large talent disparity between them. Theophane didn’t look like a world-beater in his last two wins over Chaurembo Palase (KO1) or Ronnie Warrior (UD8). He definitely didn’t look like it in dropping a clear decision to Darren Hamilton last May. Theophane isn’t particularly quick on his feet, and Cano is tough and applies good pressure. Because of the caliber of Cano’s recent competition, that gives him the edge tonight.
Of course, we can never discount that Mayweather Promotions is on the bill. In May, I watched with disgust as J’Leon Love got an undeserved decision win over Gabriel Rosado on the Mayweather-Guerrero undercard. Still, I think this is the fight Cano puts it together and guts out a close, split decision victory.
IBF Junior Middleweight Title Match – Ishe Smith (C) (25-5, 11 KOs) vs. Carlos Molina (21-5-2, 6 KOs)
Molina is another guy you’d think is due for a big win, considering the bad decisions (Erislandy Lara) and controversial stoppages (James Kirkland) he’s been on the wrong side of. Ishe Smith, unspectacular in every area, got to the title on determination alone, as seen in his effort against Cornelius Bundrage. This will likely be the “ugliest” fight on the card in terms of aesthetic appeal. Expect lots on mauling and awkward exchanges. Now, who does that favor? Carlos Molina will be right at home with that type of fight. Plus, Molina normally is able to maintain a good to high workrate with that style (Vegas judges love activity). It will be another close one, but I see Carlos Molina taking a unanimous decision (of the 115-113 variety).
WBC, WBA & RING Magazine Super Welterweight Match – Danny Garcia (26-0, 16 KOs) vs. Lucas Matthysse (34-2, 32 KOs)
Far as I’m concerned, this is the main event for tonight. Both guys looked in great shape, but Matthysse looked more composed with the entire event. The word going around here in Vegas, and later confirmed by Garcia, is that he plans to display his power early and gets Matthysse’s “respect.” That may backfire huge if Matthysse proves to be able to take Danny’s left hook. Garcia has previously said he’ll use the “blueprint” laid out in Matthysse’s controversial losses to Devon Alexander and Zab Judah — lots of movement and angles to prevent Matthysse from getting set. The problem with that is Matthysse has improved a lot since then, especially in terms of cutting off the ring, and using roughhouse punches in clinches (body shots, some assorted fouls etc.). Also, Garcia is not as light on his feet as Zab and Devon, so Matthysse will have an easier time tracking him down.
This will come down to who can take a better punch. On that front, Matthysse has shown he can take good shots. Garcia isn’t exactly fragile in that area, but it should be concerning to Garcia fans that Judah, known for late round collapses, had Danny backpedaling, tired and hurt in the final rounds.
Lucas Matthysse is going to get beat up. But Danny Garcia is going to get beat up worse by Matthysse. Garcia will box well early on, but Matthysse will start breaking him down as early as the fourth or fifth. By the 8th round, Matthysse will have an emphatic TKO and junior welterweight supremacy.
Main Event, WBC, WBA & RING Magazine Junior Middleweight Title Match – Floyd Mayweather (44-0, 26 KOs) vs. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (42-0, 30 KOs)
I’m calling it now — Canelo will be competitive enough that we’ll have a rematch come May 2014 (on Cinco de Mayo weekend). That’s not because I think Canelo is as skilled or smart as Mayweather in the ring. It’s because the intangibles point to Canelo being able to pose a lot of difficulty for sports Pound 4 Pound #1. For starters, Mayweather above welterweight has always proven to be more vulnerable. His movement is slower and his counters less effective, leading his many moments where he’s forced to fight off the ropes after being pushed back by a strong jab. We saw it to a lesser extent against Miguel Cotto, and definitely in the bout against De La Hoya. Second, everyone is expecting a “sharper” Mayweather come tonight since he’s being move active, but what if the quick turnaround leads to more injuries (let’s say the right hand he injured against Guerrero)?
The big problem for Canelo will be the adjustments. As Mayweather says, he takes away your best weapon very early and forces you to adjust. For Canelo, that’s his straight right. I’m not convinced that Canelo will be able to think on the fly and adjust his strategy as needed. Not to mention, Canelo has a tendency to throw powerful shots too far out (like the right uppercut in the Trout fight). Those wide bombs are just waiting to be countered by Mayweather.
Then there’s the question of Canelo’s stamina. His punch output dropped badly in the late rounds against Trout, but it’s hard to nail down if that was mostly fatigue, or knowing he had the fight in the bag from the open scoring. Mayweather told me a few months ago that he expects Canelo to be a sitting duck in the late rounds, but I don’t think the stamina issue will be as big as people think. Canelo is smart enough to know that trying to become Aaron Pryor in terms of workrate is not smart. He is who he is at this point. The game plan has to be versatile between educated pressure ( a good jab) that drives Floyd to the ropes, varied combinations and head movement. He should be exploding with punches for the final 30 seconds of every round.
In the end, smarts and experience will prevail in Mayweather taking a close decision, leading to fan debates and an even more anticipated rematch.
So let’s hear it. Does Canelo get whitewashed, or does Mayweather get his toughest battle since Jose Luis Castillo over 10 years ago? Does Garcia taste his first defeat, or does his slay one of boxing’s “monsters” in Lucas Matthysse?