By Steve Kim
BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif -- In one of the year's most anticipated boxing events, Floyd Mayweather and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez will square off at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday night for the light middleweight championship. There will be a lot of analysis in the run-up to the bout, comparing the styles, making predictions. But only one man can truly speak to what it's like to be in the ring with these two undefeated fighters: Shane Mosley.
Back in May of 2010, Mosley dropped a lopsided 12-round decision to Mayweather; two years later, he lost to Alvarez in similar fashion.
When Mosley faced Mayweather, the latter was considered the best boxer in the sport. At the time he took on Alvarez (on the undercard of Mayweather's fight against Miguel Cotto), Alvarez was still a young, developing talent at least a year or two from being world class. The veteran Mosley -- who retired for a spell after losing to Alvarez -- came away impressed with what he saw.
"When I fought 'Canelo,' I said this is a true champion," said Mosley, now 42, speaking to reporters a couple of weeks ago at Alvarez's media day in Big Bear, where the Mexican star was using Mosley's gym to prepare for the fight (yes, boxing makes for many strange bedfellows). "When he fought me, it seemed like he got a lot better. His defense got better, his speed was faster and he had a pretty good punch. And he matured; it seemed like he matured overnight."
Mosley believes that Alvarez, 23, possesses underrated speed, something that surprised him. "He's fast," said Mosley, who dropped their fight last May by the scores of 119-109, 119-109 and 118-110. "His speed and Floyd's speed is about the same."
Now that may come as a surprise, considering most would give the quickness edge to the 36-year-old Mayweather.
"The power is about the same," Mosley said. "The difference is that [Alvarez] is physically stronger than [Mayweather] and it doesn't mean one guy hits harder than the other. Canelo is just stronger than Floyd and he's got the youth. Floyd has got punching power, [but] physically, he's not as strong. He kinda lets you put his power on him, but he just rolls with it."
Mosley believes it's imperative that Alvarez, 42-0-1, start quickly and set the pace right away. The 44-0 Mayweather is as adept as any fighter at dictating the tempo from the onset and then basically implementing his own "four-corners" offense in the late rounds as he builds leads on the scorecards.
"[Alvarez] has to get off right off the bat, touch him a little bit, making him have to come to him, take some chances," explained Mosley. "Because once Floyd gets ahead, he's going to play keep-away, [and] the fight's pretty much going to be over."
It's at that point that his opponents start getting desperate and opening up, which, as Mosley points out, is when Mayweather is "at his best."
In the second round of their fight, Mosley buzzed Mayweather hard with an overhand right. But from that point on, Mayweather took control of the proceedings. "Floyd is actually different when you get in the ring with him," said Mosley, who will resume his career later this fall against Anthony Mundine in Australia.
Mosley points out, though, that Alvarez, in his own way, is very deceptive. "It's the same thing -- they both have the same type of intelligence. Like [Alvarez's] intelligence, you can't really detect it… He surprised me. He really kept his hands up pretty good, he knew when I was ready to set him up with something, he really had good recognition. Floyd is the same way; [he] really knows when you're getting ready to do something."
In the past several years, when Mayweather has had any problems, they have come at the junior middleweight class (154 pounds) against the likes of Oscar De La Hoya and Cotto, who were both able to use their advantages in size and strength to have some success against Mayweather (even though they both lost). This fight is being contested at a catchweight of 152 pounds.
It's not clear how the muscular Alvarez will be affected by this stipulation, but regardless, Mosley believes that he should put the pressure on Mayweather. "He's going to have to step it up because when Floyd gets hurt, he gets hurt early," said Mosley. "I hurt him early, other people hurt him early" -- referring to Mayweather's fights with Zab Judah and Demarcus Corley -- "but once he gets his groove on, it's kind of hard to get him outta that groove.
"Canelo likes to start a little slow, but he also has pretty good unexpected boxing skill -- it's going to give Floyd some problems -- and he's younger and he does have good power and he is physically stronger. So there [are] a lot of equations that could happen."
The future Hall of Famer believes that Alvarez will test Mayweather -- but stops short of predicting an upset. "I don't know if I would've made the fight at this point," Mosley admitted. "It's an iffy situation where we don't know if Canelo is ready to fight the best or not."
Steve Kim began covering boxing in 1996 and has been writing for Maxboxing.com since 2001. He is also a regular contributor for Boxing News. He can be reached at email@example.com and he tweets (a lot).