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Robert Cartagena is a boxing correspondent for SFBay.ca. He graduated from SF State in 2011 with a B.A. in journalism and spent more than a year contributing monthly articles to The Hudsucker, an online magazine with a blog twist. He has a passion for sports journalism -- particularly boxing -- as well as film reviews. He also enjoys blogging and aspires to be a professional actor one day.

Mayweather vs. Canelo: There can only be ‘One’

Image Credit: Facebook.com/ShoBoxing

Image Credit: Facebook.com/ShoBoxing

How’s it going, fight freaks?

Well, tomorrow night is the boxing event of the year.

After all the hype, trash talk, and rigorous preparation made by both fighters, this is “The One” – the highly-anticipated superfight between pound-for-pound kingpin Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. and Mexican powerhouse Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.

The 12-round main event will be held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and fought at a catch-weight of 152 lbs., with the WBC and WBA super welterweight championships on the line.

As an avid boxing fan, I wanted to take the time to make my final prediction and give a pre-fight analysis in honor of this blockbuster event.

So let’s get right down to business with the obvious – my prediction.

I said this when the fight was officially announced in June and I will say it once more: I have to go with “Money” Mayweather. While I’m fans of both fighters, I think Mayweather (44-0, 26 KOs) is the superior fighter in terms of offense, defense and ring generalship. I’m not counting “Canelo” out, because as a monstrous puncher, he has the ability to turn everything around with a single shot. But of course, his biggest challenge tomorrow night will be trying to hit – let alone, hurt – Mayweather, who represents the greatest challenge Alvarez has faced so far.

In his last bout in April, Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs) unified the WBC and WBA 154 lb. world titles by defeating Austin Trout via unanimous decision. But the victory was “Canelo’s” toughest, as he had to adjust to Trout’s tricky boxing style – and that’s where I think he will have the most difficulty against the slick-boxing Mayweather. Throughout the early rounds of the Trout fight, Alvarez could not establish his dominance like he had against previous opponents. I also noticed how frustrated he got whenever he failed to take Trout out with a single shot – and that’s a mistake he cannot afford to make against a fighter the caliber of Mayweather.

Alvarez cannot expect to take Mayweather’s head off with one blistering power shot; instead, he must set Mayweather up by doing effective work to the body and catching Mayweather upstairs with a shot that he won’t expect – particularly his left hook. He also must fight patiently, but by no means should he take it easy during the first three rounds. Alvarez must make a big statement within those first nine minutes, and doing serious damage to the body will allow him to neutralize Mayweather’s speed and movement. If he doesn’t, Mayweather will take control of the bout like he has against his 44 previous opponents and systematically dominate “Canelo” with his speed and boxing wizardry.

Mayweather may be the favorite heading into tomorrow’s bout, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the fight will be a walk in the park. At age 36, the future Hall-of-Famer still has the physical and mental reflexes to tame Alvarez over 12 rounds. But as with life, nobody is invincible, and Mayweather’s age could play a key factor in the fight should it finally catch up to him.

Alvarez is not only a fighter 13 years Mayweather’s junior, but a natural junior middleweight who is also the physically strongest he’s ever faced in his near 17-year career. Mayweather has to control the pace of the bout from the opening bell and use his in-ring gifts to ultimately wear Alvarez down or at least keep him at bay for all 12 rounds. He must also stay off the ropes and not allow “Canelo” to get him in any serious danger.

Robert Guerrero had success backing Mayweather against the ropes throughout their 12-round welterweight bout in May, but ultimately could not land the one shot that could turn the bout in his favor. But it could be a completely different story if “Canelo” gets Mayweather trapped in the corners or against the ropes. “Canelo” will need to be relentless and fire punches at will – all while not punching himself out in the process. His uppercut – a punch Guerrero failed to utilize against Mayweather – could also benefit him significantly in such a situation.

The key to Mayweather’s victory will be to fight his fight – and he must not flirt with danger by trading punches with the naturally stronger Alvarez. When Mayweather was badly hurt in the second round of his bout with “Sugar” Shane Mosley in May 2010, he traded punches with Mosley and got clipped with a right hook that almost forced his knee to touch the canvas. Mayweather eventually recovered and stuck to his game plan, dominating Mosley for the remaining 10 rounds to win a lopsided decision.

Tomorrow night’s bout ultimately comes down to whether or not “Canelo” can impose his physical strength against Mayweather. Unless he looks all of his 36 years or leaves himself open to a knockout shot, I see Mayweather winning like he does in typical “Money” Mayweather fashion. As I said earlier, I’m not completely counting “Canelo” out, especially with his tremendous punching power. But he needs to realize that the first three rounds will be crucial in determining how the remainder of the bout transpires.

Bottom line: “Canelo” must wear Mayweather down in order to pull off the huge upset. If he can’t, Mayweather will take control and prove once again why he’s the P4P king – and why MGM stands for “Mayweather Gets Money.”

Final Prediction: Floyd Mayweather Jr. via unanimous decision.

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