Throughout his unbeaten, three-decade professional career, Floyd Mayweather Jr., often uses the metaphor of drowning opponents once his fights reach deeper waters.
Mayweather successfully has navigated through five weight divisions, but rarely into the weight class linked to his next fight date on Saturday night.
For only the third time in his career, Mayweather will fight above the 147-pound welterweight division. Mayweather (44-0, 26 KOs) will face Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs) in a super-welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Mayweather, who won the first of his five-division world titles in the 130-pound-weight class, has fought most of the past seven years as a welterweight. The two exceptions above 147 pounds were super-welterweight bouts against Oscar De La Hoya in 2007 and Miguel Cotto last year.
Mayweather, 36, won decisions in both fights, but De La Hoya and Cotto found punching opportunities against arguably the best defensive fighter of the past 30 years. Will this third time at super-welterweight — against a fighter 13 years younger — finally sink Mayweather?
“It’s not about the weight, it’s about the skills,” Mayweather said after a recent workout. “The skills pay the bills. I can’t wait to get in there and compete and test my skills against young guy. I feel good. I’m still hungry.”
Saturday’s highly anticipated bout, which organizers believe will set or approach pay-per-view records, features the noticeable storyline of established multi-division champion and face of the sport against the young fighter eager to emerge into crossover acceptance.
Alvarez already has gained celebrity status in his native country. Mexico’s passionate fight fans view Alvarez as their new kingpin, following the trail set by previous champions, such as Ruben Olivares, Carlos Zarate, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Ricardo Lopez and Juan Manuel Marquez.
“Even though I’m young, I have a lot of experience,” Alvarez said. “That’s why I asked for this.”
The eagerness to fight Mayweather heightened after Alvarez won a convincing decision over previously unbeaten Austin Trout on April 20 before a pro-Alvarez crowd of 40,000 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. The victory earned Alvarez a second super-welterweight belt.
Now Alvarez seeks to blemish another opponent’s spotless record — albeit against the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
“I’ve always said that I’ve never fought to my potential, but that’s because I’ve never had an opponent to bring it out,” Alvarez said. “I feel that maybe Mayweather will be the one to bring it out.”
Mayweather has mastered the art of hyping an event. As a result, he attracts followers who appreciate his ability to remain dominant, and detractors, hopeful that an opponent will finally humble Mayweather.
“I know what it takes to be involved in a fight of this magnitude,” Mayweather said. “Canelo is a solid competitor but it is what it is. I’ve faced the best in this sport.
“He’s banking on his youth; I’m banking on my experience. I have a lot of experience in championship fights. Look at his résumé, look at my résumé, and see what you come up with.”
• Late Saturday: Former heavyweight title challenger Chris Arreola improved his hopes at another championship bout with a first-round TKO win over Seth Mitchell in Indio, Calif.
Arreola (36-3-1, 31 KOs) dropped Mitchell (26-2-1) late in the first round, then followed up with a flurry of unanswered combinations before the fight was stopped at 2:26 of the round.