Sports Science Part V: Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Canelo Alvarez


"Boxing is real easy. Life is much harder." - Floyd Mayweather Jr.

I guess if you're an amateur boxer, it may be wise to take on the mindset of one of professional boxing's most decorated fighters of all-time, Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr. In the words of ESPN analysis Stephen A. Smith, "Forty-five men have tried, and forty-five men have failed." Given his magician-like skillset, speed, defensive ability, and sometimes misunderstood as cocky and arrogant personality, it's easy to see why Mayweather has a 45-0 all-time fighting record, five-division world championships, eight world titles, and the lineal championship in four different weight classes to go along with a host of other achievements, awards, belts, and recognition through the sport of boxing. For the sake of this blog post, I won't dive into the greatness of Mayweather's boxing career. I'd rather talk about the science behind his most recent fight on September 14, 2013 against Saúl "El Canelo" Álvarez, a fight in which Mayweather defeated Alvarez by majority twelve round decision. Let's dive in.

As a part of ESPN's Sports Science TV series, Mayweather's fight over Canelo serves as a perfect example of how the science behind defense, reflexes & speed (Mayweather) vs. size, strength & accuracy (Canelo) in boxing can affect the outcome of a match. With the help of lead engineer, Cynthia Bir, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, ESPN was able to document a sports science analysis of the fight between Mayweather and Alvarez.

According to ESPN's Sports Science, Canelo Alvarez had put on an average of over 13 extra pounds (13.1 exact) during his last seven fights leading up to the 24-hours between weigh-in and the Mayweather matchup. The fight between Mayweather and Alvarez had been contested at a catchweight of 152 lbs. But due his weight gain, Canelo (162 lbs.) entered the ring about 10 lbs. heavier than Mayweather (152 lbs.). Before the match took place, this was thought to be the toughest fight of Mayweather's career. Some were skeptical if he could make it to 45-0 and here's why. 

Alvarez possesses more mass than Mayweather, which means that he's able to transport more energy in his punches through each level of his kinetic chain. In other words, his punches can deliver an estimated half-ton of punch force (1,000 lbf.) This is enough force to break through nearly two inches of solid concrete!!!

If Alvarez managed to hit Floyd with his signature "liver" punch, it could have been powerful enough to stimulate the vagus nerve. As a result, the heart could temporarily slow and cause blood pressure to diminish. "In finishing nearly 70% of his fights via knockout, Alvarez has proven that if his opponents hands drop to protect the liver, he can win it with a single punch," according to ESPN's Sports Science.

Alvarez may pack a forceful punch, but what good is all that power if you can't even hit the guy? That happens to be the bug-a-boo of all of Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s opponents. When I described Mayweather's skillset as "magician-like" earlier, it was all predicated to his uncanny defensive abilities, which has frustrated plenty of his opponents in the ring. 

It takes a human being 20 seconds to react to visual stimuli according to ESPN's Sports Science. But in the case of Mayweather, he's able to predict sequences of pattern behavior from his opponents. This ability enables him react to an opponent's strike in as little as nine-hundredths of a second (0.09 seconds). Of course, that's more than twice as fast his average (average human being: 20 seconds, Mayweather: .09 seconds). Few have been able to rough up Mayweather in the ring, but even when an opponent is lucky enough to land a huge hit on him, Mayweather's ability to "roll with the punches" lessens the acceleration to his head. This reduces impact forces by up to 50%!

There have been times when opponents try to land consistent punches on Mayweather, but he throws counter punches at speeds close to 30 mph. According to ESPN Sports Science, Mayweather lands "precise blows more than five times faster than a rattle snake strike (Rattle Snake: 6 mph, Mayweather: 30 mph)."

Although Floyd Mayweather Jr. leads all active boxers in defending power punches (allows just 21% power punches to connect), Canelo Alvarez figured to be his toughest opponent yet, due to his ability to land 52% of his power punches. It's not a coincidence that Canelo is the most accurate power puncher in all of boxing.

Let's face it. Society loves a little violence in its sports. That's why football is so popular and boxing is a major draw (well depending on who's fighting), even though research suggests that being on the losing end of a KO punch can be debilitating to a boxer's short and long-term health. Chronic brain damage, personality changes, dementia, hemorrhage, uncontrollable brain swelling, and even death can result from repeated blows to the head.

With that said, there's actually nothing more thrilling than witnessing a fighter stumble to the canvas after a hard hitting knockout to a diehard boxing fan. This is what makes Canelo Alvarez's boxing style enticing to watch. If the power behind one of his punches can break through two inches of solid concrete, imagine the damage that's being done to a human being unlucky enough to get caught in the middle of one of his devastating blows.

If there's one type of fighter built to counter a power puncher like Alvarez, it's of course Floyd Mayweather Jr. A mix of speed, mechanics, and defense like no other makes him one of the best boxers not only of this generation, but of all-time. Power punchers can't show off their force if they can't even hit the guy. Here's Stephen A. Smith's reminder to you all: "Forty-five men have tried and forty-five men have failed." Now it's on to the next one.


Science Behind the Knockout:



Hey Tajh,
I have never been a boxing enthusiast but I follow the big fights. This post was really interesting. The amount of force Canelo can deliver is mind blowing. I would be surprised if I can deliver one tenth of that on a good day. Also, how fast Mayweather can move is ridiculous. The fact that he can move faster than a rattle snake is beyond. Great post!

So this fight was one of the most talked about fights I can remember. Drew record number of viewers, but what do you think about Mayweather's critisism of how he was scored? I heard his comments on sports shows and also read this article about it-

Just curious on what your take is!

Nice article, it's just crazy how athletes are getting stronger, sharper and faster as time progresses. It may take another century for another boxer to match up to his 45-0 at the professional level. I still wonder how he was defeated by Serafim Simeonov Todoro at the Olympics. Most likely an error in judgement. He is indisputably the best of the generation... sorry Pacquiao. Unfortunately he labels himself as a greatest of all time which is outright because...Well, this GIF should say just enough about being a GOAT

Thank you, Caio. I would assume that most of us would be surprised if we could deliver one tenth of Canelo's punch force on a good day haha. I too only follow the big fights in boxing (aka all of Mayweather's fights), but if I'm flipping through TV stations and happen to land on a random boxing match, then I may watch it just to see the skillsets of the guys fighting. As I wrote this post, I couldn't help but be amazed by the description of Canelo's "liver punch." Could you imagine getting hit in the liver by Canelo? Nah, me either. The effect that it could have on an opponent’s body is crazy. One punch to the liver can decrease an opponent’s blood flow and slow down their heart. I bet getting hit by one of those liver punches would make an opponent step back and rethink their boxing career for a second. Protecting yourself from the liver punch can be just as deadly as getting hit. When Canelo sees that his opponent is protecting himself from the liver punch, he can just give you a straight left or right jab and win the fight off of that one punch. That 52% power punch accuracy rate serves him very well in the ring. But as for Floyd Mayweather, what else do you expect from one of the fastest guys to ever step foot in a boxing ring? The fact that his reaction to visual stimuli is over twice as fast as the average person is unbelievable.

Hey Palmira, thanks for commenting on my post. When talking about Floyd Mayweather's response to the controversial scoring of his win against Alvarez, I think that he along with everyone else, only did what I expected them to do. Floyd is the best boxer in the world right now and whether it’s current fighters, ex-fighters, fans, or the media, everyone is going to vote in favor for Mayweather because he’s not only a great boxer, but because he’s also popular. However, I totally agree with NSAC executive director, Keith Kizer, on the notion that “Just because a judge's scorecard ends up even, doesn't mean the judge necessarily thought the fight as a whole was even.” Besides, I watched the fight and there were times during the match that Alvarez seemed to have an upper hand at some points in the earlier rounds. Floyd didn’t dominate the fight until the later rounds. Ironically, it seemed as if he started to dominate after he felt one of Alvarez’s power punches. That said, it’s not totally unfair that Cynthia Ross didn’t score all the way in his favor. I expect a response like that from Mayweather. I don’t even think it was out of character for him to initially feel the way he felt. In his mind, he’s the best and no opponent is on his level. So it was shocking for him to see that a judge scored the fight as a tie. At the end of the day, he’s 45-0 though, so I would bet money that he’s not losing any sleep over it. Here’s a round-by-round summary of the fight.

Thank you Andy, and I appreciate the fact that you commented on my post.Just as you said, athletes are getting stronger, sharper, and faster as time goes on. Click this link to read up on some aspects of the evolution of boxing:

There probably won't be another boxer like Floyd Mayweather, at least not in our generation. Of course, there have been boxers who have been fast, but it's his defensive abilities that make him so great. It's why he has been able to last so long in the sport, because he rarely gets touched in the ring. I expect Floyd to call himself the greatest of all-time, but we're all smart enough to know who that title belongs to as you pointed out with the link in your post. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

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