LAS VEGAS — At this point, the only thing that will be able to stop pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. is Father Time, because no fighter can do it.
In what some were calling Mayweather’s toughest test in many years, he authored a clinic against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez as he rolled to a majority decision to unify junior middleweight world titles Saturday night — on Mexican Independence Day weekend — at the sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena, where the all-time gate record of $20,003,150 was set by the 16,746 in attendance.
The crowd was overwhelmingly cheering for Alvarez, the 23-year-old Mexican hero, but he was no match for the brilliance of Mayweather, who did as he pleased in Rounds 1 through 12 in the biggest fight in years.
“Canelo is a young, strong champion. A great Mexican champion,” Mayweather said. “I take my hat off to him and to Mexico. He can take a loss and bounce back.
“Seventeen years, and I’m still going strong. I think had I pressed the attack earlier, I could have gotten the stoppage, but I am very happy with my performance.”
The fight likely will set the record for the richest event in boxing history and could challenge the all-time pay-per-view record of 2.44 million buys. Both those records were set by Mayweather’s 2007 win against Oscar De La Hoya.
Although Mayweather cruised, the judges incredibly made it a majority decision.
Judges Dave Moretti (116-112) and Craig Metcalfe (117-111) had it for Mayweather, while judge C.J. Ross scored it an unconscionable 114-114. She also is one of the two judges who gave Timothy Bradley Jr. a decision win against Manny Pacquiao in one of boxing’s most controversial decisions in years. ESPN.com had it a 120-108 shutout for Mayweather.
“I’m not in control of the judges,” Mayweather said. “I’m a little in shock, but everything is a learning experience.”
For his easy work, Mayweather also made easy money, a guaranteed record purse of $41.5 million. He surely will earn much more once the profits from the Showtime pay-per-view event are tallied.
Mayweather, 36, of Las Vegas, fought like a man years younger, as usual. He landed his right hand almost at will and peppered Alvarez with solid jabs. Mayweather was so quick, he evaded nearly every heavy shot Alvarez threw.
“It was simple: I couldn’t catch him,” Alvarez said through a translator. “He was very elusive. He’s a great fighter. I did not know how to get him. He is very intelligent. He’s got a lot of experience. Honestly, I couldn’t find him. In the later rounds, I felt frustrated. I recognize that he beat me. I tried to connect on him, but I just couldn’t. At the same time, he also missed me a lot. A lot of punches landed on my gloves.”
Mayweather’s clinic came against a much bigger man. Although Alvarez made the 152-pound catchweight limit Friday and Mayweather was 150½, Alvarez rehydrated to 165 on fight night while Mayweather lost a half-pound from the weigh-in.
But that added bulk made no difference, as Mayweather was his typically elusive self. His defense, as always, was tight, and his punches were fast.
“When I woke up [Saturday] morning, I was 146 pounds, so I had to call my chef and get something in my system,” Mayweather said.
For the fight, Mayweather landed 232 of 505 punches (46 percent), according to CompuBox statistics, and Alvarez was limited to connecting on just 117 of 526 punches (22 percent).
Alvarez, the 2010 ESPN.com prospect of the year, had won a vacant title by lopsided decision against Matthew Hatton — the younger brother of British star and former two-division titlist Ricky Hatton — and was making his seventh defense. But none of those opponents were remotely in Mayweather’s class.
Both fighters tried to establish their jabs in the opening round, although Alvarez also went for Mayweather’s body in an effort to slow him down. But that didn’t work.
Despite it being a tactical fight early, Mayweather, with his quickness, was able to land jabs and move out of the way before Alvarez’s slower punches could connect.
Mayweather (45-0, 26 KOs) found a bit more offense in the third round, landing two hard right hands cleanly in succession. Alvarez — whose contract called for $5 million but whose guarantee was more in the $12 million neighborhood — took them well.
Mayweather snapped Alvarez’s head back with another right in the fourth round, and Alvarez retaliated with a low blow, drawing a warning from referee Kenny Bayless. But Mayweather shook it off and began to open up with his punches even more, tagging Alvarez to the head with more right hands and working the body.
“I took my time; I listened to my dad [trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr.],” Mayweather said. “My father was telling me what to do and to press the attack. My dad had a brilliant game plan.”
Mayweather began to lay a bit of a beating on Alvarez in the fifth round. He landed a really clean right hand and was doubling up his jab, and Alvarez’s face began to swell. Mayweather continued to land right hands against a seemingly confused and tiring Alvarez in the sixth round.
It was more of the same in the seventh, although Mayweather additionally landed a clean right uppercut — as if Alvarez needed any more problems.
The one thing Alvarez had some success with was landing punches on Mayweather’s arms. But that was all that was available to him.
“In some of the rounds, I had to take my time and pull back because he was hurting my arms,” Mayweather said. “He’s a strong competitor, but it was nothing I had never felt before.”
By the time the last quarter of the fight arrived, Alvarez seemed to have lost his spirit and to be just trying to make it to the final bell as Mayweather continued to land nearly at will.
“The frustration was there, but simply he is a great fighter,” Alvarez said. “We tried to catch him; that’s what we tried to do all day. The 15 pounds were negated because I couldn’t catch him. There is no doubt he’s a great fighter, a very intelligent fighter. There was no solution.”
Alvarez (42-1-1, 30 KOs) has a good chin, and Mayweather isn’t a big puncher. But all those shots Alvarez took added up to a landslide for Mayweather, who has said he plans to fight again next May and next September. The fight with Alvarez was the second of a 30-month deal for up to six fights that Mayweather signed earlier this year with Showtime/CBS after leaving HBO/Time Warner in what amounted to a major power shift in boxing.
One possible opponent is junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia, who outpointed Lucas Matthysse in the co-feature. Mayweather also owns a welterweight title and would go back to 147 pounds to fight him.
“I saw that fight. Both of those guys fought hard and are strong,” Mayweather said. “They both looked good, but still, I don’t know what I am going to do next. I’ll go back and talk to my dad and my team, and we’ll take it one day at a time.”
Mayweather was winning so easily that during the 11th round, he stopped to pose for the ringside photographers.
They were clicking images of greatness.