The boxing calendar for 2012 is almost full, and recent history has taught us that Floyd Mayweather Jr. rarely fights more than once a year. With a tough fight against Miguel Cotto and a brief jail stint behind him, Mayweather might have accumulated just the right amount of excuses to call it a year and start drumming up interest in a big fight for early 2013.
With that in mind, and with the most logical opponents (Cotto, Sergio Martinez and -- dare we say it? -- Manny Pacquiao) already headed in different directions, Mayweather's choices are now limited. But there is one natural fit. All things considered, given his energy, youth and huge appeal to fans of both sexes, his enormous (and growing) Mexican fan base and an unbeaten record to boot, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is the obvious choice.
Here are five reasons why Alvarez should be the leading candidate to pull the winning number in the latest Mayweather sweepstakes:
1. A crossroads fight for the ages: A young and feisty undefeated lion versus a crafty, experienced unbeaten fox? The meshing of styles is so apparent that it needs little elaboration. Alvarez, 22, is a freight train of a fighter who has power in both hands and the heart of a warrior, always charging forward with little regard for his safety. Mayweather is the lightning-fast consummate technician with seemingly unlimited resources and the boxing equivalent of Wikipedia downloaded to his brain. It's the old matador-versus-raging bull paradigm, and people have always paid to watch it. You can bet they'll pony up to witness this one.
2. Canelo has muchos amigos: Floyd always echoes the sentiments expressed in Muhammad Ali's famous analysis on the composition of his audience: "I think 100 percent of the people will come to see me," Ali used to say, "but 99 percent of those people will come to see me get beat because they think I talk too much." Whatever the percentages, there's a similar split with regard to Canelo. Most women come to see him win. A lot of guys watch to see him get his butt kicked. But the vast majority of Mexico will be watching, rooting for either cause. In any case, the likelihood of a new PPV record for a Mayweather-Canelo matchup is very high, and when the guy who has the final say on his opponent goes by the nickname "Money," that's a factor in Alvarez's favor.
3. A true fiesta for Cinco de Mayo: May 5 is a national holiday in Mexico and traditionally a blowout weekend for boxing. If you're a fight fan, you can circle that Saturday on your calendar and know you'll get to take in at least one of the year's biggest bouts that night. But at the risk of sounding jingoistic, last year's Mayweather-Cotto matchup -- an American against a Puerto Rican -- was like serving tacos, burritos and tequila at a St. Patrick's Day party. Give the fans what they want, when they want it. Mayweather versus Alvarez on Cinco de Mayo weekend will surely draw one of the biggest TV audiences in boxing history, in no small part due to its timing.
4. The grass is not greener on the other side: A lack of options shouldn't serve as an endorsement for Alvarez, but it's impossible to get around: Mayweather's alternatives really strengthen Canelo's case. The question is, if you don't pick the kid from Jalisco, who do you pick? Martinez is banking on milking whatever is left of the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. business while Junior is still marketable. Pacquiao still has who-knows-how-many-more fights with Marquez, plus a rematch with Timothy Bradley Jr., left to cash in. And Cotto will keep pricing (and maybe weighing) his way out of a Mayweather rematch until no one cares anymore. And with Amir Khan and Victor Ortiz on the rocks (and Roberto Guerrero still green at 147), Canelo is just what the doctor ordered.
5. Great possible card names: "The Young and the Restless" is already taken, but there are plenty of directions this one could be taken. "Sugar and Spice" clicked better for Canelo's bout with Shane Mosley, but it's apt here, too. And the pairing could lead to scores of clever headlines from the always-imaginative press row. "Money Talks, Cinnamon Swirls" could trumpet a Mayweather victory. Not enough reason on its own to put together a multi-million dollar boxing card, but it always helps to have some built-in entertainment value, eh?