Whomever you think will actually win the fight, it’s pretty clear that the sport itself would be better off if Alvarez beats Cotto on Saturday night.
Boxing is a sport driven by star power, and while Cotto is one of the biggest stars in boxing, he’s also 35 years old and much closer to retirement than Alvarez. And though Cotto has a strong Puerto Rican fan base firmly in his corner, there is no grander or larger group of fight fans in boxing than those from Mexico.
Here’s another thing: Alvarez has so many big fights left ahead of him. Gennady Golovkin, Timothy Bradley and David Lemieux are all potential options for Alvarez’s next gig should he prevail on Saturday, and there is also still a wealth of other talent at and around 154 pounds he has not yet faced.
Alvarez-Andrade would be intriguing. Alvarez-Martirosyan is at least interesting. Alvarez-Trout 2 makes sense in a lot of ways.
Does Cotto have the same going for him?
Look, I know neither Cotto nor Canelo are likely to jump into the ring with Golovkin anytime soon. But if one of them does, it certainly won’t be Cotto. And of the few fights out there for Cotto right now, how many of they are really all that interesting?
Anyone interested in Mayweather-Cotto 2? Or how about Cotto-Margarito 3? Meh. Those aren’t terrible options, but they aren’t great either.
Boxing needs big stars and it needs those stars to burn bright for a long time. Cotto is a star, but he won’t shine that much longer. And Alvarez is hugely popular, much more so than Cotto was at this point in his career. Can you imagine how big he’ll be when he’s 35 if he maintains his current trajectory?
Alvarez has improved as a fighter since getting soundly outboxed by Floyd Mayeather in 2013. He’s won four fights in a row including a decision over crafty southpaw Erislandy Lara, his best win to date. Just think what a win over Cotto would do for his career.
And if you think Canelo Mania is a big deal right now, just wait until he actually has an elite win under his belt. HBO knows how to build superstars, guys. They’ll do it with Canelo as long as he’s up to the task.
And what about Golden Boy Promotions? Doesn’t Oscar De La Hoya and his company need this win for Canelo in a bad way? Think about it: how many star fighters are on De La Hoya’s roster right now? Alvarez and…who? Hopkins? Is he even going to fight again?
Yes, I know we’re all supposed to like socialism and such these days (for some reason), but as the local proponent of good, old-fashioned capitalism, let me suggest that competition is a good thing. Golden Boy needs a win here to stay competitive, and boxing needs Golden Boy to remain exactly that.
Let’s say Alvarez loses on Saturday night in devastating fashion and decides to retire because of it. He’s young and rich after all. Could you blame him? With no one else left to fill in the gap between the young talents of tomorrow on their roster and the world of boxing today, could Golden Boy even survive? And if not, are we really all that content with only Top Rank and Al Haymon being the last two big promotional entities (or whatever PBC is supposed to be) left standing?
Boxing needs stars, different promoters competing for our attention and the interesting and compelling fights that come forth because of it.
You may love Cotto like a brother. He might be your favorite fighter ever. Or you might just have picked him in your local office pool this week and vanity/greed drives you to root for him. I get it. I’m on the hook for it, too.
But boxing will be much better off if Canelo defeats Cotto on Saturday night. At least consider the idea as we head further into fight week.
Photo by Will Hart /HBO