Former WBC middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and his promoter Golden Boy announced last week that Alvarez was vacating his middleweight title. The press release stated that they would continue to pursue a fight with Gennady Golovkin but that they would not be forced to adhere to any dates or deadlines by the WBC as they negotiate.
Since then, Alvarez and GBP have met with nearly universal derision from the boxing world. Yes, the WBC had given Alvarez and GBP a deadline of May 24th to come to an agreement with “Triple G” but it was clear that Alvarez vs. Golovkin is the match that the public is screaming for and the early rhetoric from the Alvarez camp was that he wanted the big money fight with Golovkin. Despite the wording of the press release, relinquishing the belt at 160 lbs makes Alvarez and the match less appealing to Golovkin and much less likely to happen.
Alvarez has been at the end of a lot of negative publicity lately. The entire build-up to the Amir Khan fight saw all parties scrambling to justify the fight. A lot of energy was spent to sell the match with Khan, who at the end of the day was two weight classes smaller and was known for having a glass jaw. When the fight went down pretty much as everyone thought it would, and Alvarez did not look all that great, there were a lot of people who let the fight slide because Alvarez reiterated his commitment to fighting Golovkin in the post- fight press conferences.
But what Alvarez said was not important. What was important is the words his handlers at Golden Boy were putting out there and their long-term plan they were beginning to reveal.
Harken back to October of last year and the Gennady Golovkin versus David Lemieux fight. De La Hoya put in a lot of work hyping Lemieux, shamelessly claiming six of his female relatives were watching the fight because of Lemieux’s good looks. The reaction was more subdued in the post-fight conference after Lemieux had succumbed to Golovkin’s withering attack without showing much of anything.
Lemieux was back for the undercard of Alvarez-Khan, and presumably as handsome as ever. Before the fight GBP crony Bernard Hopkins stated “Canelo has a lot of options.” and the first of the options he mentioned was Lemieux. The plan appears to have been to avoid Golovkin and fight David Lemieux in the fall of 2016 all along.
Lemieux was given a credible opponent that he dominated in Glen Tapia, but the match ended in a weird and unsatisfactory way. Tapia was dropped but he got up immediately. Despite his wanting to continue, both the referee and his corner stepped in and stopped the fight, giving Lemieux a win bereft of any highlights. It is safe to say no one watching the pay-per-view said “I want to see him fight Alvarez next, forget “Triple G.” No one but Oscar and company.
De La Hoya and his sidekick Hopkins always couch their rhetoric with talk about being “for the fighters” and it all sounds very good. Especially when you consider it comes from two heralded, iconic boxers of the modern era. Nowadays, a lot of the time they appear to be morphing into bad salesmen. The talk has changed in tone and a lot of what is being said is contradictory to previous statements.
Take the following diatribe from Oscar around the time Miguel Cotto vacated the same WBC title in 2015: “It’s a disgrace. It’s a disgrace to the promotion, it’s a disgrace to the sport to do something like that. Every fighter dreams of fighting for the WBC middleweight championship.”
Compare that to De La Hoya’s talk after “Canelo” vacated the very same WBC belt. “There is no denying that Canelo is the biggest star in the sport of boxing. He is eager to get in the ring with ‘GGG’ to show the world that he is also the best pound for pound fighter in the sport, but we won’t negotiate under a forced deadline. Now that the WBC title is off the table, I am hopeful that ‘GGG’ and his promoter K2 Promotions will come to the table in good faith and get this deal done.”
After the retirement of Floyd Mayweather Jr. Alvarez has emerged as boxing’s top drawing card, as Oscar De La Hoya and GBP now tell you at every turn. Though this may be the case, Alvarez has certainly not come close to earning what Mayweather did and there can be no doubt that boxing’s ceiling is a long elevator ride down from the penthouse that Mayweather crafted. Oscar seems to have missed out on the reality check, and that is that Alvarez basically got the label by default, and he could quickly lose it because of bad management.
Granted the farce that is the WBC and all the belt-selling organizations becomes clear in this mess as well. They are not indicative of who is the best; they are powerless middle men scrounging for a buck. So Alvarez and company were in relatively safe territory giving up the WBC’s trinket. But here is an interesting question – would they have been so brazen as to leave HBO had the cable giant imposed a deadline to make the match with Golovkin?
A brief review of the history betweeen “Canelo” and Golden Boy sees that Alvarez left his Mexican promoter All-Star Boxing for GBP and the two groups have been involved in a lawsuit that has dragged out nearly four years already. Those four years have seen Alvarez’s fights make hundreds of millions of dollars and the young man is both rich and famous so to a certain extent Golden Boy can say “mission accomplished”.
Alvarez may now return to the 154 pound weight class and matches with the likes of Erislandy Lara and Jermall Charlo potentially await. Those would be quality wins for his record, but neither man brings the “big fight” excitement that a match with Golovkin would. Beating Golovkin would allow him to claim the #1 pound for pound spot and certify his claim to being boxing’s top draw. Even if he loses to Golovkin, it has a good chance of being one of those losses that elevates a fighter due to a heroic effort
Look no further than England’s Anthony Joshua as a potential replacement as boxing’s top draw. The giant heavyweight has the tools and charisma to be a cross-over star and he does not appear to be hampered by flaky management. There are others.