Canelo, Triple G, and What Boxing Lost

Some bum or bums broke into the International Boxing Hall of Fame’s Canastota headquarters and stole six championship belts. They did it during the early morning hours of November 5, when the two middleweight kings who first lifted those belts were safely dead.

The widow of Carmen Basilio told Syracuse.com that she was “heartbroken” and appealed to the public for help. “They stole our heritage,” the nephew of Tony Zale said. Haley Zale, a grandniece as relentless as any contender in the 1940s, has been storming social media (#BringBackTheBelts) to spread the dragnet she says the Hall of Fame and the Canastota police failed to do. “I will find you. I am not giving up until I find you,” she said in a YouTube video. “I will gladly knock you down with the Zale two punch trademark: A right to the heart. A left to the chin.” She’s had her hands wrapped for six months and counting.

Among the missing treasures are the two championship belts Zale won in 1941 and 1948 and the belt Basilio won after his victory over Sugar Ray Robinson in 1957. Had the burglars witnessed what it took to win those treasures — had they watched Zale take a nine count in the first round to resume what the New York Times described as “a painfully savage” attack to Georgie Abram’s ribs, an attack mirrored sixteen years later by a blood-soaked Basilio — they would have genuflected before the glass encasements and went on their way.

The stolen belts had been donated by the Zale and Basilio families as memorials to the fighting spirit.

Current middleweight king Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez recently cast off a belt that has nothing to do with the world championship for reasons that had nothing to do with the fighting spirit. His belt was greener and gaudier than yesterday’s treasures though it carries none of the gravitas. Over the past six months it was stripped, vacated, and bequeathed without a punch being thrown. It is merely an article of trade and no pleather-wearing sports writer can make it anything more.

Had Canelo cast it off in protest against the trick titles, a blare of trumpets would have followed. But his protest seems to many to be for all the wrong reasons. He cast it off because he, or more specifically, Golden Boy Promotions wants to stall negotiations with middleweight monster Gennady Golovkin. “I will not be forced into the ring by artificial deadlines,” said Canelo’s official statement. Golovkin has since been handed Canelo’s belt. The whole scenario reminded me of a friend from my youth who looked like Ian McShane but when danger drew near, he’d fall down and fend off bullies with offers of tribute. “I’ll give you my watch! I’ll give you my watch!” he’d say. “I’ll give you my belt!” said Canelo.

Boxing fans are turning on him. “Until Saul @Canelo Alvarez fights @GGGBoxing,” said one fan on twitter, “I encourage everyone to call him Saul ‘Cobarde’ Alvarez.” Mexicans are leading the charge, roundly condemning Canelo’s apparent reluctance as “no es digno de un boxeador Mexicano.” The fighters are weighing in. “To vacate and show another you ain’t got no heart to face him,” said Billy Joe Saunders, ranked third in the Transnational Middleweight Rankings. “I couldn’t sleep at night.” Juan Manuel Marquez urged Canelo to confront his promoter and demand the Golovkin fight, “the boss is the fighter,” he told Golpe a Golpe.

Canelo knows his reputation is at stake. He has reportedly directed Golden Boy to continue negotiating with the Golovkin camp and publically declared that he will fight Golovkin at the division’s weight limit of one-hundred sixty pounds, thus ending the catch weight craze that has diminished the middleweight championship.

Fight News editor-in-chief Karl Freitag sees wisdom in the decision to vacate the belt because it transferred control from the sanctioning body behind the belt, which was poised to insert himself into negotiations between the two camps after the deadline passed. Golden Boy. “The Canelo camp,” he writes, “can now negotiate with the Golovkin camp without having the split decided by the WBC, without the risk of losing the fight to a rival promoter, and a catch weight is still in play.”

Freitag makes a compelling case even if it is drowned out by charges of Canelo’s cowardice.

It all boils down to this: if Golden Boy values the reputation of its star fighter, it will offer Golovkin a respectable percentage of the take without a catch weight. If that happens, the burden shifts to Golovkin to come to terms and fight Canelo this year.

Golovkin must be prepared to accept less than his advisers would prefer. Marvin Hagler had damn-near fifty professional fights and was avoided by two champions before Vito Antuofermo finally fought him. The split was 80-20. Print out Harry Greb’s record and you have to turn the page four times before his opportunity appears. His accomplishments far exceeded Golovkin’s by then; he had been a contender for six years, defeated ten Hall of Famers twenty-eight times, and was competing in three divisions. The middleweight champion was Johnny Wilson, suspended from fighting in sixteen states for offering terms that were effective refusals to defend against Greb (among them was not only a catch weight but the right to choose his own referee). In the end, Greb was forced to accept no more than twenty-five percent of the take if he lost to Wilson and nothing if he won. Greb won.

Why did Hagler and Greb agree to such terms? Because it was worth it. A shot at the middleweight world title did not mean a shot at a middleweight world title. The definite article “the” is the critical difference. They fought for what everyone agreed was the singular divisional championship.

Golovkin, by contrast, is distracted by belt collecting. “Still need #AllTheBelts almost there,” he tweeted on May 23. Two days later he’s asking fans for thoughts about a tournament to find his next opponent, which looks like a signal that Canelo no longer has anything Golovkin wants, which may be precisely the signal Golden Boy was hoping for.

While Canelo would be well-advised to demand that Golden Boy make the fight, Golovkin should replace advisors that have zero comprehension of boxing history. It is Canelo and no one else who stands in an unbroken line that began fifteen years ago and in a succession stretching back into the nineteenth century. It is Canelo who has what was stolen from Canastota last November — the true championship held aloft by Hagler, Basilio, Zale, and Greb.

That belt he cast off and Golovkin picked up isn’t worth stealing. It’s one of many gaudy fabrications made profitable to the organizations behind them by sanctioning fees paid by fighters. Golovkin’s claim as the “unified WBC, WBA, IBF, IBO middleweight champion of the world” is as empty as that glass encasement at the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, Haley Zale’s search continues and she hopes you’ll spread the word. On May 29, she visited her uncle’s grave on what would have been his one-hundred third birthday. Despite the missing belts, Tony Zale’s title is engraved forever and for all to see: “Middleweight Champion of the World.”

 

Graphic courtesy of Canastota Police Department

#BringBackTheBelts
Special thanks to Jose Corpas and Douglas Cavanaugh. Details regarding Greb’s concessions to Wilson are found in S.L. Compton’s Live Fast, Die Young (Windmill, 2006). Springs Toledo is a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and the author of The Gods of War (Tora, 2014) and In the Cheap Seats (Tora, 2016)

COMMENTS

-New York Tony :

Excellent article in all respects, but especially in making the juxtaposition between the Zale and Basilio belts and Alvarez's WBC. My guess is that an unscrupulous private collector hired a couple of guys to steal the belts. The good news is that there still out there, the bad news is that they are almost certainly forever lost to the respective families in particular and to boxing fans in general. As for Alvarez -- not a coward, but certainly cynical.


-Radam G :

There is always some bytching and chaos in da game. I remember back in my days -- the amateurs and the pros -- not so long ago. A few haters with their fiery make-up-syet ways about how a division's weight is determined would lose their minds because I was notorious for fighting under the so-called minimum weight limit for a division. But when the lawyers would came on da scene, the haters STFU! And hoped that since I could not lose by suckas manufacturing where weight lines were supported to be drawn, that the myth of great and/or good big men can always beat little size great and/or good men. GTFOH! BTW, I heard from the elders and old timers how none of the believe-in-size-matter experts gave "tiny, short middleweight/true welterweight Carmen Basilio a chance in hell of beating five inches taller/full middleweight Sugar Ray Robinson. Just in case somebody has forgotten, or changed history, on the night in question Basilio's weight was put at 152lbs, so he was scrapping at light middleweight. Nonetheless, ev'ybodee and dey momma in da real real of boksing know about pomotion weights, official weights and real weights. Hehe! TsOTT are in every iota of da game. It terrible about the scumbag thieves. Canelo doesn't have an iota of fright of 3g. And 3g is the one who is Mayweathering. Better known as diva delaying syet. That 3g is even hoping that Canelo gets a torn rotator cup. The darn "theatre of the unexpected" never surprised me. Holla!


-kidcanvas :

just proves what ive always said , canelo is just a mediocre fighter ,hes not going to get any better , they are dodging Golovkin because he will decapitate canelo he knows it ,they know it ,De LaHoya knows it ..Mr Catchweight Champion is what Canelo is . what a joke .. G dosent need him,no challenge


-kidcanvas :

he dont have to be afraid to get Ko'd fast thats for sure .. haha hes running like a rabbit


-brownsugar :

Nobody who gets hit in the face is scared to fight......anybody,. .... but the fear of failing and failing conclusively infront of the world is enough to make a man sell his soul to the devil... I don't think Canelo is sacrificing willing virgins in a blood sacrifice to the Boxing Illuminati in order to keep his fan base, many will still cling to the hype,... but the loss of respect from the serious boxing community has got to be talking at least a small toll on the would be PPV star.


-Neal Cross :

Toledo does a service to the sport with this cogent, lyrical piece. It demystifies an issue commonly griped about, though rarely fleshed out in such clear and stylish form. It is required reading for announcers and writers perpetuating the belt ugliness. Hagler knew what he was fighting for; Greb did too. Golovkin seems confused by all of it; Canelo does too. They?re not alone in this, of course. Forces have conspired to prop up these imaginary titles and many fighters are falling in line. There is profit in the jackrabbit multiplication of belts, and those doing the profiting are vested in keeping it that way. Loud, self-interested, or uniformed voices try to smother logical argument. Toledo?s is the voice above the din.


-stormcentre :

Toledo does a service to the sport with this cogent, lyrical piece. It demystifies an issue commonly griped about, though rarely fleshed out in such clear and stylish form. It is required reading for announcers and writers perpetuating the belt ugliness. Hagler knew what he was fighting for; Greb did too. Golovkin seems confused by all of it; Canelo does too. They?re not alone in this, of course. Forces have conspired to prop up these imaginary titles and many fighters are falling in line. There is profit in the jackrabbit multiplication of belts, and those doing the profiting are vested in keeping it that way. Loud, self-interested, or uniformed voices try to smother logical argument. Toledo?s is the voice above the din.
Yep, he does do some service to the sport; you're certainly right there. Not sure Toledo's voice is above the din though. But then that's probably just an opinion and me getting caught up in semantics. I actually didn't mind Toledo's piece, although - whilst I acknowledge that there is some service to the sport in elaborating on this stuff as Springs has done . . . Personally, I think Toledo misses the point(s) ever so slightly with a few things; which results in gaps a bit bigger than one might think. Those gaps include the real reason as to why Triple may actually be distracted collecting the belts. And, also how those reasons related to singular divisional rankings and the above-mentioned great fighters of yesteryear. Still I appreciate that;


A) If one doesn't miss that and/or other points, then the poignancy of one's own written work may be less incisive and dramatic.
B) It can be quite difficult to recalibrate a story after the fact, with time constraints, and when (and if) these oversights are (ever) identified.

Still, for me, when I read these Toledo passages . . . . .

""Golovkin, by contrast, is distracted by belt collecting. ?Still need #AllTheBelts almost there,? he tweeted on May 23"". ""It is Canelo and no one else who stands in an unbroken line that began fifteen years ago and in a succession stretching back into the nineteenth century. It is Canelo who has what was stolen from Canastota last November ? the true championship held aloft by Hagler, Basilio, Zale, and Greb"". ""That belt he cast off and Golovkin picked up isn?t worth stealing"". "It?s one of many gaudy fabrications made profitable to the organizations behind them by sanctioning fees paid by fighters. Golovkin?s claim as the ?unified WBC, WBA, IBF, IBO middleweight champion of the world? is as empty as that glass encasement at the International Boxing Hall of Fame"".

I simply can't help but arrive at the following considerations;


1) Triple is probably distracted with collecting all the belts because he knows doing so (is the only way that) makes him as close as possible to being what the past real and/or unified champions were, back in the days of (the quoted) Greb, Hagler, Zale, Basilio, and Antuofermo.

Goes to the singular divisional championship line Toledo used.


2) Canelo's previous WBC middleweight title may have been soiled by his own questionable actions - but that doesn't mean the belt he cast off and the one Golovkin picked up isn?t worth going after and/or collecting.

As far as my understanding goes; that belt represents the WBC lineal middleweight championship. So, therefore it actually has a direct (and not gaudy) connection to the past champions that Toledo quoted and referenced, such as; Greb, Hagler, Zale, Basilio, and Antuofermo. It therefore follows . . . That that WBC lineal middleweight championship is actually worth collecting. Not only that, but by Triple collecting it . . . he also restores some element of sincerity and pride to it; which - despite 3G's recent and sometimes questionable opponent choices - one would assume Triple would be able to do with far, far, greater ease and obviousness than Canelo.


3) So, I am not sure that (Canelo's old, and) Golovkin's new WBC title is really a gaudy fabrication.

More so I think Canelo's actions whilst he (and golden girl) defrauded and blatantly monetized the championship could perhaps be described this way. But, the truth of the matter is, Toledo appears to fail to make both this point and also those I mention in the below/above points; as his voice sours above the din.


4) My other (high level) critiques of Triple aside; the fact of the matter is that;


A) Not many guys genuinely bother to set out collecting all the titles these days on their quest to achieve singular divisional championship and also boxing recognition that doesn't differentiate between the eras/years.
B) Let alone, have the success collecting titles and achieving that quest that Triple does.



And, personally, I think that should be applauded.



The way I see it, 3G is trying his best - Kostya Tszyu style - to be a singular divisional champion that boxing purists - regardless of the era - respect. And, yes that includes balancing the risk for reward scales as K2 and Sanchez navigate the often deep waters of the competition associated with this sport. And, aside from how terrible it would be for us to not respect that; the only way to do that today (for Triple) is to be a unified champion and/or hold all the splintered titles for the weight division of interest that any one sanction has. Which, in turn . . . goes to the singular divisional championship line Toledo used - as much as it;


A) Defeats Toledo's overtones that suggest collecting the WBC lineal middleweight title has no purpose and value for Gennady.
B) Highlights the piece's tenuous (and questionable) links I refer to both above and below.

Personally, for all these reasons, I think it's obvious that Triple is doing all he can to be today's best representation of a singular divisional championship, and the fact that he was willing to fight Canelo for his lineal title as a means of achieving this proves it. But, as we all know, Canelo ran. This (at least to me) doesn't mean Canelo's (lineal) belt is a gaudy fabrication and/or that it has (an empty, or) no role to play in Golovkin?s script; that asserts he is the ?unified WBC, WBA, IBF, IBO middleweight champion of the world?; whether or not the glass encasement at the International Boxing Hall of Fame that Toledo refers to is empty. Toledo (in my opinion) is wrong there, but it is his right to mount such an argument and I respect that right. What it does mean is that Canelo was a gaudy disgrace to the WBC lineal middleweight title . . . And, possibly also that if given the choice between who - out of Canelo or Golovkin - best captures the fighting spirit of the yesteryear and great boxers that Toledo references . . . the answer is - hands down - Triple G. Hands down.

In both, relation to the lineal WBC title, and summary; to me, the onus was on Canelo to defend the title at the proper weight. Canelo could easily be considered to be a fraud by consistently defending the title with an advantage and Triple exposed him for this. Well done Triple on that count. If Canelo does not and/or will not fight Triple at the proper weight for his old title then more shame on him. For God's sake, Canelo is meant to be Mexican and the epitome of all their great champions. Yet, he ran from Triple. And, that was (within a victory speech associated with yet another catch-weight victory) straight after proclaiming he was not scared !!! Make no mistake here though. As both Oscar and Canelo know that Sanchez/K2 will pick up the phone and be very receptive to any meaningful interest Canelo shows in gaining the title back in a manner that, not only hails back to the way all the past greats in Toledo's piece refers to - but also dispenses with Oscar and Canelo's gaudy interpretations of the WBC rules and what it really means to be a middleweight/champion. This is all because - in my view - Sanchez and K2 (and also Oscar/Canelo) all know that Triple can not only beat Canelo in a proper middleweight fight - but also that he is pretty much capable of doing far better than almost anyone else out there to (yes, I know there are other guys out there 3G can fight, but they wont necessarily assist to achieve the singular/unified-divisional-champion objective) possess what everyone today agrees is the best modern day representation of what a singular divisional boxing championship of yesteryear could possibly be . . . Especially considering the "avarice-over/above-sport" fuelled mess that is all the current state of all boxing's sanctions and champions.

Don't get me wrong . . Toledo usually writes good stuff. But let's not put him up on a pedestal that's so high that we overlook some of the shortsightedness and tenuous links. When the piece in question first hit the TSS website and I read it, I noticed the aforementioned and tenuous links between the WBC title, it's Toledo-assumed gaudy-worth, Triple, and Triple's most likely real and overlooked reasons for being distracted collecting all the many individual/separate sanction's belts. And, initially I was not going to point out these oversights either. As, at first, I thought . . . I am not the editor, Spring's probably needs to make a buck, and without the aforementioned tenuous links in the story Toledo would probably find it more difficult to weave what's really happening with Triple, Canelo, and the titles/champions "into" the (if not more than, then at least) equally sensitive story related to the thieves (pieces of crap that they are) whom supposedly broke into the International Boxing Hall of Fame?s Canastota headquarters and stole Basilio and Zale's championship belts. So, truth be told, I had left Toledo's story there furnished with nothing more from me than a smirk and fleeting interest in what other's would later see and find in the story. That said, after reading your post it inspired me to point out these other perspectives on the piece. So, thanks for that. Finally, a good subject now might be (because Canelo/Oscar's gaudy approach to defending the WBC lineal middleweight title seems to have origins in how Oscar views fellow businessmen, contracts and the law) Oscar's seemingly shallow defence for the current ~ $27M legal matter that both him and Canelo are defending. Which, I might add, appears to consist of a defence that seems to be utilizing Canelo's (native) language barrier as an excuse for both Canelo and Golden Boy Promotions failing to avail themselves of the true meaning associated with the legal contract between Canelo and All Star Boxing (ASB). Wow, no wonder Oscar just ran off into the dish-tance with Canelo like a "dish with the spoon" fairytale. Canelo's language barrier was just insurmountable when it came to contract law, avarice, and profits. Wow, that must have been real, real hard !!!! As for several years, and all as Oscar and Canelo have made millions defending the WBC lineal middleweight title in the above-mentioned and misquoted manner, it seems Oscar/Saul (despite all their best efforts) simply couldn't find an interpreter or lawyer to convey the correct meaning of the ASB contract to them. Classy stuff. And, I probably should also mention that this classy and fairytale stuff is all from the same (golden) guy that pitched in to frivolously accuse PBC/Haymon of foul play whilst also needlessly kicking them when they were down and dealing with other frivolous/vexatious writs. Kind regards and cheers,
Storm. :) :)
Music always illustrates feelings better than words. [email]stormcentre@outlook.com[/email]


-KO Digest :

If Canelo won't defend his claim to THE title, why would a writer? Seems to me Alvarez vacated. And that GGG is undisputed champ by any sensible standard.


-SuperLight :

There is always some bytching and chaos in da game. I remember back in my days -- the amateurs and the pros -- not so long ago. A few haters with their fiery make-up-syet ways about how a division's weight is determined would lose their minds because I was notorious for fighting under the so-called minimum weight limit for a division. But when the lawyers would came on da scene, the haters STFU! And hoped that since I could not lose by suckas manufacturing where weight lines were supported to be drawn, that the myth of great and/or good big men can always beat little size great and/or good men. GTFOH! BTW, I heard from the elders and old timers how none of the believe-in-size-matter experts gave "tiny, short middleweight/true welterweight Carmen Basilio a chance in hell of beating five inches taller/full middleweight Sugar Ray Robinson. Just in case somebody has forgotten, or changed history, on the night in question Basilio's weight was put at 152lbs, so he was scrapping at light middleweight. Nonetheless, ev'ybodee and dey momma in da real real of boksing know about pomotion weights, official weights and real weights. Hehe! TsOTT are in every iota of da game. It terrible about the scumbag thieves. Canelo doesn't have an iota of fright of 3g. And 3g is the one who is Mayweathering. Better known as diva delaying syet. That 3g is even hoping that Canelo gets a torn rotator cup. The darn "theatre of the unexpected" never surprised me. Holla!
I don't think weighing in well below a division's maximum is a problem or necessarily a disadvantage. Rather the problem is when one party stipulates a catchweight for both fighters below the usual max., especially for a belt and/or lineal title, and especially for middleweight.