By Frank Lotierzo
Saturday night Mexican star Canelo Alvarez 47-1-1 (33) challenges WBO junior middleweight title holder Liam Smith 23-0-1 (13) at the home of the Dallas Cowboys (known as Jerry World in some circles) on HBO PPV. The fact that the boxing public is being asked to pay for the bout is a joke! Most boxing aficionados have barely seen Smith and can’t tell if he’s anything more than a sacrificial lamb for Canelo.
Canelo Alvarez, for reasons I’ll never understand, is currently the biggest draw in professional boxing — despite the fact that when he’s confronted by a fighter who can box and gives him a little side-to-side movement, he looks as if he is trudging through the mud in combat boots. But that doesn’t seem to matter to the faction of fans who follow him. The point here is, because of his status and the money that his opponents make by fighting him – there’s nobody who he can call out who will decline fighting him. Alvarez can order from a menu of fighters and make a ton of money fighting any of them, yet we get Liam Smith with Demetrius Andrade and the Charlo twins out there chomping at the bit to get into the ring with him.
Last week I stumbled on something interesting posted on the Gentleman’s Quarterly website. It was Canelo’s diet and what he goes through during training to make the junior middleweight limit of 154 pounds. It consists of the following……
Egg whites with ham and orange juice
Chicken with carrots, squash, broccoli and cauliflower
Apples, cucumbers, grapes, jicama
Protein shake with no carbs
Now if that’s not a fighter with serious issues making weight, I don’t know what constitutes one. Canelo’s diet is a dog whistle suggesting how badly he wants to stay out of the middleweight division. Not so much because he fears the supposed elite guys fighting at 160, because today’s middleweight division is very pedestrian compared to its storied history. The problem for Canelo is that there is only one fighter for him to fight at 160, at least that anybody cares about, and that’s the alpha fighter at the top, Gennady Golovkin. However, as much as I believe Canelo doesn’t fear GGG pertaining to the actual fight, I also think he knows he could lose and wants to stall the fight as long as he can in much the same way Floyd Mayweather waited years to fight Manny Pacquiao. With the difference being, I believe, that Floyd deep down knew he owned the style advantage over Manny.
The same doesn’t hold true for Alvarez versus Golovkin. Canelo likes his opponents to stand there and trade with him. Is there a single fighter around who loves that kind of a scrap more than Golovkin? The problem for Canelo is that GGG has the bigger guns and would come out on top during most of the exchanges. Canelo takes a really good shot and has a first-rate chin, but from what I’ve seen of Golovkin, he also catches pretty well. However, we can forget about Canelo versus Golovkin because Alvarez has too many options to make Mayweather-esque millions. And that doesn’t just pertain to boxing.
Alvarez recently took a shot at MMA star Conor McGregor, who actually began his combat sports career as a boxer. A few months back there was banter suggesting a matchup between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor in a boxing ring — which is a welcome change being that the boxer usually goes into the cage against the MMA fighter, where he really only has a puncher’s chance to win. But McGregor is a different breed. Not only is he a legitimate bad-ass (proven by his willingness to fight bigger guys like Nate Diaz, twice)….he’s also a businessman in much the same vein as Mayweather. The most money Conor ever made for an MMA bout is three million and change. If he were to fight Alvarez in the ring, he’d no doubt quadruple that. And best of all, he’d be under no pressure because he’s not supposed to win.
Alvarez has said via the media that he’d welcome facing McGregor in the ring. Of course he’d relish that because the money would be great, there’d be a ton of fan interest in the gimmick, and it would quell the conversation regarding Canelo fighting Golovkin. And let’s be honest, McGregor has as much of a chance to beat Canelo standing up in a ring as Alvarez does of defeating Conor in the octagon. Now, do I think a match between Alvarez and McGregor in the ring will ever happen? No. That said, I wouldn’t be the least bit shocked if it did. And the reason for that is the money both guys would make and also because McGregor is a willing and fearless guy who would promote the hell out of the event.
The sad part is that instead of seeing Canelo fighting Golovkin or Andrade or one of the Charlo brothers in a real boxing confrontation, we could get stuck with a carnival bout in which Canelo was fighting a guy nowhere near his league fighting under the Marques of Queensberry rules, and he’d be paid a fortune without much risk on the line.
Offhand, I can’t think of any fighter who achieved superstar status with less going for him than Canelo Alvarez, with the possible exception of Naseem Hamed. And for that reason, not only will we most likely not see Alvarez fight Golovkin for a year or longer, we’ll also probably not see him fight some of the other upper-tier junior middleweights. That’s because he has too many options and is a major draw who can write his own ticket…..not to the same degree that Mayweather was, but he’s on his way, fighting the Liam Smiths of the world.
Canelo’s biggest challenge just may turn out to be how much longer he can continue to hide at 154. That and making sure he doesn’t lose to any of the other second tier fighters who he sees as safe. He’s really not exponentially better than they are. Sure, he’ll get the benefit of every decision, but he’s been lazy before, and that could come back to bite him. He no doubt will be careful not to outsmart himself before a mega-payday comes along.
This weekend’s fight between Alvarez and Smith has no bearing on anything significant, unless Canelo loses. And if he wins as expected, with a title and belt around his waist, he’ll have even more leverage ordering from the contender menu.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com