It didn’t take long for the snarky remarks to surface. Even before Canelo Alvarez had finished humiliating Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., pitching a 12-round shutout on all three judges’ scorecards with a level of domination that made the prefight hype that this was a fight for Mexican boxing supremacy so much empty rhetoric, one wag suggested that Julio Sr. was in the process of disinheriting his biological son and formally adopting the red-haired victor.
But if Saturday night’s glorified sparring session victory for Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) over Chavez Jr. (50-3-1, 32 KOs), who bears his legendary dad’s name but can’t come anywhere close to matching his game, was a major letdown for the sellout crowd of 20,501 in Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena and an HBO Pay Per View audience, what immediately followed surely wasn’t. The man who is widely considered to be the best middleweight in the world, undisputed champion Gennady Golovkin (yeah, Billy Joe Saunders holds the WBO version of the title, but who really cares?), was invited into the ring where it was announced that GGG (37-0, 33 KOs) and Alvarez would throw down with punches instead of putdowns on Sept. 16, Mexican Independence Day weekend, at a site to be determined.
The secretive nature of those negotiations, which, unlike world politics, sprang no leaks, blew to smithereens the notion that Alvarez’s promoter, Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya, would continue to steer his cash cow away from Golovkin. It had been speculated that Alvarez would move on to a matchup with another Golden Boy fighter, former IBF middleweight champion David Lemieux (38-3, 33 KOs), who presaged Canelo-Chavez Jr. with a nearly identical 10-round beatdown of Marco Reyes (35-5, 26 KOs) in the lead-in to the main event.
“Golovkin! Where are you, my friend?” Alvarez said, calling out GGG during a postfight interview with HBO’s Max Kellerman as the crowd instantly shifted from displeasure over Chavez Jr.’s timid and inept performance to frenzied enthusiasm for an upcoming event that might actually meet inflated expectations. Golovkin, a native of Karaganda, Kazakhstan, who now resides in Santa Monica, Calif., then made his way inside the ropes in with an entrance that would have done P.T. Barnum proud.
Golovkin, who turned 35 on April 8, holds the WBC, WBA, IBF and IBO 160-pound titles, but Alvarez continues to possess The Ring belt he has held since he became the lineal champion with a one-sided points nod over Miguel Cotto for the vacant WBC crown on Nov. 21, 2015. Alvarez then renounced that championship – or, to hear him tell it, was stripped of it – and the WBC promptly awarded its bejeweled green strap to Golovkin, which remains a sore spot with the 26-year-old Mexican national hero.
“I won that belt with blood, sweat, sacrifice, a great training camp, by beating Miguel Angel Cotto,” Alvarez told the Los Angeles Times three days before he was to square off against Chavez the Younger. “When I vacated it, they gave it to the other guy (Golovkin) like that, without making him drop a bead of sweat. That’s not an organization you can respect. I just don’t want anything to do with the WBC.”
It was a stunning admission for a Mexican fighter, any Mexican fighter, to speak ill of the Mexico City-based WBC, but perhaps Alvarez’s ire stemmed in part to what he and others have perceived to be the WBC’s bias toward the original Julio Cesar Chavez, and by extension, JCC Jr., the godson of the now-deceased president of the WBC, Jose Sulaiman.
Toss all those ingredients into a kettle, stir a bit, and presto! The dish being served up for public consumption was presented as an all-Mexican feast involving Alvarez, the kid from nowhere (Guadalajara, to be exact) who turned pro at 15 and fought his way up from nothing, and Chavez Jr., born into wealth and privilege and the would-be upholder of a proud and regal family legacy. Those who have been following the careers of both fighters realized, or should have, that Alvarez had a skill set that was way out of JCC Jr.’s league, but logic sometimes goes out the window when emotion comes into play. The contracted catch weight of 164½ pounds – 9½ more than Canelo had ever come in at for any previous bout – led some (mostly Chavez devotees) to falsely conclude that Junior had a semi-reasonable chance and, well, he did supposedly have the benefit of favorable breeding.
But this son didn’t rise. His nose bloodied in the second round, Chavez Jr. returned to his corner already wearing the look of a doomed prisoner awaiting execution. For each succeeding round thereafter Junior’s new trainer, 2011 International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain, implored his charge to let his hands go. His words, alas, went unheeded as an unhurried Alvarez methodically disassembled whatever remained of an opponent who, to his credit, never went down and didn’t quit, at least not in the strictest sense of the word. But Junior elected to engage only sporadically, even when Alvarez, an excellent counterpuncher, went to the ropes, hoping to lure Junior – by reputation a brawler who in the past has done his best work in-close – into exchanges that likely would have gotten the celebrity kid knocked out.
In the ninth round, Kellerman laid into Junior as if he were a microphone-wielding version of the punishment-dealing Canelo. He said Chavez had “perpetrated a fraud by not earning his right to the fight. Canelo has earned his way here. Chavez has largely traded on his name.”
After the decision was announced, blow-by-blow announcer Jim Lampley joined in the chorus of those adding insult to injury (Chavez’s left eye was badly swollen), noting that Junior “has never shown enormous passion for his boxing career. He’s had three layoffs of more than a year within the last five years. He’s just been mercilessly booed by Mexican fans whose inner urge is to honor is family name. I’ve got a hunch we’re not going to see him again.”
If this was indeed the swan song of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., he at least exits with a nice parting gift of a $3 million purse. Canelo received $5 million, but that will seem like chump change when stacked against the king’s ransom he’ll surely get for mixing it up with Golovkin. And while GGG likely will be the opening-line favorite, his most recent outing — he was pushed to the limit in scoring a narrow unanimous decision over the formidable Daniel Jacobs on March 18, snapping a streak of 23 consecutive wins inside the distance – coupled with his advancing age and Canelo’s rout of JCC Jr. should make the outcome something other than a sure thing.
“The (next) opponent is going to give me the tools to showcase myself, and that’s what’s going to happen,” the unmarked Alvarez said when asked by Kellerman what he expects come Sept. 16. “I’ve had difficult tasks, difficult fights. This one was supposed to be a tough fight as well. But I always say the Canelo era is the best because I fought the best.”
And what of those insinuations, as the showdown everyone wanted to see kept getting pushed to the back burner, that he was “afraid” of Golovkin?
“When I was born,” Alvarez insisted, “fear was gone.”
Golovkin, who has said he has a “Mexican style” of fighting, understands that Canelo offers him the signature, legacy-cementing superfight he has been aiming for since he came to America in 2012. He said Alvarez would provide him with his sternest test, and promised fight fans “a big drama show.”
A bit of history, or at least a shot at it, also might be hanging in the balance; Golovkin had made 18 consecutive successful middleweight title defenses, within sniffing distance of the division record 20 compiled by the great Bernard Hopkins from 1996 to 2006. For a man as mindful of his legacy as is Hopkins, GGG’s drive to climb past “The Executioner” to the top spot is as paramount, or close to it, as a fat payday.
De La Hoya and Golovkin’s promoter, K2 Promotions’ managing director Tom Loeffler, will be working overtime to get the word out that GGG-Canelo indeed will be the biggest of boxing drama shows. It might not mine the financial mother lode to the extent that Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao did in 2015, but that fight registered relatively low on the excitement meter. Now the onus is on Golovkin and Alvarez to get everyone’s blood pumping, and maybe spill a bit of the other guy’s while they’re at it.
“Come Sept. 16 we have the biggest fight, I believe, in boxing history, including the one with Mayweather and Pacquiao,” De La Hoya predicted with a promoter’s typical zeal. (Note to Oscar: See Ali-Frazier I, March 8, 1971.) He said a venue has yet to be selected, but that “there’s interest all over the world,” with feelers from the United Kingdom and Dubai, among other possible international destinations.
But that’s just so much hyperbole. There is no way Canelo Alvarez, the now-undisputed darling of Mexico, and Golovkin, with his crowd-pleasing “Mexican style,” are taking their act that far removed from mutually acceptable turf, especially during Mexican Independence Day weekend. Las Vegas again will be a frontrunner to land the plum gig, but don’t discount Jerry’s World – the Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium in Arlington, Texas – or maybe the Staples Center in Los Angeles or even a site in New York City. Wherever the fight lands, though, expect fireworks on a much grander scale than Chavez Jr. was able to deliver against the vastly superior Alvarez.
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Photo credit: Tom Hogan /Golden Boy Promotions