By Ivan G. Goldman
Mexican stars Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chevez, Jr. , clearly on a collision course, will embark on a newer, fiercer phase of their rivalry after they throw the dice in Las Vegas September 15.
That night they compete on separate cards four miles down the road. They will both be under an unrelenting microscope, and what happens inside the two squared circles could radically alter the way fans perceive both fighters. The comparisons will be inescapable and probably brutal. The two champions will be contending not only with their respective opponents, but with each other, and pretty much simultaneously. They don’t, as a rule, say nice things about each other.
Already the night’s scheduling has dramatically altered the balance in their relationship. A speeded up game of musical chairs commenced as both teams sought opponents for the night, and when the music stopped, Chavez ended up with the bigger challenge.
Along the way Paul Williams was tragically paralyzed in a motorcycle crash and Andre Berto, scheduled to fight Victor Ortiz June 23, was disqualified from competition after testing positive for PEDs. Junior welter Josesito Lopez, supposed to be a tune-up for Ortiz, stepped in as a replacement and in a brutal contest, broke his jaw and made him quit, killing a September 15 Ortiz-Alvarez match-up. For approximately 24 hours James Kirkland was signed as Canelo’s opponent, but he decided his shoulder wasn’t 100 percent and the money was short.
Meanwhile Chavez, 26, signed to defend his WBC middleweight title against Sergio Martinez, who at age 37 is considered by most experts as the Number one middleweight in the world.
For a while two pay-per-view events featuring the two most popular Mexican fighters out there were suicidally scheduled against each other on Mexican Independence Day weekend. And Canelo, 22, still had no opponent. His promoter, Golden Boy, working feverishly, came up with Lopez, 28, who up to then was a hard-luck guy who, whenever it came around, could never seem to grab that brass ring. The card was downgraded from pay-per-view to Showtime, but at least Golden Boy wasn’t chased off the field by Bob Arum’s Top Rank. Still, Arum, probably smarter and certainly luckier, ended up with the bigger event.
Incidentally, if I got any of those moving parts wrong, please correct me, but have pity on anybody who has to sort them all out. The bottom line is Martinez-versus-Chavez and Alvarez-versus-Lopez. Note, by the way, that Martinez isn’t Arum’s fighter. He’s promoted by Lou DiBella. Also, he’s more comfortable fighting at junior middle than at middleweight. In other words, Golden Boy could just as easily have thrown the dice and sought him as an opponent for Canelo. But now Canelo, really through no fault of his own, is up against a junior welter, who, before he stopped Ortiz, was competing 14 pounds south of junior middle.
Lopez is a tough dude, and though likely to get beaten up by Canelo’s harder, shots, he actually has little to lose. If defeated, he lost to a much bigger, stronger opponent. If victorious, he’s a star. Conversely, Canelo has not much to gain and plenty to lose. Lopez is far from feminine, but in this match he could be standing in for one of those very skilled female boxers none of the guys want to spar. If they win, they beat up a girl, if they lose, they got beat up by a girl.
Meanwhile Berto, who said the positive test was a mistake or an accident or something, has been licensed by California. Even if the positive result was false, so what? Victor Conte, who did time for peddling PEDs to athletes in a wide spectrum of sports, is Berto’s nutritional kahuna. If you don’t want to test positive, don’t go looking for a guy like Conte for chemical supplements. And if you do, when you get caught, don’t whine about it.
Now, what’s likely to happen September 15? Chavez will lose and Alvarez will win. Which of course is no certainty. But even if that’s how it turns out, it will solve only part of the puzzle. What the four fighters do on the way to those results and how they respond to the deadly hazards they are sure to confront will determine where they stand the next morning.
The stats: Chavez 46-0-1 (KOs 32)
Alvarez won 40-0-1 (KOs 29)
Lopez 30-4 (KOs 18)
Martinez 49-2-2 (KOs 28)
Ivan G. Goldman’s latest novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. Information HERE