By Sean Crose
Why is it that Saul Canelo Alvarez is suddenly the toast of the boxing world? He has a huge fan base, sure, but so does Julio Caesar Chavez Junior. You say Canelo’s talented? Okay…but Floyd Mayweather beat him easy. Some say Erislandy Lara beat him, too. In fact, the guy’s one huge victory came against Austin Trout – and there are even those who found the outcome of that battle debatable.
Why, then, is Canelo such a beloved and sought after commodity? Why is it that a virtual week-long media frenzy was inspired by this twenty-four year old’s defection from Showtime to HBO? Why, in short, is this good but arguably not great fighter such a big deal?
Because he doesn’t act like Al Haymon’s fighters do, that’s why.
While it’s true that there are exceptions to every rule, “adviser” Haymon’s biggest fighters avoid challenges. Don’t believe it? Then ask yourself why Danny Garcia is being thrown in the ring with the likes of Rod Salka, why Leo Santa Cruz is doing battle with someone named Manuel Roman, why Floyd Mayweather won’t fight Manny Pacquiao, and why Adonis Stevenson apparently won’t fight anyone seriously intimidating at all.
Of course the Haymonesque style of doing things would simply be an annoyance if it weren’t for the fact that Haymon is probably the most powerful man in the sport. Face it, boxing is now living in the age of Haymon – or at least it was until this week.
For upon hooking up with HBO Canelo made it clear that he’s willing to fight pretty much anyone, anyone at all. Miguel Cotto? Check. Julio Caesar Chavez Junior? Check. Manny Pacquiao? Check. Gennady Golovkin? Check. While people are wondering if Mayweather will avoid fighting the talented Amir Khan yet again, Canelo is openly stating his willingness to fight the best and the baddest in the business.
And that’s refreshing.
Canelo, in short, is the anti-Mayeather, just as Mayweather is the anti-Ray Leonard. While Mayweather represents caution and Machiavellian angling, Canelo represents good, old fashioned competition. And while it’s true Mayweather is the face of boxing in these days of reality television, people understand that all eras eventually come to an end.
Age is catching up to Floyd, and at some point he’s either going to retire, he’s going to lose, or he’s going to give up all credibility by facing opponents of the Salka/Roman variety. Any way one cares to look at it, the writing is on the wall.
Is Canelo the fighter to ring in a new era, though? He may be willing to battle Cotto, Pacquiao, Chavez Junior and Golovkin, but; aside from Chavez Junior, can he actually beat any of those men? It’s true that losses are no big deal when the subject is a truly great fighter (hear that, Floyd?) but the verdict is still out on whether or not Canelo is all that skilled a ring practitioner.
Also, what of boxing’s new breed of fan? Lots of people enjoy seeing reality TV stars make tons of money for nothing, and lots of people enjoy seeing boxers do the same thing. The attraction may be inexplicable to some, but it’s a facet of American life in the 21st century nonetheless.
The truth is that more people might pay to see Mayweather fight the likes of Kell Brook than would pay to see Canelo fight Cotto. That’s something that Canelo, HBO and Golden Boy head honcho Oscar De La Hoya should keep in mind if, as has been reported, Canelo wants to move in on Floyd’s traditional fight weekends. Sure, analysts think Canelo-Cotto would be the hottest fight out there. Yet they also thought that the Cotto-Sergio Martinez fight would bring in huge numbers.
And it didn’t.
Still, there’s little denying that Canelo is a true sportsman in a boxing world filled with marketing experts. And that, my friends, is nice to see. I wrote a while back about the sport moving on and leaving Mayweather behind. Many people undoubtedly hope that’s what Canelo’s latest career move is heralding.
Time, however, will ultimately tell the tale.