By Ivan G. Goldman
The controversy over the Canelo Alvarez-Erislandy Lara contest was always focused on the wrong topic. The decision in favor of Canelo looked quite correct, although people I respect had it the other way. The real question is how anyone could stick a guy who fights like Lara in a pay-per-view match.
Charging $59.95 to see this fleeing mantis in high-def is like selling time-shares for nonexistent condominiums. Someone should call a cop. The fact that Lara can run backwards for twelve rounds is an impressive athletic ability, but that’s not footwork. It’s a half-marathon.
Now that Showtime has showed the fight again, this time to all the network’s subscribers, many more fans have had the chance to make their own judgments about the contest. I would guess an overwhelming majority of those who waited a week were profoundly happy they didn’t get sucked into buying a live showing.
What Lara showed us once again was that when an opponent who packs a punch comes at him, he jumps back again and again. Rarely does he stand his ground against attack. Nor does he step to the side. What Lara does do is use his extraordinary reach to land his excellent jab and occasionally stop running to throw some punches – often very good punches. Then he skedaddles all over again.
Fighters like him certainly have a right to fight their fight. After all, it’s a free country (though not as free as it was before the government began secretly monitoring all our electronic communications). But asking fans at home to pay extra to see Lara-type fighters is downright nuts – and duplicitous – because invariably the promoters and networks will advertise the fight as something fans will enjoy seeing. Which is precisely what Golden Boy and Showtime did.
It’s almost hard to imagine the kind of nerve it takes to produce and present a series of “All Access” shows that promote a Lara contest as something special. If I were putting him on my network I’d try to draw as little attention to it as possible. Because the more viewers that see it, the more viewers you’re going to disappoint. And the more who won’t be back for the next one.
The card was another example of something I call the Mexican tax. That’s when greedy promoters and networks force Mexican and Mexican-American fans to pay extra for their loyalty. Beloved Canelo could sell tickets if he were fighting a billy goat so the fraudsters who make these decisions figure it’s okay to stick them with a snooze-mongering opponent and still demand extra payment.
By the way, Canelo, 44-1-1 (31 KOs) wasn’t exactly perfect. He came forward trying to make a fight of it, but on too many occasions when he got into range he just stopped and looked at Lara. Perhaps it was in amazement. Do my eyes deceive me? Why, the guy’s not going backwards! Oops, there he goes again.
Anyway, Canelo just turned 24 and he’s still learning. Lara belittled him every chance he got, but his feet told the real story, and they showed the tough Mexican plenty of Cuban respect.
Showtime can console itself with the knowledge that it didn’t just hurt itself with this fight. It hurt archrival HBO as well. Because fans care little about which network presents a particular PPV card. They just want to see good fights, and when they’re left with a bad taste in their mouths they will be less willing to buy the next one, regardless of who’s presenting it.
Also unsatisfactory was the network analysts’ constant labeling of Canelo-Lara as a contest between the two best junior middleweights in the world. Didn’t they see Floyd Mayweather decisively defeat Canelo in a junior middleweight contest last September on their own network? Do they have any doubts that they’d get the same outcome if there were a rematch? Yet these on-camera guys (with the exception of MMA and wrestling mouthpiece Mauro Ranallo) are genuine boxing experts. Unfortunately, when forced to choose between facts and sleazy network propaganda, once again they dive into sleaze.
My hat is off to Brian Kenney, who called it the way it was.
New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman’s Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag was released in 2013 by Potomac Books. Watch for The Debtor Class: A Novel from Permanent Press in spring, 2015. More Information Here