By Charles Jay
Officially speaking, Saturday night’s fight between Vanes Martirosyan and Erislandy Para was supposed to settle matters in terms of Canelo Alvarez’s next WBC 154-pound title defense. But those plans kind of went out the window when the Lara-Martirosyan bout ended up in a technical draw.
So now Alvarez has gotten the go-ahead from the WBC to make a voluntary defense against whoever might be qualified according to the organization’s rules.
Or, he could think in bigger terms.
Or, he already was.
Alvarez has been, by and large, a very busy fighter, with six fights since March of last year and 42 overall, all but one of which have been victories (an early draw – and we MEAN early, since it was at age 15 – mars the spotlessness of the record)..
He’s just 22, yet he has been fighting at the ten and 12-round level for over five years. In terms of recognized world championship bouts, he’s already had nine of them, with Shane Mosley and Kermit Cintron among the best names on his resume thus far.
Sometimes when a champion is saddled with a mandatory defense, it is against an opponent who is either politically-connected or wouldn’t bring much in the way of marketing power. Neither Lara, who was fleeced (in the opinion of many) in his only loss at the hands of Paul Williams, nor Martirosyan, who is now 32-0-1, would have been a particularly unworthy opponent. And as we have seen already, Alvarez has the kind of pleasing style that could make any fight interesting.
But neither of those potential foes was going to bring a pot of gold, and so it may have been somewhat fortuitous that the accidental head butt Martirosyan suffered forced a situation where there was no winner.
Now maybe Alvarez gets a chance to put that mandatory on the shelf (easy because it doesn’t exist right now) and go after some real dinero.
The general feeling was that he wasn’t too crazy about fulfilling the mandatory requirement anyway, because there were some bigger fish to fry. Alvarez is at the stage of his career where he is ready to get into the big-time pay-per-view game, and it would be particularly appetizing if the other half of that matchup was someone who brought even more prestige to the table. Of course, the name that comes most immediately to mind is Floyd Mayweather, who, like Alvarez, also has a connection to Golden Boy Promotions.
Although Mayweather has not indicated anything concrete about future plans, he would appear to be a logical choice for a pairing, especially if he is not going to take any steps toward negotiating a fight with Pacquiao (which would be contingent upon PacMan beating Marquez on December 8, of course).
“If you have a chance to fight the best fighter in the world in Floyd Mayweather Jr., and you get that opportunity, doesn’t that take priority?,” Schaefer has said to the Los Angeles Times.
There is nothing surprising about that mindset. And frankly, there’s not much to object to, given the day and age, as well as the state of the business. A lot has changed since your grandpa was watching boxing.
Some fighters derive much of their strength from the fact that they own a championship belt. That is not something that is going to handcuff Alvarez, so even if he went ahead and made plans without the WBC’s blessing he wouldn’t necessarily be hurt by it. After all, tell the truth – how many times when you see one of these major fights coming up do you actually have to Google it to see if there is even a title at stake, or exactly what title it is? The Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez, for example, is for no title whatsoever, only bragging rights and perhaps a stepping stone to other things…..okay, and quite a bit of money, as well as status in the pecking order, just like Canelo would like to experience; in other words, more than most title fights (WBC president Jose Sulaiman called Pacquiao-Marquez “a fight without importance,” though a lot of people would beg to differ).
The truth is, often enough it is the fighter who gives the title value these days, rather than the other way around. And Alvarez could eschew a belt and no one would really go around blaming him for it.
Sure, it may have been somewhat satisfying for Schaefer if Bob Arum’s charge, Martirosyan, would have won the fight Saturday, so that he could turn around and deny the Top Rank boss a decent payday for his man. Such is the gamesmanship (you could also insert “hatred, jealousy, contempt” and a few other words there) that characterizes some relationships between peers in this industry.
But something tells us that Schaefer, and, by proxy, Alvarez, is just as happy with the way things have turned out; that is, if “title eliminators” meant anything at all in the first place, as it may regard a title they could just as easily abandon for the sake of something bigger.