GGG-Canelo: Did Golovkin Have the Better Poker Face?


By: Charles Jay

Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin are set for their rematch on September 15 in Las Vegas, which is a year minus a day from the first meeting, although that wasn’t the plan, as you know. The numbers from sportsbooks around the world have GGG favored, but in a very competitive fight; the odds most prevalent on him are -175 (a little higher some other places), while Alvarez fetches anywhere from +140 to +160.

Ah, sports betting – that’s one pastime very popular on the Vegas strip.

Another pastime is poker, and that looks just like what these guys have been playing – through their representatives – in the negotiations leading up to the final agreement.

Both went all-in. So who got the better of the pot?

Well, Alvarez’s hand seemed to have weakened; he has been through the wringer as far as flak for his failing two drug tests, and no one seems to be buying the excuse that he ate some contaminated meat, although in Mexico that would seem to be altogether possible. Canelo’s manager is Chapo Reynoso, a former butcher.

Should he have known? Oh, the drama.

When this rematch was originally planned, GGG was going to get 35% of the pie, which was five percent more than he got for the previous fight. Of course, that’s before all the trouble started.

So the way this went is that, as the fight was rescheduled, Golovkin now wanted a 50% cut, since he was the champion.

Ultimately GGG settled for 45%, which was not a big concession on his part, and a big gain after getting no better than a draw, but then Alvarez’s side, presumably for the purpose of calling his bluff, wanted to cut him down to 42.5%, and set a deadline for him to take it and like it. Golovkin wasn’t coming off his figure. So we’re right there at the 55%-45% split. According to GGG’s promoter Tom Loeffler, “It was all about the principle and respect for him as the champion.”

Was it? Maybe, but not all the way.

If it was all about the principle, he may never have budged from 50%, especially as he insisted later that Canelo didn’t deserve to have 5% or 7.5% conceded back to him.

And looking at the other side, we have been hearing this theme lately about how Canelo’s image needs to be “rehabilitated,” but did he take such a hit that it was with 10 to 15 points of damage in terms of negotiating leverage?

Oscar De La Hoya, who holds the promotional paper on Alvarez, didn’t think so. He’s been maintaining that “Canelo is bigger and more popular than ever.” He probably won’t be far out of the ballpark when all is said and done.

Sure, there are probably a lot of Mexicans who were disappointed in him last September; not so much for the result but for the performance. It was not necessarily “blood and guts” and Alvarez did more than his fair share of retreating. But of all the boxers active today, Canelo is among the top two or three when it comes to bringing a built-in audience to the table, and it’s doubtful that his countrymen will want to see this fight any less. The media isn’t likely to give it less coverage either; in fact, the angle of the failed drug tests adds an element that might actually create more interest. It’s important to point out that this time around, the fight (which drew 1.3 million paid subscribers) does not come on the heels of a Mayweather-McGregor bout, which was a very expensive event for the more mainstream audience they’ll be trying to snag here. The point is, will revenues take a hit because of Canelo’s “image problem,” or will they instead experience a spike because of that and other factors?

Let’s push our point across even further. The business of Pay Per View (PPV) in boxing may not seem fair when the champion is taking less than the challenger, but it’s actually quite democratic, in the sense that the guy who can produce more fans and followers will pull in more revenue. Is there any question about Alvarez being that guy? If you ever watch those documentaries with wrestlers of years gone by, you’ll notice they always talk about the concept of “drawing money.” Well, same principle at work here. The guy who can do more of that should have more leverage.

And the fact is, Golovkin couldn’t carry a PPV on his own. He just couldn’t drive the big guarantees as the A-side of a matchup. Impatient after Alvarez got suspended, he fought a relatively known quantity in Vanes Martirosyan, who was handpicked not just because he was the right kind of opponent but because he had better “name” value than other alternatives. And GGG made a grand total of $1 million.

Meh.

Loeffler was talking about a backup plan for Golovkin, whereby he’d fight Billy Joe Saunders in Los Angeles on August 25, and would be more than happy to do that if Canelo wouldn’t come to terms. But even though there are some provisional odds at online sportsbooks that have Golovkin priced at -450, it’s still the kind of fight that may have given him more trouble than expected. And from the standpoint of money, what would that have really produced?

When you go beyond that, who else is there for him to make a bundle of money with? The Charlo brothers? Maybe, if he fought them on the same night. Other than that, pickings are slim.

So you wonder whether Alvarez’s people (Eric Gomez with Golden Boy in particular) could have stood firm, even at 35% or 40%, and still landed Golovkin’s name on a deal. That may well have been the case. But despite De La Hoya’s assertions, they may have valued the whole “rehabilitation” angle about as much as many of the media people do.

Who knows – maybe Alvarez is the guy who’s really fighting with principle on his mind, and was willing to pay for it.

And if he got bluffed, he wound up second best.

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