By Ivan G. Goldman
There was a moment toward the end of their battle Saturday night when Canelo Alvarez accidentally hit Miguel Cotto low. Alvarez, without waiting for the referee, stepped back to let his opponent recover. The two men touched gloves in respect, and Alvarez returned to punishing the outgunned Puerto Rican. It was a brief, splendid break in the violence, a vivid demonstration of the kind of champion Canelo would be.
Now the WBC middleweight belt-holder, Canelo immediately let the world know he was set to take on mandatory challenger Gennady Golovkin, who also happens to own the IBF and WBA titles.
Sometimes fighters say they’ll take on anybody, blah, blah, blah, but behind closed doors they demand the sun, moon, and stars in order to sabotage the negotiation. Canelo is not one of those guys, and neither is the feared Triple G (Golovkin).
The unification bout could in fact move into gear quicker than the promoters would like it to. They may have to tag along behind two middleweights who draw a crowd the old-fashioned way – with their fists.
What’s more, Golovkin-Alvarez could wind up being the kind of rivalry that can’t be resolved with just one contest.
Clearly Golovkin, a Kazakhstan émigré who now resides in Santa Monica, California, won’t have to plot out a strategy to smoke out Alvarez, but WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman told the Los Angeles Times’ Lance Pugmire that he might let his new champion take on another opponent before facing Triple G. That’s the traditional way to build up a superfight. You let it percolate in the fans’ imaginations. We could even see Golovkin, 34-0, 31 KOs, and Alvarez, 46-1-1, 32 KOs, appear on the same card against different opponents.
The Canelo camp has expressed some reluctance to move their man into a full-fledged middleweight match at this point in his career. He and Cotto met a catchweight of 155. Canelo looked much bigger on fight night after making weight on Friday, but though he’s middleweight champion, he’s never competed at the 160-pound limit.
Oscar De La Hoya, who heads Golden Boy, announced that he will schedule bouts for his champion in May and September to coincide with Mexican holidays, but beyond that there are no specific plans.
The 33-year-old Triple G appears to be at the top of his talent arc. Time is not on his side, and you can bet savvy Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions is well aware that the expiration date for his champion’s career looms.
Canelo, on the other hand, is, as HBO analyst Roy Jones noted, still improving, a 25-year-old prodigy who’s getting better in each contest. De La Hoya deserves credit for recognizing Canelo’s talent. When Oscar signed him, Alvarez was not much more than a very hittable thumper. But he’s developed into an elite fighter who does it all, blending offense and defense into well-balanced thunder.
Had defensive master Floyd Mayweather fought him at this point in his career we might have seen more evenly matched fighters. When they clashed two years ago Floyd outpointed him in almost every round. It was only a majority decision because C.J. Ross inexplicably scored it 114-114, but that was the last time the Nevada commission handed Ross a scoring pencil.
It’s uncertain what Cotto now 40-5, 33 KOs, will do next. He could still beat a lot of top fighters, but this looks like a good time for the accomplished warrior to step away.
It’s of course possible that 38-year-old Mayweather would reactivate himself for another Alvarez match. He’s come back from retirement in the past. You can bet the idea has at least been considered in the Mayweather camp.
Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available now from Permanent Press wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.
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