By Jaime C. Feal
To many casual observers and fans, Saturday night’s superfight between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin represents a thoroughly even match up. Two fighters in their prime with fantastic records, both champions, ready to throw down and entertain all at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. The largest gap between the two fighters, however, exists not in the ring, but outside of it.
Photo Credit: Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Simply put, Canelo has a fan base that can be monetized in a way not many other fan bases can. As a Mexican fighting in America, Canelo has the support of both his home country of Mexico, a neighbor to the U.S., and all the Mexican-Americans living in the U.S., as rabid fans who turn out for Canelo fights. Furtermore, Canelo is a “Golden Boy” both literally and figuratively, the baby-faced assassin being both the pride, joy, and hope of Mexico, and an Oscar De La Hoya-promoted boxer. A lot rides on Canelo’s success in the sport of boxing. While a loss to the highly ranked GGG wouldn’t ruin his career by any means, what the big players in the boxing industry want more than anything is a resounding victory for Canelo. Just shy of 30 years old, Canelo has many more years of top ranked fights ahead of him, and lucrative ones at that. Golovkin, on the other hand, is 35 years old, and might only have a couple years of top-level fights left in him.
GGG just can’t match the same level of numbers with his fan base. A native of Kazikhstan, a small country with even fewer immigrants in the U.S., Golovkin is at a disadvantage on the marketing side of boxing. While most American boxing fans appreciate a good knockout artist, they don’t have the same kind of attachment that Mexicans and Mexican-Americans do for their native son Canelo. What this means is that unlike the Mayweather-McGregor fight, which had a roughly even split of fan support both in the arena and at the bars and restaurants showing the PPV, the Canelo-GGG scrap figures to have the fan support massively in favor of Canelo. Indeed, the bars and restaurants will be filled with Mexican pride and support, and the T-Mobile Arena will be lit up with Mexican flags and apparel. You may see the odd Kazakhstani flag here or there, but for the most part, the sheer numbers and loyalty that the Canelo fan base produces will drown out anything the GGG fan base can muster.
What does this all mean? Now that Floyd “Money” Mayweather is out of the sport completely, Boxing needs a new money fighter. Canelo is much more ready to be the hero the sport needs, to drive the big money fights going forward into 2018 and 2019. Because of this, HBO and the powers that be will be massively rooting for Canelo, the younger, more popular fighter, to win emphatically. And although a rematch with GGG would be potentially lucrative, Canelo disappointed in his last big fight and still has a lot to gain with a victory over Golovkin. On Saturday Night, Canelo will not only be carrying the pressure and expectations of his home country, but also his adopted one. Here’s hoping he can live up to the hype and propel boxing to new heights and popularity.