Why I’m tuning in on Saturday Night for Canelo v. Smith
By: Eric Lunger
“Don’t buy this fight. True boxing fans won’t buy this.” You’ve seen variations of this theme on social media regarding Saturday night’s HBO Pay Per View presentation of the Canelo v. Smith fight. I understand the sentiment behind this apparently principled stand, and it goes something like this: Canelo Alvarez, the exciting middleweight from Guadalajara, who has already fought such stars of the sport like Miguel Cotta and Floyd Mayweather, had a chance to defend his WBO belt against, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, the Kazak monster of the division, after Canelo’s brutal dismantling of Amir Khan on May 7th of this year. With Golovkin at ringside, and with a spine-tingling declaration from Canelo (in a bit of post-battle adrenalin), that “I fear no one in this sport,” boxing fans were elated at the prospect of a Golovkin vs. Canelo super fight. I will be honest: I thought, in the moment, with Oscar de la Hoya grinning deliriously in the background as Canelo spoke, that the fight was all but made, and all that remained was an ironing out of the details. The middleweight clash of our times, maybe of the century, was mere months away.
Then reality set in and the dreams of a super fight crashed to the ground. Fans of boxing are a wonderful lot. They are dreamers, and they dream of that one perfect, generation defining clash. Mayweather-Pacquiao could have been such a fight, but when it finally came, fans were bitterly disappointed, with many sensing that a great opportunity had been lost, had slipped away because of needless greed and meaningless, petty gamesmanship. And so when Canelo made his impassioned speech on May 7th, fans were ready and hoping for a transcendent Canelo-Golovkin fight which might have washed the bitter taste from boxing’s collective mouth. Not to be of course. Canelo quietly gave up his WBC belt some ten days later and promptly announced a fight against a welterweight.
Then, having brutally stopped Khan in May, Canelo inked a fight with Liam “Beefy” Smith of Liverpool, England. After all the talk post-Khan, boxing fans were, to put it charitably, disappointed. No disrespect to Smith, who has a solid British resume and an inspirational story, but it seems like a mismatch and hence the scorn poured on by some boxing fans. And so, we are back to the call for boycotting the PPV.
But here’s the thing. I am going to watch the fight. I will gladly shell out for the PPV for a bunch of reasons. I love the show, the glamour, the drama of big-time prize fighting. I want to watch the strange, stilted ritual of the weigh-in on Friday. I want to spend Saturday thinking about the fight. I want to hear that jolt from the crowd in Texas when the first blast of Mariachi music comes over the speakers, as Canelo begins his ring walk on Mexican Independence Day. I want to see the look in Smith’s eyes when he leaves his corner for the first round and its just him, his training, and his heart against a fearsome opponent with a roaring crowd behind him.
I’m going to watch the fight because I am a Canelo Alvarez fan. I love the way he deports himself in interviews, his seriousness, his pride in being from Guadalajara and in continuing the grand tradition of Mexican boxers. He has a tremendous resume already, having fought Floyd Mayweather, Erislandy Lara, James Kirkland, and Miguel Cotto. In the ring, he has tremendous power and a relentless Mexican style, pressuring his opponents, wearing them down with body shots, and then finishing with power and accuracy.
I’m also going to watch the fight because both fighters are boxers. It is who they are and what they do. Smith has three brothers, all of whom are professional boxers. Alvarez is the youngest of eight children, and all six of his brothers are pros. The pride of these two boxing families is on the line; all the talk, all the whining, all the complaining, it goes out the window when these two young men answer that first round bell. There is a purity in boxing – there is no spin, no faking it. As Canelo said in the ring after the Khan fight, “we don’t come to play in this sport.”
Of course we want to see Canelo fight Golovkin, and when we do, it will be tremendous. But come Saturday night, I will be watching Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Liam “Beefy” Smith. I can’t wait.