By Sean Crose
Let’s face facts – there’s a lot to like about Canelo Alvarez. He’s exciting. He’s not a jerk. He’s been willing to take on all comers – including the difficult Erislandy Lara at a point in his career where he arguably couldn’t afford another loss. So yeah, there’s a lot to root for when it comes to the Mexican slugger. What’s more, his impressive performance against Miguel Cotto last Saturday only gave people more to like. While the fight was MUCH closer than the judges and many analysts believed, Canelo looked good, very good, in the ring against the Puerto Rican legend regardless.
Now, though, there seems to be something strange going on. Some boxing journalists and fans are treating Canelo with the kind of love and reverence mainstream journalists treated Ronda Rousey with this past year. Okay, that last sentence might be a stretch. Then again, it might not be. There’s a love affair going on here, make no mistake about it.
This, of course, is no reflection on Canelo himself. He can’t help it if some scribes decide he’s the greatest thing since Ali. What kind of impact will this adoration have on the man, though? Will it make him yet another in the way too long line of recent boxing divas? Let’s hope not. Boxing has suffered enough damage as it is from such people. Important fights haven’t happened. Records have been inflated. Things have been a mess.
And Canelo has been something of a noteworthy light in the darkness, a fighter who does things like the athlete he is rather than the businessman so many other boxers have become. That’s why it’s upsetting to get word he will only fight GGG for the middleweight championship of the world if Cotto drains himself below the middleweight limit. That sort of talk is nonsense. Let’s hope Canelo’s not serious here, or is merely trying to get in an opponent’s head early (which is perfectly legitimate in this rugged sport).
Otherwise, Canelo will be falling into the same dark hole that has shaded the reputations of Cotto, Floyd Mayweather, and others. In other words, he’ll be putting as asterisk next to his name in fans’ minds. This would be a crying shame since Canelo stands out at the moment as an asterisk-free fighter. Again, let’s hope he avoids the pitfalls.
It will be hard for the guy to remain disciplined, though. Aside from what appears to now be an absolutely adoring fan base both in and out of the media, he’s burdened by the knowledge that he alone right now is pretty much keeping the USS Golden Boy afloat. Oscar and company need his star to continue shining brightly. They’re right to be concerned about what a loss to GGG might do to the bottom line (though it certainly wouldn’t make this fight fan think less of the guy).
Yet Canelo, as he himself is clearly aware, is an athlete, not a corporate suit. On the other hand, Canelo comes across as an exceedingly loyal type. He’s stuck by his corner throughout all sorts of criticism, after all. Could Canelo end up harming his reputation not because he falls into the diva trap, but because he feels loyal to Oscar and the gang over at Golden Boy? Could Canelo end up uttering diva-like demands regarding things like catch weights solely out of deference to his promoter? Could he, in essence, come across as less than honorable out of a sense of honor?
It’s something worth thinking about.
Also, let’s not forget about boxing’s powerful new breed of fan, who has already taken to the internet to argue that Canelo shouldn’t fight a guy who could beat him when he could make good money fighting easier foes. Scoff all you want, but the new breed arguably holds a lot more sway with promoters, networks and sanctioning bodies these days than traditional fans do. Its preference for the business of boxing rather than the sport of boxing is undoubtedly music to the ears of the sport’s money people.