By Sean Crose
“It is my pleasure,” Oscar De La Hoya said on a Tuesday conference call with the media, “to announce to you that Canelo will be fighting on (the) HBO network.” Indeed, the rumors are true. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is once again an HBO man. What’s more, De La Hoya’s company, Golden Boy, is back in business with HBO. If the Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev matchup could be seen as a make-up handshake, today’s announcement could be interpreted as a big, wet kiss.
“He (Canelo) not only will be fighting on pay per view,” De La Hoya added, “but he will be fighting on HBO live.” In fact, fans will be able to see Canelo fight on HBO before the year is out. “The first date,” De La Hoya said, “will be in December.”
ESPN’s Dan Rafael claimed that Showtime honcho Stephen Espinoza claimed he and De La Hoya had a “verbal agreement,” indicating that Espinoza was none too happy with this latest development. Yet De La Hoya indicated that “no verbal agreement” had been reached. “I obviously am doing what Canelo is asking of me,” said the promoter. “Canelo has expressed many months ago that he would love to explore the possibility of fighting on HBO and, as his promoter, I have to obviously do what’s possible to grant his wishes.”
The subject obviously turned to big name fighters, the kinds of big name fighters HBO has traditionally showcased. “Those are the guys who are there that I would like to fight,” Canelo stated. He also made it clear that he wanted May and September dates for his fights, dates that traditionally belong to none other than Mr. Floyd Mayweather himself.
“They’re Mexican dates,” Canelo claimed. “There should always be a Mexican fighting on those dates.” De La Hoya, however, seemed a bit nervous when pressed on the issue. “Well look, it obviously all depends on who Canelo is fighting,” he said. Still, De La Hoya made it clear that he was there to do what Canelo wanted.
“I work for the fighter,” he said, “and I’m going to have to grant Canelo’s wish.” Indeed De La Hoya’s choice of words was interesting during the call. On more than one occasion, for instance, he made it clear that it’s Canelo, not himself, who makes the decisions in the relationship.
Was this a shot aimed at Al Haymon, and perhaps even Showtime? Showtime is known as the network that showcases Haymon fighters, after all, and Haymon fighters tend to publicly claim that Al does their thinking for them. De La Hoya, however, never let his motivation be known.
Instead, he focused on the positive during the call, declaring it to be “an historical day for boxing in general,” and claiming that “this is another indication that Golden Boy is all about the fans and making sure the fans…watch what they deserve.” It might be easy to be cynical when listening to fight promoters, but De La Hoya may have actually been right on both counts.
As for Canelo, the man clearly sees himself as top fighter, despite the reservations of some fans and analysts. He also clearly sees himself as fighting force for Mexican boxing fans. For he spoke boldly of fighting in May and September, of “recouping our dates back.”
The question now is whether or not the twenty four year old has the talent to play such a prominent role in boxing. He’s only truly dominated one of his past four opponents, really. On top of that, he lost easily to Floyd Mayweather and, in the eyes of many, should have lost again to Erislandy Lara when they fought last summer. If Canelo truly wants to sit on the mountaintop after Mayweather steps down, he’s going to have to do some climbing, no matter which cable network is along for the journey.