By: Kirk Jackson
There’s a famous proverb, known by many fans of the Marvel Universe, recognized in mass from a pop cultural standpoint.
“With great power, comes great responsibility,” as some refer to this as one of Peter Parker’s (Spider-Man) core principles – with how he deals with juggling work life, school life, social life, crime-fighting life, in attempts to make the best decisions in which requires a lot of sacrifices.
There are various versions, storylines, interpretations of the character, but as a whole, he is known for displaying his strong moral standing, because he realizes he has the power to make a difference, good or bad.
So, with great power comes great responsibility and, in some cases, with great power, comes corruption.
When you’re in a position of power and hold leverage for a situation, whether that form of leverage is your likeness, name, talent, a service provided, or product, you are in a prime position to dictate the terms of engagement.
It just so happens Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KO’s) has ruled boxing with iron gloves for several years now.
Whether it’s mass media outlets, or sanctioning bodies, there appears to be a lack of transparency, when applying rules to Alvarez, comparatively as these same rules apply differently towards his contemporaries. And granted, that’s what happens across all avenues of business, social standing, and life in general.
When you have a gift, talent, skill, something that everyone else admires or covets, they will treat you differently. The point isn’t to discredit or to state fault in Alvarez’s position. He has the right to operate how he wants.
But shedding light on these distinctions and pointing out the hypocrisy amongst mass media, promotional companies, networks, and sanctioning bodies is important. There is a double standard when it comes to some of Alvarez’s transgressions compared to other great fighters and athletes.
Considering he is the main face of boxing, earnings-wise and in regard to pound-for-pound standing. He holds a great deal of power with that standing, although Alvarez wouldn’t be the first fighter in history to control the boxing space.
Dating back to the lineage of boxing kings from the past, they each etched their course across the landscape as well.
Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, Alvarez’s former promoter Oscar De La Hoya – each fighter at some point in their respective careers were viewed as among the best, generated the most money, were considered torchbearers of the sport and held a lot of power and influence. Alvarez now fills that void.
In a sense, it’s similar to LeBron James of the National Basketball Association.
Granted, James is far removed from being the best player in the league currently, but due to his long-term standing in the league, accomplishments, money invested behind him in advertising, and in turn, the money generated from him, he maintains much power and influence within the league.
Same with Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers with the National Football League.
Certain athletes, because of their gifts, are privy to certain benefits. From a business owner’s perspective, why wouldn’t you want to listen to what your product/moneymaker is saying? It goes without saying.
With the power to generate money, comes the power to manipulate – or control the landscape. This has been true to form for Alvarez on numerous occasions.
As stated, Alvarez has the power and many acknowledge him as the king of the sport. But is he abusing his power?
There have been issues past and present, regarding performance enhancing drugs, catch-weights, rehydration clauses, picking and poaching weaker opposition, choosing the right time to face the perceived stronger opposition, etc.
Critics of “Canelo” lament that he is the beneficiary of convenience for every match-up.
And many people look past these controversies, as they do with one of the current heavyweight champions.
One can only guess which motives inspire some to look past these discrepancies.
For example, the notion of conveniently catching guys at the right time – that label and assertion is always cast on Floyd Mayweather, the last reigning cash cow of boxing. Why isn’t the same standard applied to Alvarez?
Is it due to promotion and to how he is portrayed by the media and perceived by the masses? Is Alvarez warranted the benefit of the doubt due to his perceived style of fighting? Is it the culture from where he descends from, to where at least in boxing circles, he is afforded that benefit? Or are there other variables? Let’s dive a little deeper.
Notable Alvarez Opponents:
• Miguel Vazquez (twice)
• Carlos Baldomir
• Lovemore N’dou
• Kermit Cintron
• Shane Mosley
• Erislandy Lara
• Miguel Cotto
• Amir Khan
• Liam Smith
• Julio Cesar Chavez Jr
• Gennady Golovkin
• Daniel Jacobs
• Sergey Kovalev
• Callum Smith
• Billy Joe Saunders
• Floyd Mayweather
• Austin Trout
Just off names and appearance alone, that’s an amazing resume, right? 17 world champions, minimum of three Hall of Fame fighters on that list.
Question is, what is the condition of the fighter leading into the match-up? Is there a special stipulation in the match-up, like a catch-weight or rehydration clause? How did the fight actually turn out?
Honestly looking at the list, Jacobs looks like one of the few fighters who would be considered in or near their physical prime, at the time when he faced Alvarez.
Others include Lara, Trout, and arguably Golovkin as not being too far removed. Critics may also point out, Lara and Golovkin respectively, have strong arguments for having defeated Alvarez across their encounters.
Mayweather earned a majority decision against Alvarez, despite most observers acknowledged witnessing a virtuoso and dominant performance from the 36-year-old fighter. The smaller, older fighter, who moved up in weight for their historic clash.
Although, for some reason many people believe Alvarez at 23-years-old at the time was too young and at a disadvantage over a smaller, 36-year-old.
But forget that, the first Hall of Fame caliber fighter Alvarez faced was Shane Mosley a few years prior. For Mosley, after losing to Mayweather, drawing with Sergio Mora, and then losing to Manny Pacquiao, what business did a 40-year-old Mosley have in the ring with a 21-year-old Alvarez?
Yes, for the business of boxing the move is understandable and it’s intelligent from the team of Alvarez. But when people try to bypass that victory as a top-notch achievement, it’s questionable.
Let’s see, as recent as this year, Alvarez went up against his former sparring partner turned challenger, Avni Yildirim. Leading into that fight, Yildirim had not been in the ring since he lost a technical split decision to Anthony Dirrell two years prior in February 2019.
Yildirim had been named to the mandatory position as a result of the controversial nature of his loss to Dirrell, however, he had remained sidelined due to injury and the COVID-19 pandemic. The fight itself was not a pleasing display aesthetically, as it looked as though Yildirim showed up just to show up.
Delving further into the resume, Amir Khan moved up two weight classes to face Alvarez. With no disrespect intended towards Khan, as he was an excellent fighter in the lower weight divisions, possessing excellent hand speed, boxing ability, and a huge heart, he was also renowned for having a shaky chin.
The fight went as anticipated, Khan started fast and won the early rounds according to most observers, only to get caught with a vicious right hand from Alvarez, stopping him cold in round six.
Again, that’s an example of Alvarez doing what he is supposed to do, as far as knocking out the competition – and it was a highlight reel level knock-out. The only problem, is at that particular time, Alvarez was being pressed by a fighter near his weight class, who happened to be regarded as the premier champion of that division.
Alvarez was focused on moving up from junior middleweight but was fighting at a catch-weight. Some referred to the weight class as the “Canelo weight.” There was a point where he had five consecutive fights at his preferred 155-pound catch-weight.
But the fighter in question, pursuing Alvarez for years was Gennady Golovkin. They eventually shared two controversial, entertaining bouts that will remain staples in middleweight history for years to come. Their saga is a whole story in itself.
Another notable fighter in pursuit of Alvarez for many years is Demetrius Andrade. In spite of sharing the same promotional banner for a short time and providing great incentive, he was never able to secure a fight with Alvarez.
When Alvarez stated he wanted to unify the middleweight division, Andrade was the last piece to the puzzle but for whatever reason the fight never manifested.
Examining Alvarez’s trip up north from middleweight post-Golovkin, detractors may point to Alvarez’s selection of Rocky Fielding and Sergey Kovalev as carefully picked opponents, en route to the easiest path to a world title across super-middleweight and the light-heavyweight divisions.
Analyzing Alvarez’s match-up against former light-heavyweight champion Kovalev, it can be argued, out of all of the opponents across the super-middleweight and light-heavyweight landscape, Kovalev was the easiest target.
Kovalev, while an outstanding fighter during his glory years, looked battle-worn in recent fights. Which is evidenced by his struggles after losing to Andre Ward for a second time in 2017. You can look good in defeat and bad in victory.
Kovalev looked different after the Ward fights and Eleider Alvarez didn’t help when he stopped Kovalev in their 2018 encounter. Kovalev would exact revenge a year later, but the aging champion may have aged a tad more after fighting the young challenger Anthony Yarde the same year.
And according to CompuBox, Kovalev landed 223 of his 686 punches (32.5%) while Yarde landed 132 of his 575 punches (23%), which to the point was the most punches any fighter has landed on Kovalev.
The fight against Yarde was towards the end of August, right after that, Kovalev fights Saul Alvarez in November of the same year.
He signed up for it, he’s a grown individual, he was financially compensated. But do you notice a trend here?
After the fight, Kovalev suggested that he had always been unlikely to win the fight, due to the grueling schedule of back-to-back training camps which resulted from the short period of time between the Yarde and Alvarez fights. Nonetheless, he had agreed to fight Alvarez regardless due to the high financial incentive, which was reported to be $12 million.
“I was tired after round six, because I had my last fight very close to this one, but it’s okay, it’s a new experience for me. Canelo is really a great champion. A little bit right now, I didn’t recover from my last fight. But it’s okay. Thanks for the fight Canelo, I have big respect for him. He made history,” Kovalev said in a post-fight interview.
Call it sour grapes if you want, but there is truth to those assertions.
To the victor goes the spoils. People remember the wins and gloss over circumstances and underlying variables. When given greater context, the wins appear somewhat inflated with value. When you win, oftentimes you can afford to write history the way you want it to be remembered.
Aside from nitpicking resumes, there have been questions lingering about performance enhancing drugs and Alvarez’s camp. Some of these question marks stem from positive tests in the past.
Alvarez tested positive for two drug tests after his first bout with Golovkin. There was a large fallout from the test, as the rematch with Golovkin was called off initially before being rescheduled to a later date.
Oscar Valdez, who is a current super-featherweight champion and part of Alvarez’s camp recently tested positive for the banned substance phentermine, leading into his title defense this past September.
Victor Conte recently interviewed with AHKi TV and provided excellent information about PED usage in the sport.
Conte is the founder and president of Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), a sports nutrition center in California. He now operates Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning (SNAC Nutrition).
The interview is very informative, obviously, some of this information pertains to the big fight between Alvarez and Caleb Plant.
Another takeaway from Conte’s interview is the claim that fighters now are not using steroids, they’re using synthetic testosterone. Which can be more difficult to catch, depending on the organization conducting the testing.
The interview also expands on a few notions that will be expanded on in the following tweets:
Fortunately, both Alvarez and Plant are enrolled in The Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) testing.
But if a fighter were using PED’s and held off on signing a contract for a proposed fight, that may stipulate drug testing for a certain period of time, it’s possible that the fighter may purposely delay signing the contract, to get the PED’s out of their system.
When the time comes for testing for that proposed fight, albeit they are no longer using the enhancements during training, they’ve already reaped the benefits. It’s fair to suggest, the agreement for drug testing is just for optics.
The commissions from each state, the sanctioning, various organizations all have varying motives. Essentially, it would be extremely difficult to operate under full transparency regarding drug testing.
There might always be a cloud that follows Alvarez, whether that’s fair or not. For the most part, it has not affected his professional career to the point where he is derailed from his position.
Most of these organizations do not care. Many media outlets and personalities do not care. Many fans do not care, as long as their fighter is winning. Or as long as their country and what or who they perceive as their cultural representee is winning.
Alvarez plays chess while the rest play checkers. Web-slinging superheroes don’t exist in the real world.
Navigating through the politics of boxing, meticulously carving his path, crafting his image, all while honing his physical skills, he elevated to the top of pound-for-pound list and established a firm hold as one of the top money earners in all of sports.
When you master the game, you establish trends and rules for everyone else to follow. In a position of authority and while maintaining leverage, one has the ability to exploit situations to their advantage. While in a position of power, why would one concede any advantages? Maintaining leverage is extending your reign.
Great superstars like De La Hoya, Leonard, Mayweather, and Manny Pacquiao have exercised such options during their reign. Alvarez continues to flex his muscles during his sovereignty.
Is he abusing his power or exploiting a flawed series of systems? Is there a fighter, who is going to do anything about it and supplant the ruler?
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