By: Sean Crose
There is no doubt that Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is the biggest star in boxing. Even Anthony Joshua, enormously popular as he is in the Europe, has yet to attain the North American appeal that the red haired Mexican star has. Canelo’s popularity among Las Vegas judges, however, has caused many to raise eyebrows. After judge CJ Ross decided to go against her peers and score 2013’s Canelo-Floyd Mayweather battle for the then up and coming Canelo, the now pound for pound talent has stood accused of receiving favorable treatment.
Photo Credit: Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
For CJ Ross wasn’t the only Vegas judge to rule questionably in Canelo’s favor. Cuban slickster Erislandy Lara was denied a victory over Canelo in Vegas after a razor thin twelve round bout. And then came Gennady Golovkin. The highly touted Canelo-GGG fight of 2017 ended in an outrageously controversial draw. Needless to say, most observes felt Canelo should have lost the fight on the scorecards. A 2018 rematch saw Canelo win a decision in a bout that, once again, many felt Golovkin had done enough to win.
Hence the fear that Daniel Jacobs, the 35-2 IBF middleweight champ, will have to knock the 51-1-2 Canelo out if he hopes to win their fight this Saturday night in Las Vegas at the T-Mobile Arena. Should the highly anticipated Canelo-Jacobs bout go the full scheduled 12 rounds this weekend, some fret Canelo will add Jacob’s title to his own WBA and WBC titles – whether he deserves to or not. This can be problematic, as Canelo is one of the highest paid athletes on earth. Should the public embrace the opinion that Canelo always wins, both Canelo’s and contemporary boxing’s reputations could take a real hit.
However, the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s Executive Director, Bob Bennett, has argued furiously that no corruption is to be found in his jurisdiction. Bringing up his own past, Bennett is quoted by Yahoo’s Kevin Iole as saying: “I indicted a boxing case for a fixed fight, and I traveled all over the country to interview fighters who took a dive to get money under the table and it was proven in a court of law.” Bennett went on to add that “fighters want to come here and fight because they know we will go above and beyond to do that. Any suggestion otherwise is bull s—t.”
Although the Commission’s honesty may be unimpeachable, it’s competence might remain a concern. For intensely controversial judge Adelaide Byrd was named as a potential official for the Canelo-Jacobs bout by the Commission in the lead up to this weekend’s fight.
By: Sean Crose
Boxing judges can be a lot like film critics. After seeing pretty much the same thing over and over again, both sets of professionals can sometimes be unduly influenced by the unexpected. Not something particularly good, mind you, just something unexpected. Boxing judges, like film critics, appear to love it when someone subverts their expectations. Unfortunately, many fans aren’t as impressed with originality for the sake of originality as judges and film critics seem to be. Take last year’s Star Wars film, The Last Jedi. Critics went nuts for it because it was so unlike other Star Wars flicks. Many fans, on the other hand, were far from impressed.
Boxing itself recently went through a similar experience. Most fans believed Gennady Golovkin clearly bested Canelo Alvarez in their Vegas middleweight title rematch earlier this month. Yet the judges, like film critics, saw things differently. Canelo, once again, walked out of a big fight with the blessing of authorities and a nearly perfect record. Why? My opinion is that the judges may have been impressed that Canelo did something he wasn’t expected to do against Golovkin, and that’s be aggressive. No matter that many didn’t feel he did enough to earn the victory. The fact Canelo subverted judges’ expectations might have been good enough for them. Again, it’s just my opinion, but I think there’s more than this one example available for me to build my case upon.
Gennady Golovkin knocked a lot of people out before meeting Canelo for the first time in 2017. A lot of people. He didn’t knock Canelo out in that first match, however. Canelo played defense and kept from being the Kazakh’s punching bag – in a sense, subverting expectations. The Mexican star walked away from that fight with a draw – even though most feel he lost that battle, much as most people feel he lost the rematch. That’s telling. Yet the power of subverting expectations can go back even further than this decade.
Way back in 1987, when Ray Leonard came back with eye trouble from a long hiatus to take on middleweight king Marvelous Marvin Hagler (his full, legal name, by the way), many, if not most, felt Leonard was doomed. The thirty year old Leonard made a great showing of himself against Hagler, though. He was slick, energetic and impressive. Leonard won the bout on the cards that evening, even though many felt his performance, impressive though it was, wasn’t good enough for the decision. The fact that Leonard survived, however, that he had managed to hold his own, certainly subverted expectations. Hagler, likewise, didn’t live up to expectations by failing to completely demolish his popular counterpart, just like Golovkin didn’t live up to expectations by not completely dominating Canelo decades later.
A piece of advice for judges – leave the expectations at the door, and just judge the fight on its merits. Hell, try pretending you don’t know the men or the women competing in the ring if you have to, just try to go the extra yard to be fair. Exhausted fans will thank you for finally subverting their expectations.