Great boxing is out there, you just have to find it.
That statement is true, but you shouldn’t have to find it, it should be presented to the public. As was the case for many years prior to the mixed martial arts boom, boxing was often road blocked by political jousting and was rightfully deemed a stagnant sport. After Zuffa turned up the heat and essentially began getting a noticeable piece of the pay-per-view pie, suddenly notable boxers actually signed on to fight each other. If a consumer was given the choice of the glorified exhibitions of the boxing world or the thriving MMA genre, their PPV orders were going to the UFC. Almost on cue, as MMA starts to cool off from the natural occurrences of any sport, (injuries, retirement etc,) the excuses to prevent boxing’s top stars from stepping into the ring with each other have begun to resurface.
Just a few weeks ago, Gennady Golovkin, a dangerous knockout artist and perhaps the best pound-for-pound boxer in the sport, KO’d Dominic Wade within two rounds. This added yet another impressive performance to his undefeated record of 35-0 with 32 KOs. When Floyd Mayweather was selecting an opponent for his supposed retirement bout, he chose the relatively easy task of Andre Berto and won a lackluster decision. Even Manny Pacquiao, who took tougher fights at various points in his career, signed on for the unnecessary trilogy with Timothy Bradley rather than fight Triple G. Simply put, the top names in the sport wanted no part of the power or the chin that Golovkin brings to the table. The argument could be made that Manny and Floyd already have a record payday from their disappointing “super fight” so neither would risk their potential exit from the game with a devastating loss. Triple G will take 2-3 punches to be able to land one of his own and the punch he lands can change the direction of a contest. Neither Manny or Mayweather have the power to hurt Golovkin and they didn’t seem too eager to find out if they could withstand his punches. But, as mentioned, they are basically at the end of their career so nobody, especially anyone that follows boxing, expected them to sign a contract to fight such a dangerous boxer in his prime.
However, there is another boxing star who is in his prime and could make a very bold statement depending on if he’s victorious in a pay-per-view offering this weekend. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who became one of boxing’s most popular stars within just a few years of his American cable debut, is set to square off with Amir Khan. The 25-year-old Mexican superstar used tremendous skill to defeat tough opponents, such as Austin Trout, Miguel Cotto, and Erislandy Laura. The only blemish on his record is a contest with Mayweather over two years ago and the argument could be made that Canelo wasn’t ready for that type of competition at that point. Since that time, Alvarez sharpened his game and has four consecutive wins, most recently a unanimous decision with the previously mentioned Cotto in November of last year. At 46-1-1, Alvarez has learned from and adapted to the step up in competition over the past few years, and theoretically, has entered the prime of his career. Earning the name “Canelo” from the color of his hair, Saul Alvarez has the ability to claim the spot as boxing’s top draw, which was vacated after Floyd’s retirement, and Manny’s impending exit.
His opponent, Amir Khan was one of Britain’s brightest prospects and racked up wins against decent competition until his rise up the ranks was abruptly halted when he was knocked out by Danny Garcia in the fourth round of their bout in 2012. Garcia, an entertaining and aggressive fighter, was thought to have a style that Khan could exploit using technical skill, but the KO left many wondering if Khan had plateaued in his career. Despite rebounding with five wins in a row, Khan has competed sporadically in the past four years, fighting only once last year and scheduled for just the Canelo bout this year. Quite frankly, if Amir Khan wants to prove that he can still be a top-level prize-fighter, he has to defeat a top-level opponent, and he has the chance when he steps into the ring with Alvarez.
Canelo is considered the favorite ahead of this Saturday’s bout and it makes sense since he’s bigger, has more punching power, and has experience against better opponents. It won’t be any easy fight by any means, but it wouldn’t be too surprising if Alvarez defeats Khan.
But, questions remain about what Alvarez will do if he can win against Khan to retain his title.
Usually, the alphabet soup collection of title belts just devalue the championships, considering that if a fighter has lunch, all the sudden they qualify for another weight division and the countless random belts in the division. However, in this case, Alvarez’s WBC championship puts Triple G in line as the mandatory challenger should he defeat Khan, a plan that was approved by the World Boxing Council late last year. Obviously, Canelo has the option to vacate the belt and prove he is unquestionably ducking Golovkin. Just because Alvarez might not take the fight in 2016 doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. Alvarez could simply wait a few years until Triple G is a little older and take the fight when he perhaps isn’t as dangerous. That itself is another problem in boxing because it makes the most sense to sign the fight when it’s an anticipated bout, not when it’s thought to be a less risky contest. Too often in boxing, stars take easier fights for easier money than the best competition that would ultimately draw bigger money more often.
How many great boxing series have produced legendary results over the years? Barrera-Morales, Ward-Gatti, Ali-Frazier, Ali-Norton, Pacquiao-Marquez, etc. These type of classic battles are what helped build the sport and in most cases, political hurdles prevent some of the current major bouts from being signed. It’s ironic that some stars avoid certain marquee match ups with the assumption that a loss would damage their name value, but in retrospective, the classic series that were previously mentioned, it’s the quality of the bouts that are talked about more often than just the winners. The bottom line is, the public will pay for quality fights and avoiding those contests are what actually leaves money on the table in most situations.
As said earlier, great boxing is regularly broadcast, but most of the shows are on premium cable channels that some of the general public doesn’t have access to and not much is being done outside of the rather lackluster Premier Boxing Championship franchise to promote any of those premium shows on main stream networks. If you don’t already know where to find these cards, there’s no real advertisement to tell fans about some of the action packed fights on premium cable, which has been a fundamental problem for the sport for over a decade. Names like Ruslan Provodnikov, Sergey Kovalev, Gennady Golovkin, Brandon Rios, and others have provided thrilling action. When Bernard Hopkins unified the light heavyweight titles at few years ago at the age of 50, how many advertisements aired on network TV to promote his title defenses? Deontay Wilder, an undefeated heavyweight (36-0 with 35 KOs) is scheduled to fight Alexander Povetkin later this month in Moscow, Russia. Why haven’t Wladimir Klitschko or Tyson Fury signed to fight Wilder? The eccentric Fury claimed that he wanted to fight Wilder, but has subsequently suggested he will retire after a rematch with Klitschko in July.
Obviously, there’s a pattern here.
As for Canelo Alvarez, if he defeats Amir Khan, he can either ink a deal to fight Gennady Golovkin and make progress toward etching his name into boxing history or he could duck Triple G and further prove why boxing will probably remain a stagnant sport.
art via WBC