A question of when – not if – for Canelo vs. GGG
Watching WBC middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez brutally stop Amir Khan with a booming, overhand right, one could see this was like the Titanic. There was an iceberg out there with Khan’s name on it; you just didn’t know when it would hit him but it was inevitable.
And that moment happened in the sixth and, well…Khan was sunk for good.
But give the ambitious Amir credit; he boxed well in the early stages and made things difficult with his lateral movement and quick, striking combinations. The first two rounds were especially difficult for Canelo – who, in the past, has had problems dealing with movement – and he was beat to the punch early on. In the third round, Alvarez started to apply more pressure and made an investment to the body.
While Khan’s salvos were fast and flashy, over time, they were a mere annoyance to the much bigger Mexican, who just kept coming forward methodically, understanding he had 36 minutes to work with. This wasn’t a sprint but a marathon. Khan might have won the amateur boxing match but he was never going overcome these substantial odds to pull the upset in this professional prizefight.
While Khan had success, you could never escape the fact that, while Khan is physically gifted in certain areas, he’s also fatally flawed. His punch resistance has always been suspect (well, to be blunt, as bad as you’ll see at the world-class level) and, coming in, it was thought he didn’t just have to throw a no-hitter to come out victorious but a perfect game.
And Don Larsen, he ain’t.
Because, for all his skills, Khan still makes mistakes tactically and technically. It’s why, for being a supposedly slick boxer, he gets touched consistently. A boxer like Khan, who has shaky whiskers, is one who works without a safety net. (It’s also why I have compared him to a “Flying Wallenda” – one strong breeze and it could be fatal.) There’s always been a debate if punching power can truly move up in weight. Well, this is for certain: A bad chin is something that travels up with you.
As a prone Khan was laid out cold on the canvas, it was still a bit shocking to see such a sight – even though many observers had braced for such a scenario. The old axiom stayed true for another night on Bash Boulevard: A good big man will beat a good small man.
Yeah, as I stated a day or two before this match-up, speed kills but size matters.
Immediately after this sacrifice of Khan, talked turned to a showdown between Canelo and IBF/WBA middleweight titleholder Golovkin. In the lead-up to Saturday night, the second most talked about boxer was not Khan but “GGG,” who was the central focus of many questions. And the Golden Boy Promotions brass, quite frankly, seemed a bit peeved at all the queries about a future fight. The usual promotional lines were thrown out and some rather bizarre and head-scratching statements were put forth by everyone involved.
Either Golovkin wasn’t worthy of a fight or he had to face Sergey Kovalev. (No, seriously; Bernard Hopkins stated this.) Everything short of having to beat Steph Curry in a game of “HORSE” was brought up by Golden Boy.
However, in the immediate aftermath of his huge KO, Canelo was emboldened enough to invite Golovkin (who was in attendance) into the ring and deliver this very public and profane message (in Spanish) to him, the 16,540 partisans and Max Kellerman of HBO Sports: “I invited him into the ring. Like we say in Mexico, ‘We don’t fuck around.’ I don’t fear anyone. We don’t come to play in this sport. I fear no one in this sport.”
When asked if that fight would take place in 2016, Canelo responded, “Right now, I will put on the gloves again.”
At the post-fight press conference, many of the questions to Golden Boy President Oscar De La Hoya centered on Canelo-GGG. It’s clear that the media and the public are now equally putting the pressure on them to make this fight sooner rather than later. De La Hoya shot down any talk of a rematch with Miguel Cotto, which brought a huge sigh of relief to boxing diehards and, most likely, screaming from the Roc Nation Sports offices.
This is THE fight to make in boxing. And while there is talk of marinating (which has become a taboo keyword nowadays), judging by the reaction of the public and social media, this match-up is now ready to be served. The key is not to overcook it, especially in light of the bitter aftertaste of last year’s not-so-super-fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao (who, by the way, might do it again at some point. And, please, don’t kill the messenger).
Under the WBC mandate (those dastardly sanctioning bodies), Golden Boy and K2 Promotions now must enter a negotiation period and if a deal is not struck, Golovkin then becomes the full-blown WBC beltholder. But even with that edict, Golovkin only has the leverage in the sense that he might get to add another belt to his collection. If he wants to get the most lucrative fight out there and a vehicle to stamp himself as crossover star and a pay-per-view attraction, he may still have to make concessions.
De La Hoya has made it clear that the “A” in Alvarez is for “A-side,” which, quite frankly, is a point that even K2’s Managing Director Tom Loeffler would readily concede. While Golovkin is a bona fide ticket seller on both coasts, Alvarez is a pay-per-view franchise (where the real money is in boxing).
One point of contention that looks to be a battle is the weight. While both are middleweights, the Mexican star has basically created his own weight class, the “Canelo-weight” division, at 155 pounds and has stated clearly in the past that Golovkin would have to come down and shed a few pounds to make this fight a reality. Golovkin’s reaction to such a demand? “I am old-school. Middleweight is 160. I respect the sport of boxing,” was his reply.
So the question for Golovkin and his team is: Will it be worth shedding a few pounds for the extra millions it would bring in to face Canelo on his terms?
There is a precedent for such a thing. If you recall, when Bernard Hopkins (then the middleweight ruler in 2004), faced Oscar De La Hoya (who, at the time, was the sports biggest star and the WBO titlist), there was a catchweight in place.
If an agreement isn’t made, the WBC could call for a purse-bid and with Golovkin being the WBC interim titlist by virtue of beating Marco Antonio Rubio in Oct. of 2014) the purse split wouldn’t be the standard 75/25 but much closer to 50/50. At that point, you’d think Golden Boy and Alvarez would just walk away and go about their business.
Perhaps there is a scenario in which Golden Boy and K2, who did business last October when Golovkin unified his WBA belt against then-IBF titlist David Lemieux, come up with a plan to have them meet at some point in 2017 (yeah, I can hear your groaning now). The reality is Golden Boy Promotions has a cash cow in Alvarez and he is clearly their franchise fighter. At age 25, time is on their side. Golovkin, who just turned 34, has to have much more of a sense of urgency and it’s not clear if he’ll be able to entice WBO beltholder Billy Joe Saunders into the ring as he continues his quest for “all the belts.”
Speaking of belts, when was the last time – if ever – a marquee Mexican star abdicated his WBC belt without moving up in weight or retiring? It’s one thing for a Riddick Bowe of years past to dump his into the garbage can but the WBC belt is the one that specifically holds the most meaning to Mexican fighters and their fans. Again, Alvarez is that rare fighter who transcends the belts but how this will be received by the masses?
On his end, Golovkin is that rare, non-Mexican fighter who has gained the support of this constituency. The large majority of the 16,353 that came out to see him blow out Dominic Wade at the Forum in Los Angeles on April 23 were of Mexican descent. “Mexicans for Golovkin” is more than just a catchy T-shirt. This isn’t Guillermo Rigondeaux here; this is a boxer with a real fan-base, who absolutely brings something to the table, in terms of recognition and marketability.
After this weekend, it’s evident that it’s not if but when Alvarez and Golovkin share a ring again. There’s a reason a mogul like Jerry Jones (who happens to have a nice, big stadium in Arlington, Texas) was in attendance on Saturday night and hosted Golovkin at a Dallas Cowboys game last fall.
De La Hoya promised to call Loeffler by the end of the weekend (and my understanding is that he did). The process is now underway. Golovkin has made his intentions clear and Alvarez threw down a gauntlet of sorts after dispatching Khan.
“Canelo’s a true champion; he’s a real middleweight champion,” stated Loeffler. “I don’t think he’s going to back down from anybody.”
– The announced attendance for Canelo-Khan at the T-Mobile Arena was 16,540 (the venue which has a capacity of 20,000, was set at 18,000 for this event) but you could see rows of empty seats in certain sections. Truth is, the tickets were overpriced from the get go of this promotion and, in the week’s leading into May 7, many sections had prices reduced and, suddenly, tickets that weren’t available became so. In the few days leading into this fight, $800 seats could be had for around $200 from brokers.
Alvarez is a major attraction but even he will be affected by tickets that are a bit pricey. Even in reducing prices late, this is still a problem – for out-of-town fans. They have lost the window to buy more affordable plane tickets and secure lodging.
In recent years, a ticket broker has told me that Vegas tickets are way out-of-whack and have, for some reason, risen considerably.
– Speaking of the T-Mobile Arena, it certainly is a classy joint with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a brand new, 21st century building. And as you take the short walk from the MGM Grand (which was the host hotel for this fight), you’ll see an “LA Live” like setting with various restaurants and bars leading up to the Toshiba Plaza (where Friday’s weigh-in took place) and the building itself.
Now, here’s the irony: The T-Mobile Arena had shaky internet reception/connections, which had many members of press row and fans grousing.
– Both David Lemieux and Curtis Stevens came out victorious on this undercard (defeating Glen Tapia and Patrick Teixeira, respectively, with ease), so how ’bout a fight between them? Tell me this doesn’t excite you! You have two hard-hitting and fan-friendly middleweights who both need to continue to build their cases as they go back up the ladder. This fight was actually discussed seriously a couple of years ago and was slated to be the co-feature to Sergey Kovalev-Adonis Stevenson and, well…you know the rest…
Frankie Gomez blanked Mauricio Herrera over 10 rounds. I still think he’s best served at 140 (as does his trainer, Freddie Roach)…Diego De La Hoya continues to improve with each and every outing…Jason Quigley easily outpointed James De La Rosa but he still has a lot of rough edges to iron out…I thought Erik Ruiz did enough to edge out Horacio Garcia on Friday night in a hard-fought draw…Petr Petrov vs. Marvin Quintero was a good scrap for as long as it lasted…As long as LeBron James is in the Eastern Conference, his teams will just keep going to the Finals, right?…With me being in Las Vegas last week from Tuesday to Sunday, I have a ton to catch up on my DVR, including ABC’s “Scandal,” “Nashville” and “Dr. Ken,” FOX’s “Empire,” HBO’s “Vice” and a few shows that I know I forgot about…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.