Can Canelo vs. Chavez deliver?
This Saturday from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the Mexican grudge match between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will take place. Boxing fans in America will have to purchase this bout on HBO Pay-Per-View (meaning at least another $75 or so tacked onto their monthly cable bill). It’s been awhile since a pay-per-view main event has really produced a memorable fight.
Off the top of this reporter’s head, the fourth battle between Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao comes to mind.
Many other times, you get far less than what is promised. The perfect example being the letdown of the century between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., from which the business has still not recovered.
When Oscar De La Hoya, founder of Golden Boy Promotions (which is handling this upcoming event) is asked why many of these recent promotions have failed – not just financially – to deliver memorable fights, he answered bluntly, “Well, because of the match-ups. I think a lot of fighters these days are also thinking about the business, about making the money, about the next fight, instead of taking care of the job at hand and making sure to give a great fight. Instead they are thinking about money.
“One thing that I did, when I was a fighter, is I had a lot of pride and honor and I wanted to make sure the fans were happy and that I gave a great performance.”
To whom much is given, much is expected. De La Hoya believes that concept is lost on today’s boxers.
“That’s exactly why we don’t have champions who people respect because they’re out fighting for the money. When you step in the ring, it’s not about the money – it’s about the fight,” he stated. “And that’s what I tell my fighters and, therefore, you’re going to be seeing a lot of these great champions give us some great wars inside the ring, including May 6th in Las Vegas.
This bout between the two Mexican stars has some real old-fashioned, genuine hatred. De La Hoya says, “It’s going to be (Marco Antonio) Barrera-(Erik) Morales all over again with just two bigger guys. It’s going to be phenomenal; it’s going to be incredible. I mean, as a fan, I’m already feeling that animosity they have towards each other. You can just feel the electricity in the air, especially when you get to Vegas. I can’t wait. I cannot wait because the fans and I know it’s going to be a great fight.”
Oscar is no stranger to animosity in a big event. This match-up feels a bit like his 2002 match-up against Fernando Vargas, who he vanquished in 11 rounds in a memorable affair at the Mandalay Bay. “It actually does. You hit it right on the nail’s head, with the animosity, the whole build-up. These guys are talking a lot and they don’t like each other. So Canelo really wants to hurt him and the comments Chavez has made, I mean, there’s bad blood.”
(Ironically, De La Hoya-Vargas was labeled just that – “Bad Blood.”)
As you go back and look at De La Hoya’s career, he was consistently involved in very good fights on the pay-per-view platform (while appearing on “regular” HBO once-in-awhile). His bouts against Vargas, Ike Quartey and Shane Mosley were his most memorable bouts and his victories over Rafael Ruelas, Genaro Hernandez and Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. were his most dominant outings. The “Golden Boy” was a pay-per-view franchise and was involved in some of the most lucrative events in boxing history. He was such an icon that he helped launch the careers of both the “Pac-Man” and “Money” into different stratospheres by facing them later in his career.
The one fight he recalls with most regret (and his most critically panned performance) is the bout against Felix “Tito” Trinidad in September of 1999. Building an early lead by boxing around the hard-hitting Puerto Rican star, De La Hoya then squandered his lead on the scorecards and suffered his first professional loss. When asked if he would do anything different, he answered, “Absolutely, I would go out there and knock him out. That’s the one fight I really remember forever because I know I could’ve knocked him out. I know it was easy for me. The first five rounds were a breeze.”
So why did he go into a full-blown “four corner” offense?
He explained, “Look, the late Gil Clancy, I respect him. I love him. May he rest in peace. For three months in camp, all we were doing was boxing on my toes and all he would tell me is, ‘Move away from his power because the kid is strong, OK?’ And, in my mind, I’m thinking, ‘OK, I can take a punch and I’m strong, as well.’ But out of respect for your trainer, you don’t talk back. So after the ninth round, Gil Clancy, every time I would get back to my corner, Gil Clancy would say, ‘Kid, you better stay away from him. You have the fight won.’ And that’s exactly what I did.”
Alvarez is the significant betting favorite going into this fight. Should he emerge victorious, will he then face IBF/WBA/WBC middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin in the fall? And does it help the cause that Golovkin will not be fighting in June as had been speculated?
“It does,” says De La Hoya, who foresaw great things for boxing after a rather tepid 2016. “2017, we have a tremendous opportunity to have the best year in boxing in recent years with Canelo-Chavez, with Anthony Joshua-(Wladimir) Klitschko, with a possibility of Canelo-”Triple G” in September. I mean, boxing can be back in a big way.
“So, as a promoter, that’s my responsibility and – believe me – I’m not going to let nobody down.”
For now, the onus is on Alvarez and Chavez to deliver.
A memorable heavyweight scrap took place in front of 90,000-plus patrons (yeah, you read that correctly) at Wembley Stadium in England on Saturday, that saw Anthony Joshua successfully defend his IBF title (and win the vacant WBA title) by stopping Wladimir Klitschko in the 11th round.
Not sure where this ranks all-time. You historians can argue all that stuff. It says here that it didn’t have quite the sustained level of action and violence of, say, “The Thrilla in Manila” (Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier III) or Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield I but it’s probably the best heavyweight title tilt I can recall since Sergei Liakhovich and Lamon Brewster went at it in April of 2006 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Regardless, this was a fight that actually surpassed expectations and created a palpable buzz around the world. ESPN actually featured a long segment on Joshua-Klitschko on “SportsCenter,” that not only included clips of the fight but sound bites from both fighters at the post-fight press conference. Whaddaya know? A heavyweight title fight that was worthy of such coverage.
In just 19 fights, Joshua just might be the biggest global star in boxing. Not only is he a bona fide draw but this event was shown around the globe and both Showtime (live) and HBO (via tape delay) broadcast the fight on Saturday. The future seems limitless for him at age 27.
Much can be said about him – and will – in the years to come but kudos have to be given to the 41-year-old Klitschko, who probably earned more respect in losing valiantly than in his last 10 title defenses combined. While he had crafted a Hall-of-Fame career, he had failed to really capture the imagination of the public at large. But on this electric night in the U.K., Klitschko showed championship mettle that many doubted ever existed.
It shows that, in boxing, how you lose is every bit as important as how you win.
Against Joshua, Klitschko won in losing.
I really like the undercard fight between Lucas Matthysse and Emmanuel Taylor on the Canelo-Chavez bill…Will be in Vegas for much of the week covering this card for RingTV.com alongside Beto Duran and Doug Fischer. (Yes! The “Three Amigos” reunite!)…Casey Ramos got some tough rounds in versus Miguel Beltran on the UniMas card, Friday night…The NFL Draft remains great television after all these years…What in the world are the Chicago Bears thinking?…Does Doc Rivers need to update his resume?…Thinking about going to next year’s Fyre Festival. Should I pull the trigger on it?…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.