What’s in a date?
There is currently a territorial battle in boxing revolving around the first weekend of May and the third Saturday of September. The reason is very simple: Mexican holiday weekends representing Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day have become traditional pay-per-view footholds for the sport, reserved usually for the biggest events in this business.
In recent years, pay-per-view king Floyd Mayweather Jr. has taken ownership of these weekends for his semi-annual appearances in the ring. There used to be a time when stars such as Julio Cesar Chavez or Oscar De La Hoya regularly planted their (Mexican) flags on these coveted dates.
Well, as the negotiations swirl for fights involving Miguel Cotto-Saul Alvarez and Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao, the posturing is in full effect for these dates. “Canelo” Alvarez, the brightest young Mexican star in the business, has made it crystal clear that, moving forward, those two pay-per-view slots would be his. In fact, he recently stated that with or without Cotto, he would be performing on May 2.
It seems like this isn’t really about fights – or even dates – but a symbolic shifting of the business from Mayweather and Showtime to Canelo/Golden Boy Promotions/HBO. But it begs the question: Just how important are these holidays to Mexicans and Mexican-Americans? Is it that much an affront to have Mayweather or anyone of non-Mexican descent (such as Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton in 2009) headline on these days?
David Avila and Robert Morales, two veteran Mexican-American boxing scribes were asked this very simple question: Are these even real holidays and just how important are they to the culture? Or are they just manufactured and marketed (such as St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S.) to boost the sales of Tecate and Corona?
Avila, who grew up in East Los Angeles and graduated from UCLA in 1981, told UCNLive.com, “Well, Mexican Independence Day, that’s a big thing in September but Cinco de Mayo, no, that’s more like a college thing. That’s like they needed a holiday to celebrate their heritage and they started doing that on Cinco De Mayo because that was the only date available. If you look at everything, you have where the blacks have February – at least at UCLA – somebody had October and it just went on and on and on and the only thing Mexicans had was May, Cinco de Mayo.”
Morales, who works for the L.A. Newspaper group, concurred with Avila, “I think the bigger one is September 16th because that’s actually Mexican Independence Day and the thing about it is, that’s still more of a Mexican national thing if you want to get technical about it. What I found out growing up over the years is that those of us who are Mexican-American, we still take some pride in that kind of thing and September 16th, Mexican Independence Day is a bigger deal for us than Cinco de Mayo for sure.
“And that’s the true 16th of September, which is the true Mexican Independence Day. So that day is bigger and I know a lot is made of the Cinco de Mayo thing and all that but I really think if you were to ask somebody like Canelo Alvarez, he would probably tell you the same thing, that, to him, Mexican Independence Day in September is a bigger deal.”
(Who can forget when, back in 2012, during the height of the “Cold War,” Top Rank Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions staged competing shows in the same city – Las Vegas – featuring Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Alvarez? Talk about a Mexican standoff.)
Morales grew up in cities such as Montebello, Pico Rivera and La Puente before graduating from Edgewood High School in West Covina. He doesn’t understand all the fuss. “Personally, I don’t get all shook up and say – and maybe I’m not as Mexican as some guys. I’m very American in spite of being Mexican-American,” said Morales, who says his mother was Caucasian, leading him to joke, – “I’m a half breed.”
Growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Avila – whose byline can be seen at the Riverside Press-Enterprise, Unidos Newspapers and TheSweetScience.com – admits his family “didn’t celebrate any of those holidays,” but he can see Alvarez’s view to a certain degree. “I understand where Canelo’s coming from because he’s from Mexico, so that’s a different story over there. That’s like saying, ‘Why do we celebrate the American Independence Day on the Fourth of July? Well, for him, September is a big date. Cinco de Mayo…I don’t know, I don’t think so as much. I think he just wants it. I think Bob Arum just wants it.”
Over the past decade or two, it’s become customary to have cards on these two slots. They haven’t always been blockbusters (anyone recall Marco Antonio Barrera-Rocky Juarez II on Sept. 16, 2006?) but they’ve become customary as boxing has come to lean on its Latin fan-base and casinos have come to count on these nights to help fuel business. “A lot of Mexicans are accustomed to going to Las Vegas on that date. It’s just like a traditional thing; it’s become that way over the last 2 years,” Avila pointed out.
But beginning in 2007, the predominant amount of fights involving Mayweather – who you may have noticed is African-American – have taken place in May or September on those particular weekends, whether he’s fought an opponent of Mexican descent or not. As Mayweather’s power and influence have grown the past several years, they have begun to grate on certain segment of the industry (who obviously aren’t aligned with him) and a portion of the fan-base.
“That Floyd Mayweather tries to hog up all the Cinco de Mayo dates, y’know, that bothers a lot of people and I’ve seen a lot of stuff on Twitter and whatnot; it’s just something that never bothers me,” stated Morales, who added, “Whether you like Mayweather or hate him, if he’s fighting on Cinco de Mayo, if you’re a boxing fan, you’re going to want to see that fight. You’re not going to say, ‘Oh, I’m not going to watch this fight because it’s Mayweather trying to hog Cinco de Mayo’ and if you’re doing that, frankly, I think it’s ridiculous.”
There is a belief that putting events on Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day weekends will optimize pay-per-view purchases. Perhaps there is some truth to that but the fact is Mayweather is the biggest pay-per-view franchise by far and regardless of when his promotions take place, his fights would still be the highest grossing on this platform.
This current conflict seems to be more of the symbolic variety more than anything else.
Should Mayweather fight another garden variety foe, say Amir Khan or Keith Thurman (and yes, we’re still very skeptical of the Pacquiao showdown taking place in May), there is still only one other match-up in boxing that could realistically surpass what Mayweather would do on pay-per-view: Cotto versus Canelo. Alvarez by himself wouldn’t be enough.
And that should be the real point. Forget dates; shouldn’t it be about the fights first and foremost? There have been plenty of fights that didn’t fall on these coveted slots. Right off the top of your head, you recall that Felix Trinidad-Fernando Vargas took place in December of 2000. Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto’s memorable first clash took place in the middle of summer on a late July evening in 2008.
“I don’t look at the holidays; I just look at the fight dates. I just see what’s important, what’s a big fight and what is not,” said Avila. Imagine that; the actual pairing is more important than the day on which it takes place. “I agree,” said Morales. “I do think it’s kind of silly. I think it’s kind of ridiculous people are even tripping out about that at all. I just don’t care if there’s a good fight on Cinco de Mayo and my newspaper wants to send me and all that. I’m going to go and certainly not going to sit there and write a column about how many people are upset about Mayweather hogging Cinco de Mayo.
“It doesn’t bother me one iota.”
While Avila and Morales are Mexican-American, I’m merely “Mexi-Kim” to many of my friends given my background, having grown up in Montebello (where my office is now based) and graduated from Montebello High School (the Harvard of East LA). My alma mater became rather infamous back in 2006 after protesting students took down the American flag, replaced it with a Mexican one and then put the ol’ red, white and blue back on the flagpole upside down.
If you Google, “Montebello High School, American flag,” a multitude of stories such as these will be listed:
OK, back when I attended this fine institution of learning (Class of ‘90), this school was at least 75% Mexican with a sprinkling of Armenians and Asians (most of us who lived in Racquet Mountain and just a block or two from the cutoff point of having to attend the subpar Schurr High School). But during my time here, I don’t ever recall such things as Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day being much of a big deal or even being brought up at all. Let’s be honest; the only dates most high school students care about are the start of Christmas break and the last day of school.
But perhaps in recent years with such issues as immigration reform, there is more emphasis on such holidays and being more acutely aware of one’s heritage and ethnicity.
Or maybe, some just really hate Mayweather regardless.
The United Arab Emirates group which was supposedly putting up hundreds of millions to finance Mayweather-Pacquiao in Abu Dhabi announced it is pulling its offer from the table. Yeah, insert your own punchline…Morales resides in Santa Ana, which he says is the “East LA of Orange County”…Artie Pelullo expects WBO 154-pound titlist Demetrius Andrade to face Jermell Charlo in the spring…“All Access: Stiverne-Wilder” will premiere on Showtime on Friday night…Al Haymon continues his signing spree…Jim Mora to the Jets? Honestly, I think he’s better suited for the college game…I love the staff Jim Harbaugh is assembling at Michigan…Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz were no-brainers for Cooperstown…Great to have Southern California weather back, nice warm and sunny in the 70s in January…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at http://twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at http://instagram.com/steveucnlive.