So as the dust settles on the biggest event in recent boxing history and the boxing world (including us here at the Heavy Bag) have been hotly debating who can give Floyd Mayweather a run for his..ahem…money, not much has been discussed quite yet about the future of his 23 year old opponent who made this promotion what it was.
The numbers are starting to trickle in, and not only does it now look very likely that, “The One,” will break the PPV buy record of Mayweather/De La Hoya, but remarkable figures from Mexico show that up to 22.6 million or a whopping 77.4% of the watching audience broke the record for the highest ever number of viewers for a boxing event on Mexican TV.
Canelo is a bona fide superstar. 40,000 filled the Alamo Dome in San Antonio for his fight against Trout, which was watched by 15 million people on Mexican TV, and throughout the press tour for “The One” and in the MGM Grand, his fans outnumbered Mayweathers by at least 3 to 1. When you look at the PPV figures for Floyds recent fights, he has a steady rating around the 1,000,000 mark, which shot up to 1.5mil for his meeting with Puerto Rican legend Miguel Cotto, but it was Canelo who helped take this event into the PPV stratosphere.
It seems obvious that Golden Boy was hoping for a Canelo victory. Not only would this have secured a hugely lucrative immediate rematch, but it would have helped cement the red headed Guadalajaran mans’ star status and established him as a PPV attraction in his own right.
However, the result of the fight on Saturday needn’t change the course of Saul Alvarez’ career, too drastically. In the cold light of day, his performance wasn’t a disaster. He wasn’t beaten down, knocked out or humiliated. Arguably, he did give Floyd something to think about, landed some to the body but just didn’t have the experience and smarts to closely compete with the greatest fighter of this generation. At 23 years old, there’s no shame in that. Let’s not forget, of course, that he also came down to 152lbs for the first time in a couple of years, which must have had some effect on his conditioning, especially in later rounds.
In many ways, it’s likely that Alvarez will emerge from “The One” a much improved fighter, not only having learned so much from 12 rounds with a grandmaster, but also determined not to find himself outfought and outthought so readily again.
One of the biggest criticisms that the youngster has faced, following the weekend, was his tactical approach to the fight. It’s clear in his last two fights, reunited with his father, Mayweather has rediscovered his jab and gone back to the defensive style that’s taken him to the pinnacle of the game. In contrast, Team Canelo came in with a plan to try and take on Floyd at his own game, and when it backfired horribly, no-one, including the fighter or any of his team, were able to adjust tactically to find a way into the fight. Future hall of famer Juan Manuel Marquez cited weight and “lack of a corner,” as the main reasons behind Canelo’s failure to make a dent in the pound for pound king, and whilst you can’t always look to apportion blame, and the fighter must take some responsibility himself, one can’t help but wonder if things might have been even slightly more competitive if Canelo had the guidance of a boxing scholar like, Nacho Beristain in his own corner? Someone with the experience and nous to help him solve the riddle, both in preparation and also during the action. That will be a question only Canelo can answer, but perhaps a change in ideas is necessary now that he’s stepping up to the very highest level.
A good thing is, with youth on his side, and having taken very little punishment either this weekend, or indeed throughout his career (despite turning pro at just 15 years old and having fought nearly as many pro fights as 37 year old Floyd), Canelo can fight again quickly. He doesn’t need months off to recover from injury or mental scarring. In fact, he could probably benefit from getting back in the ring ASAP and perhaps even grabbing a belt in the process.
An obvious and realistic target is Carlos Molina, who claimed the IBF 154lb strap in a borefest fight that stunk out the MGM at the weekend. Molina would surely be easy meat for Alvarez, and would likely welcome the payday. It’s feasible that this could be made for sometime as early as January, and if, as expected, Canelo won in style, it could set up another big event for him potentially in May. If the rumoured fight between Amir Khan and Floyd Mayweather ended up taking place in the UK rather than Las Vegas in May, what better way to bump up the PPV figures for Showtime than making it a double header with a Canelo fight in Vegas for Cinco De Mayo? If Floyd isn’t in town then Vegas would welcome Alvarez with open arms and the tens of thousands of fans he’d bring into the city. This could be the answer to Showtime’s potential struggles with selling a Khan/Mayweather fight as a standalone PPV adding huge value and wider interest.
Potential opponents for Canelo depend on his own personal targets. If he’s looking to get the lottery ticket rematch with Mayweather before the Champ retires, then he will need to stay campaigning around the 154lb mark. The obvious route then is to aim to take on the next biggest name in that division, Miguel Cotto. Whether that fight would be targetted for May next year, or possibly the second half of the year, building towards a May 2015 rematch with Floyd, Cotto is the obvious superstar hurdle for Canelo to overcome to raise his stock back to something approaching pre-The One levels.
The big issue for both of those fighters will be weight. Freddie Roach, now training Cotto has already started to talk about the Puerto Rican campaigning at 147 instead of 154, and he’s certainly a small light-middleweight, whereas for Canelo, there’s the opposite challenge. He managed to get to 152 despite doubts whether he’d be able to get there, and the Mexican is certainly capable of stepping up at least to 160. It’s a question of just how hard it remains for him to cut to the 154 limit, but if he can still make it, surely both, him and Cotto, will recognise that a fight between the two, with the winner potentially getting a further shot against Floyd is the most lucrative route available to either of them.
If, however, Canelo is to admit defeat at the weight, or even accept that Floyd is out of his reach, then there’s some very winnable fights for him at middleweight. The obvious belt to target is Darren Barker’s IBF title, not many would fancy the Englishman against Alvarez, but he might be tempted by the payday. Similarly, a fight with Sergio Martinez could be a huge attraction and again a fight Canelo can win. Martinez is ageing fast and injury has taken it’s toll on him. You can’t help thinking that if Martin Murray can give him real problems then a full blown Canelo would beat him, convincingly.
The money fight eventually, could be an all-Mexican match up with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Obviously Jr’s reputation is largely due to his legendary father and careful matchmaking, but he remains a massive box office attraction and if they ended up in the same ballpark weight wise in the not-too distant future, that’s a fight that could be blockbuster in it’s own right. However, as usual, there’s the Cold War to contend with, Jr having fought exclusively with HBO and Top Rank , whilst Canelo with sworn enemies now Showtime and GoldenBoy.
Another tasty fight in the future could be with Kazakh destroyer Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. As with Martinez, there would be TV network issues as both have fought on HBO so far, but (again, like Sergio) with no Bob Arum in the mix there’s one less hurdle to making what would surely be a hell of a fight. At the moment, Golovkin is still building his name with one spectacular stoppage after another, but it’s not unthinkable that in 18 months time, if Canelo has taken the 160 route successfully, this could be a fight that the boxing world is screaming for.
In the meantime there’s makeable fights at 154 to tide Canelo over until either a Cotto or a move to 160 comes along. Cuban stylist, Erislandy Lara is a possibility, Alfredo “El Perro” Angulo would be a fan friendly choice, or again, Cold War dependent, Vanes Martirosyan could provide the right sort of challenge.
What’s clear though is that defeat in “The One” hasn’t closed any doors for Alvarez. With the numbers he brings and the weight of a nation on his shoulders, options for Canelo are plentiful. Ideally all roads lead back to Floyd when the young Mexican has more craft, better knowledge and a craftier corner – but even without “money” on his mind, Canelo Alvarez has many more huge nights of boxing ahead of him.