The post-Floyd Mayweather Jr./Manny Pacquiao boxing world is in a power vacuum of sorts. It’s two biggest attractions are (as of now) retired, and there really seems to be no suitor who can draw the same buzz as "Pretty Boy" and "Pac-Man". The future of boxing, many thought, would be the young charismatic Mexican boxer Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Alvarez, a middleweight, seemed to have all the ingredients of a main attraction. Loyal fanbase? Check. Punching Power? Check. Good Resume? Check. However, one obstacle stands in his way:
A Career-Defining Moment
Every boxing legend has one. Sometimes it’s a fight vs. an overwhelming favorite such as Muhammad Ali’s defeat of Sonny Liston. Other times it’s beating the “old guard” like when Mayweather and Pacquiao defeated Oscar De La Hoya. And in other instances, it’s an all-out war against a worthy opponent such as Julio Cesar Chavez’s last-second KO vs. Meldrick Taylor. Canelo had one of these opportunities a few years ago when he got the green light to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. Unfortunately, it was not his time. He was too young, he wasn’t quick enough, and he wasn’t smart enough for “Money” Mayweather. Four years later, Canelo has another fight that could project him to stardom: Gennady Golovkin.
Gennady “GGG” Golovkin may be the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter. If he isn’t then he is at the very least top three. In his mind, he has every right to Boxing’s Main Attraction as Alvarez. In fact, ESPN First Take’s Stephen A. Smith once said of Golovkin that “Floyd Mayweather should avoid him like the plague”. He’s never been defeated and has torn through the list of Middleweight challengers with ease. Only 3 of his 35 victories have come by decision, in fact, he hasn’t gone a full 12 rounds since 2008. A marquee fight has avoided him as well, for the sole reason that nobody wants to fight a man who seems guaranteed to knock them cold.
A month and a half ago, Canelo called Golovkin into the ring after Alvarez brutally knocked out Amir Khan. Boxing fans collectively held their breath. Would it finally happen? Would the two best Middleweights in the world finally agree to go toe to toe? The T-Mobile Arena seemed to go electric as Golovkin obliged and stepped in. The scene dripped in symbolism. Unfortunately, that feeling of elation was followed immediately by a brutal hangover of post-fight politics, broken promises, and the familiar fear that boxing fans were once again being played for suckers.
Fight Ducking: Boxing's Unfortunate Norm
In an era that Alvarez’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya declared would be the “anti-Mayweather era”, the Alvarez camp spent the next week going full heel and backtracking on every bold statement they made about GGG, all too reminiscent of the Mayweather-Pacquiao debacle. At the pinnacle of the Alvarez camp’s retreat, Canelo Alvarez surrendered his WBC Middleweight Title -- the one that Golovkin was a mandatory challenger for -- because he “would not be held hostage by artificial deadlines”. The problem? That artificial deadline Alvarez referred to (a 2015 agreement which stated Golovkin and Alvarez would negotiate terms for a fight by late May 2016) was a deadline that Alvarez and De La Hoya had endlessly lobbied for a year earlier. The boxing world let out a collective groan. In the words of SportsNation and HBO Boxing Analyst Max Kellerman... "it isn't rocket science". Is getting the one fight that everybody wants too much to ask for? In a sport where the fans' wants are shunned time and time again in favor of cherry-picked opponents and vacated titles, the answer isn't what most want to hear.
If there’s one thing to know about the average boxing fan it’s that they can be a tad pessimistic. In their defense, they have earned the right. Time and time again, in-demand fights are postponed indefinitely or until both fighters are too old to be relevant. Recent matchups that come to mind (whether they happened or not) include Adonis Stevenson vs. Sergey Kovalev, Mike Tyson vs. Lennox Lewis, and Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. The best fighting the best has become an unfortunate rarity in boxing, as fighters only take risks when a big payday is involved.
Luckily(ish), it seems a grueling five-year wait will not be the case for Alvarez and Golovkin. Reports from various sources including ESPN, Yahoo! Sports and the Washington Post claim that the two camps have verbally agreed to fight.
Cue second collective groan. Again, was 2016 too much to ask for? Apparently so. The Alvarez camp says that the extra year will give both fighters a chance to further their resumes and generate more hype while also giving Alvarez a chance to build up to 160 (Alvarez has fought all of his 160 lbs. title defenses at 155, but yeah that’s a whole other thing). Are the reasons valid? Sure, but at 34 years of age, GGG isn’t getting any younger. 2015-2016 could’ve been the year both fighters built up their hype, yet one camp chose to delay a year. Is the verbal agreement a sign of progress? Sure it's better than nothing. But for most fans, the one year delay is just more of the same.