Canelo Alvarez proved again on Tuesday why he is one of the world’s most popular and respected fighters. He will fight Callum Smith for a version of the super middleweight title in a fight he did not have to take on Dec. 19 on DAZN at a site to be determined.
Alvarez doesn’t need a win over Smith to enhance his legacy. He’s already the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world and has won world championships in four weight classes.
It’s not going to be a hugely successful financial fight, like his two bouts with Gennadiy Golovkin were, because while Smith is an excellent boxer, he’s all but unknown among the casual American fans.
Alvarez is a fighter, pure and simple, and if he has any say in it, he’s going to make the biggest fights possible.
In Smith, he’s taking on an unbeaten opponent who is 27-0 with 19 knockouts and who has seven inches in height and eight inches of reach on him.
No matter to Alvarez, who simply wants to fight before 2020 expired.
After his lawsuit with Golden Boy and DAZN was settled by being granted his release, he signed a deal to fight Smith on DAZN. It’s not a walkover by any means for Alvarez, though I expect him to prevail. But it’s a fight that is risky, carries significance within the division and isn’t all that high of a reward.
If boxing is to get to the next level, this is the attitude that fighters, and their managers, must take. Yes, the business is important, and the money has to be right. But when it’s only about the business, as it is for some fighters and far too many managers, it turns the fans off.
It’s never been that way for Alvarez, who has always been a fighter’s fighter. In the past, his promoters and advisers haven’t always taken that same attitude, but Alvarez has from the beginning of his career been an anyone anywhere at any time kind of a fighter.
Just look what happened at the two most recent fights on ESPN. On Oct. 14, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez fought in a lightweight unification bout that originally was supposed to be on pay-per-view. Then, last Saturday, Terence Crawford fought Kell Brook. It peaked at just under 2.1 million.
It’s evidence that the fans will turn out when you give them the right fights. Alvarez has always been of a mind to do that.
Now, it becomes obvious with the fact that he’s going to fight on DAZN that his real issue in the lawsuit was Golden Boy Promotions and, more specifically, its founder, namesake and CEO, Oscar De La Hoya.
The last year of Alvarez’s time with Golden Boy was a difficult one, and he had a barely concealed enmity for De La Hoya.
It’s in the past and both sides moved on, but Alvarez took a firm stand when he needed to and got what he ultimately wanted: The ability to fight a big-name opponent before 2020 was through.
There is no way for Alvarez to be a loser in this bout, even if Smith manages to pull off the upset. Alvarez figures to be a little better than a 2-1 favorite, though the bout is not on the board at the MGM Grand yet.
But Smith is an excellent boxer whose size has to spell problems for Alvarez. Unlike Sergiy Kovalev, whom Alvarez stopped his last time out, Smith is in his prime and not near the end of his career.
Boxer managers are frequently terrified of bouts like that. Fortunately, neither Alvarez nor manager/trainer Eddy Reynoso have that attitude.
Only a minute percentage of boxers finish their careers with perfect records, and the fans aren’t as fixated on records or championship belts as promoters, managers and television networks think they are.
Give them good, competitive fights with the best available fighters and they’re good.
Doing that is why Alvarez has grossed more than nine figures in purses in his career and figures to be in the top five highest-earning fighters in history by the time he walks away from the sport.
If some of his peers learned that lesson, the sport would be in a much better place today than it currently stands.
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