For a while now I’ve been wondering what’s going on with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. First, for many months he’s been insisting a third match with his arch-rival, Gennadiy Golovkin, just ain’t gonna happen. Then, he’s openly feuding with his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya. And on top of that, he’s opted to do the unexpected and make a big jump in weight to challenge battle-tested belt-holder Sergey Kovalev at 175 pounds.
But then, to further muddle matters, Canelo left the door open for a third battle with Triple G after the Golovkin vs Derevyanchenko slugfest, telling Mexican television network Azteca that a trilogy fight was possible in light of the Kazakh annexing a middleweight title with that close points win. Canelo uttered nothing but insults about Golovkin to his Mexican fans, but then stated he “might consider [a trilogy fight] if the money is right.” Kind of an odd thing to say given that a battle with Sergey Kovalev is signed and sealed and Saul would be well advised to not look past the “Krusher” at this point. But why the insistence before this on avoiding a third bout with Golovkin? And why these disagreements with Oscar and DAZN?
What’s up with all that? What’s up with Canelo’s career? Here, for your consideration, is my take on the Canelo situation.
For starters, there is obvious conflict and chaos in the fighter-promoter relationship between Canelo and Oscar De La Hoya, so much so that Alvarez and De La Hoya had to go way out of their way to address that issue during a press conference in Los Angeles held to announce the Canelo vs Kovalev match-up. It was clear both wanted to tell the world that all was well, not only in terms of the trajectory of Canelo’s career, but also between Oscar and Saul. But by the end of that press conference, the real message coming through loud and clear was: “Houston, we have a problem.”
The presser was called, ostensibly, “to promote Alvarez’s next fight and to put down any concerns about their relationship.” And while the headline in The Los Angeles Times the next day was “Alvarez and De La Hoya Golden Again,” there should have been a question mark at the end of it. Are Alvarez and De La Hoya golden again? My answer is a resounding, “I don’t think so!”
But maybe that shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. The fact is there’s a definite chaos factor at play in Canelo’s career right now, one that this odd press conference only underscored. The Mexican superstar is both determined to take more control of his professional life, but seems confused as to how exactly to do that. He’s like a driver who’s at the wheel, going full speed, mashing the pedal to the floor, while not completely certain of his destination. Maybe going toe-to-toe with Gennadiy Golovkin a bunch of times does that to you, I don’t know.
When it was his turn to take the podium at the press conference last month, Canelo stated that “It makes me feel very proud, because I’m someone who comes from nothing and not knowing anything …” Proud of what? We’re left to read between the lines here and what I believe Canelo was saying is that he’s proud to be taking control of his career, to finally be the one at the helm.
For example, it’s clear the Kovalev fight is not what Oscar was hoping to see happen this fall, and not what DAZN wanted to see either. So was this intriguing match-up, which a few months ago no one was even thinking about, Canelo’s doing and his alone? If so, that’s an odd development to say the least. Like I say, the chaos factor.
Here’s some more that caught us off-guard. A proud Mexican, Canelo has made it a point to be in the ring for the big national holidays in May (Cinco de Mayo) and September (Independence Day, aka “The Cry Of Dolores”). In fact, in his last fifteen bouts, only five were not scheduled for one of those two huge fiestas. So naturally everyone expected something big to take place for Canelo last month but it didn’t happen, in large part because Oscar and DAZN were pushing for a third Golovkin bout and Canelo was pushing back and saying, “Nunca sucederá!” And in fact Canelo, or someone close to him, started talking up the idea of a fight with Kovalev at the same time that “Krusher” was finalizing a deal to take on Anthony Yarde in Russia.
But to compound the general chaos of the situation, the deadline was missed for a mandatory defense against Derevyanchenko for the IBF title belt that Canelo had won from Daniel Jacobs last May. Consequently, in late July, Alvarez was stripped of that strap, which in turn infuriated Alvarez. And who did he blame for this? Why Oscar, of course. He didn’t make any outright public statements to that effect, but Canelo took to Twitter to make known his displeasure with Golden Boy. Meanwhile, Oscar and his people did try to put together other matches but Alvarez rejected every opponent put forward by Golden Boy and DAZN, especially Golovkin.
So make no mistake, things are not so good right now between Canelo and Oscar. Even after the big match with Kovalev was announced at the press conference, which was supposed to mark peace and a new era for Alvarez and De La Hoya, Canelo continued publicly criticizing Golden Boy, retweeting disparaging remarks directed at Oscar from stablemate and training partner Ryan Garcia.
At one point during the Union Station presser, Alvarez was informed of a recent interview with De La Hoya in which the promoter stated that boxing would “absolutely see Canelo and Triple-G fight next year.” In response, Alvarez, to quote the L.A. Times, “directed a punch towards his boss De La Hoya and squashed any indication that a third fight with Golovkin would take place.” He went on to state that he intended instead to campaign at light heavyweight after the Kovalev bout.
Canelo was then asked if he and De La Hoya are still good friends and he almost choked on the answer to that question. According to the Times article, Alvarez paused to take a breath and then “halfheartedly stammered his way to a ‘Yes’ before looking away.” Forget the “all-is-well” message from Golden Boy and company; that pulled punch at Oscar, plus the forced attestation of friendship, tells the real story. Things are clearly under strain and stress when it comes to Oscar and Canelo.
But despite the turmoil with his top client, Oscar approaches the challenges Alvarez presents with that patented, Hollywood-smooth De La Hoya smile. “How about these last few months?” he remarked as he stepped up to the podium. “It’s been stressful, but this is what boxing is all about.” It is?
As I say, I’m pretty sure that Alvarez, and not Golden Boy, put the wheels in motion for the Kovalev match. Consider this quote by Canelo from the press conference: “In life I have learned many things and one of them is this: Oscar and I have always worked well together … we are a team and we need to do things together, so everything comes out the way that it is supposed to … We just have to overcome and continue forward.”
“Overcome” what? It’s obvious Canelo lacks a clear idea of exactly where his career is headed, but frustrated with the pressure from Oscar and DAZN, he’s now trying to manage things on his own, something he’s never done before and likely has little expertise at. But the other thing that’s obvious is that, despite the frustration, the Canelo-Oscar marriage isn’t ending any time soon. I suspect there’s a number of reasons for that, and one of them has much to do with young Saul’s description of himself as a simple man who “comes from nothing, not knowing anything.”
The stated intention to stick with Oscar is, at least in part, a cultural thing, as I read it. Naturally Canelo views things through a Mexican lens and while he’s a superstar in Mexico, in America he’s really just another celebrity. My guess is Canelo understands his place, business-wise, and prefers to play it safe. Better to stay with a promoter who, despite the headaches, speaks fluent Spanish and knows the game as it is played north of the border. Better to do business with Oscar than with the likes of Al Haymon or Uncle Bob Arum who, after all, weren’t the ones who helped him score that monster DAZN contract.
Beyond that, maybe Canelo has in mind what happened to Andre Ward, whose lawsuit against his promoter, the late Dan Goosen, more or less stopped Ward’s career in its tracks. Ward lost mega-millions, fighting just three times in three years during his prime, and while his lawsuit against Goosen wound its way through the courts. But this is mere speculation as Alvarez remains a hard guy to figure. After all, he wants for nothing after landing that $365 million DAZN contract, but nevertheless seems unhappy and conflicted, especially about the trajectory of his career as he journeys into unchartered, light heavyweight territory.
Let’s see what happens with the Kovalev experiment. Should Canelo lose, a third fight with Golovkin may suddenly become more attractive, but his ‘If the money’s right’ comment is utter bullshit given the DAZN mega-millions contract. It’s not about the money, it’s about the fact that Canelo vs GGG III, like it or not, just has to happen. It’s the people’s choice and the choice of ring history, as evidenced by the fact both Oscar and DAZN proceeded on the basis it was a fait accompli. It’s a choice Canelo is being pressured to accept and he clearly resents that pressure.
So the question is, if Canelo defeats Kovalev, will he stay, as professed, to defend his title in the heavier weight class? In that event, it would seem all bets are off regarding a third Golovkin fight. But beyond that, right is right. Golovkin deserves another shot. It ain’t about the money, it’s about the heart.
But it seems that in his heart of hearts, Canelo doesn’t want that ride to hell and back again, running from it to the light heavyweight division, all the while talking like he has a conclusive win over Golovkin, like he has proven himself the better fighter. Of course the reality of the matter is something very different. The truth is he ducked Triple G for over a year and then struggled to separate himself from an aging, declining version of the Kazakh warrior. Over 24 rounds, it’s close but clear in my opinion, and I’m far from alone: Triple G got the better of it.
Needless to say, Golovkin wants chapter three, rightfully feels he deserves a chance to vindicate himself from having been jobbed by the judges in the two preceding fights. But there’s the interests of us fans to consider too: the first two fights were battles royal, if I can put it that way, truly excellent tilts, especially the second one which was this site’s Fight of the Year. We’re talking fast-paced action at a very high skill level, both men giving and taking. It doesn’t get better than that. Golovkin wants to do it again, wants to settle things once and for all. Why doesn’t Canelo? Is it out of line to say he’s ducking Gennadiy again?
Besides, it must irk the daylights out of Canelo, just chap his ass, as we used to say, that Golovkin recently won, by the slimmest of margins mind you, what Alvarez must consider his IBF middleweight title. Come on, Saul, get in the ring and fight for what you think is yours! But Canelo has a huge ego, something he’s shown time and time again, especially with all his talk of having proven himself the better fighter. He insists to anyone who will listen, as do his syncophants, that he decisively whipped Gennadiy in the second fight. Again, I don’t think so!
But in any case, first we have to see what happens on November 2nd. Until then, and until Canelo says different, what Golovkin’s trainer Jonathon Banks said can’t be argued with. “I don’t even think about it, because Canelo don’t want the fight,” said Banks. “If he wants the fight, and signs the paperwork, then I’m all for it.”
But keep in mind, DAZN wants Canelo vs Golovkin III, wants it bad. And when you pay someone over three hundred and sixty million dollars, I think you get a bit of say in that someone’s career decisions. No matter how much that certain someone wants to be in the driver’s seat. So stay tuned, fight fans. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens on November 2nd. And then see what happens next. — Ralph M. Semien