Just imagine for a second how big this fight would have been a few years ago. Julio Caesar Chavez Jr., son of a Mexican boxing icon, going head-to-head against Saul Canelo Alvarez, the red-haired slugger from Guadalajara. Two countrymen; two fun boxing styles; two distinct personalities. No question, it would have been a huge blockbuster a few years back.
And in fact, I thought it still was. Of course Canelo vs Chavez can’t be the superfight people once dreamed of, but still, it’s a big bout between two big names, with glitz, star power and sizzle to spare. Or so I thought. Apparently, I thought wrong.
Honestly, I can’t tell you how surprised I am at the negativity from so many quarters since the announcement of Canelo vs Chavez. I expected responses like, “Hey, it’ll be fun,” but instead such sentiments have given way to quips like: “Just keep being a duck, Canelo.” Clearly, Alvarez’s unwillingness to face Gennady Golovkin has taken even more from the man’s reputation than I had thought. Even a pledge of a September clash between Canelo and Golovkin isn’t putting fight fans in an understanding mood.
The boxing world, it seems, wants Canelo vs Golovkin and wants it now. Not in September, not in some vague, well-marinated future, but right now. If the people at Golden Boy thought they could keep fans happy by pulling out less-than-menacing but still big names like Amir Khan and Chavez Jr. for their man to fight, they were clearly, at least to some degree, dead wrong. (And we won’t even get into that whole “Beefy” Smith situation.) Canelo vs Khan was an intriguing match up. And so for that matter is Canelo vs Chavez, but many fans apparently want more. Sizable numbers of red-blooded fight fans will put their money up to watch this all-Mexico clash. But at the same time, a large chunk clearly won’t. Perhaps more than previously thought.
And if that doesn’t spell bad news for Golden Boy, it certainly doesn’t spell good news. When I first heard about it, I imagined the match doing extremely well in the pay-per-view department. Indeed, I didn’t think a million buys was out of the question. I even took seriously someone on Twitter who argued Canelo vs Chavez was a bigger fight in terms of PPV buys than Canelo vs Golovkin. Indeed, I thought the person might be right. But that was before I started reading the comments from fight fans on social media.
I think part of what’s at play is that there’s a pay-per-view backlash happening out there, folks. A great, big one. Fans have had it. Absolutely, positively, had it. In fact, I know some who would rather spend their money on UFC cards. And I suspect that number is growing. Why? Because, whatever its flaws, the UFC gives their fans the fights they want to see. If boxing operated the way the UFC does, we would have had Canelo fighting Golovkin quite some time ago. Hell, by now they might fought two or three times. Why? Because the UFC cares about its fan base. That’s how they do business, how they generate huge crowds and big money. Kudos to the UFC for having a business model that necessitates the best fighting the best, and in a timely manner.
So, where does this leave Canelo vs Chavez? In a pretty good place overall, just perhaps not nearly as good a place as Golden Boy might have hoped. I still believe Canelo will face Golovkin in September, so I’m okay with this all-Mexico showdown happening in the meantime. Others, however, are less trusting and for damn good reason. Let’s not forget that Canelo gave away his hard-earned middleweight title belt rather than face GGG. That’s something many find impossible to overlook.
There was a time when Alvarez could count on all kinds of approval and respect from fight fans because he seemed anxious to test himself, taking on as he did dangerous challenges such as Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara when he really didn’t have to. But that’s all a distant memory now and no doubt many believe he may avoid Golovkin again later this year. Ultimately, Canelo and his team have not proven themselves worthy of the goodwill they had previously enjoyed. Avoiding tough competition will do that to a fighter and his inner circle.
While it’s true Khan is very talented and Chavez is a fighter who can bring the heat when he needs to, neither man comes close to the kind of challenge Golovkin represents. Or, for that matter, to guys like Demetrius Andrade and the Charlos, fighters who contend down at junior middleweight. Which is allegedly still Canelo’s weight class of choice, though he’s now taking on a fighter who weighed in at 168 for his last outing and not long ago fought as a light heavyweight. While there will always be die-hard Canelo fans who will never turn their backs on the man, serious boxing fans can see the situation for what it is.
This is not a knock on Canelo, however. At least not from me. My belief is he will indeed face Golovkin in the near future. While it’s true he could have done so earlier, I’m willing to cut him some slack at this point. But others, clearly, are not. They believe the man is playing the avoidance game. And all the fights with big name opponents not named Golovkin won’t change their minds. But I leave the griping to them. Me, I’m looking forward to Canelo vs Chavez Jr., a match-up that has intrigue and excitement written all over it. And could end up making Canelo vs Golovkin an even bigger superfight.