“I have not let you down. I respect the sport and I will always be a clean fighter.”
By uttering these words—with a straight, if contrite, face—Saul Alvarez finally put 2018’s biggest boxing event out of its misery. His words may have failed to convince anyone not already on his side of his innocence, but at least they showed Canelo is very much a man of the times. In a post-truth world, you can say anything you want, no matter how at odds it may be with the cold, hard truth, as long as you appear to believe it yourself.
Nevertheless, the cold, hard fact remains that the Mexican failed two anti-doping tests back in February. Whether he ingested Clenbuterol intentionally or not we may never know with any certainty. But, to everyone’s surprise, that was more than enough for the Nevada State Athletic Commission to determine (albeit not yet officially) that Canelo shouldn’t be allowed to partake in a high-stakes, big bucks rematch with middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. At least not on the upcoming Cinco de Mayo holiday. Canelo vs Golovkin II is officially not happening. Who knows if it ever will.
To most fight fans, this is the most lenient of punishments the NSAC could possibly impose. As such, reaction in social media was mixed once Canelo announced his withdrawal from the bout. On the one hand, everyone seems to agree it was about time Alvarez—the shot caller, the kingpin, the moneymaker, the Big Boxing Kahuna—met with some resistance from the universe as he runs roughshod over the world of prizefighting. On the other hand, fight fans know that quality, best-vs-best match-ups are the exception now in boxing and not the rule, and thus seeing one of them cancelled naturally provokes disappointment, especially for those, like Yours Truly, who had already booked flights and hotels for the trip to Vegas.
Still, ever since Canelo became a boxing supernova—his money-making prowess rivaled only by Anthony Joshua’s at the moment—his shenanigans can be better characterized as a never-ending loop of mamadas. Fighting cherry-picked opponents at catchweights; dumping belts instead of defending them; procrastinating on meeting top opponents, while at the same time proclaiming to be boxing’s savior–all of this has drastically changed the public’s perception of the ginger from Jalisco.
While the Mexican was once considered an ambitious king in waiting, an old-school warrior eager to prove his worth as a fighter, these days he’s derided by many in much the same way Floyd Mayweather Jr. was at his zenith (or is it nadir?). The comparison has become so fitting that at this point the primary difference between Money May and Canelo is that Floyd never got caught cheating. We can speculate on the why until we’re blue in the face: was Floyd smarter about his training methods than Canelo, or just more congenial in his relationship with the Nevada commission? Or was he just wise enough to stay away from Mexican arrachera tacos? As with Canelo’s failed tests, we’ll never really know the truth.
What we do know is that a) the biggest event in the boxing calendar has imploded due to, inevitably, more mamadas, and b) the person responsible for said mamadas is the same one who proclaimed to most despise them. Canelo’s media presser on Tuesday didn’t endear him to anyone, no matter how much he tried, and with good reason. Any goodwill the Mexican may have accrued by withdrawing so Golovkin and his promoter can get to the business of finding a substitute opponent was immediately offset by his self-serving and absolutely tone-deaf declaration that Golovkin was using the two failed tests as an excuse to not face him a second time, a statement somehow ignoring both the fact Golovkin already fought him last year (and defeated him, in the eyes of most), and the obvious incentive of consecutive career-high paydays for the Kazakh.
And so this is the way the Cinco de Mayo rematch ends, not with a bang but a whine. But prizefighting, like show business, has to go on, with or without Canelo vs Golovkin 2. While GGG remains in training and looks forward to mounting a record-tying 20th defense of his middleweight titles in Vegas on May 5, his promoter Tom Loeffler is also hard at work trying to secure a replacement opponent. Several names have popped up, but the most worthy among them are also the least likely to get the call. Billy Joe Saunders, a titlist himself, followed his usual routine of causing a ruckus in social media and then disappearing once things threatened to take a serious turn (in his defense, he is still healing from a hand injury). Meanwhile, Danny Jacobs is tied up with an upcoming fight on HBO against, allegedly, another middleweight.
Super middleweight belt-holder Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez has also raised his hand, and does hold significant pull with the all-important Mexican audience, but he represents too much risk for Golovkin at this point. The Kazakh would have to climb up in weight and face a southpaw on four weeks’ notice. While Triple G is rightly pissed at Canelo for flushing their megafight down the drain, at almost 36 and in the twilight of his career he’s not about to risk his undefeated record–and with it, the possibility of rescheduling the highly lucrative rematch–just for the sake of legacy.
So those of us who were looking forward to a thrilling, competitive fight on Cinco de Mayo, one of the two holiest of nights on the boxing calendar, will have to settle for seeing Golovkin fight someone who, were it not for Canelo’s failed tests, wouldn’t even register on most fans’ radars. The front runner to land the gig is Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan, a come-forward, action fighter whose heart, as big as it is, can’t fill the gaps in his boxing game. If he lands the job, it will be the opportunity of a lifetime for the endearing, mustachioed Irishman; it will also more than likely make it a short night at the fights for everyone involved.
In that scenario, any benefit Golovkin derives from staying active will be due more to his having endured yet another training camp than from anything that happens in the ring on May 5. And so those who keep a running tab of Canelo’s antics will add yet another entry to that list: by the time the rematch between Alvarez and Golovkin happens (if it ever does), the Kazakh will be even further past his best before date than he is now, giving Canelo even more leverage than he already enjoys. While that sounds less like an accusation than a tautology, the fact that it is already being bandied about by fans on social media is yet another sign of just how much bad faith Canelo has generated in the boxing community.
The kind of shenanigans Canelo and his team have engaged in in the last few years are cringe-worthy at best and deplorable at worst. But failing the anti-doping tests might prove the last straw; it’s the kind of stuff that tarnishes reputations and stains legacies forever. Boxing fans are keenly aware they’re being duped most of the time, especially by the sport’s brightest stars; having factual evidence of foul play instantly makes the charade painfully real. Make no mistake, Canelo’s money-making prowess will pick up where it left off once the NSAC’s sanctions are done with; there’s no such thing as bad publicity and all that. But as far as his stated desire to build an enduring legacy, to give fans the fights they want to see, and to “take back” the Mexican holidays that he accused Mayweather of holding hostage, well, let’s just say all the monkey business surrounding his career makes Canelo look less and less like the saviour of boxing, and more and more like the King of Mamadas.
That being said, and contrary to what the mainstream media’s “hot takes” would have you believe, the fortunes of boxing are not entirely dependent upon those of its premier moneymaker–for proof, look at the string of best vs best fights that have occurred over the last year, with plenty more to come. No, if Canelo’s fall from grace says anything about the state of boxing in 2018, it’s that the sport is strong enough to withstand it, and that maybe, just maybe, the athletic commissions will finally start taking the issue of PEDs more seriously than they have so far. Whether Canelo ingested Clenbuterol intentionally or not, the mere fact that he’ll feel the hit in his pocket sends a clear message that neither negligence nor cheating is without meaningful consequence, regardless of where a fighter stands in the pecking order.
Thus, boxing has exchanged a big fight for the comforting fact that an army of lawyers, a monstruous bank account, and the combined backing of Las Vegas’ biggest casinos and Golden Boy Promotions accomplished absolutely zilch when trying to shield the sport’s cash cow from the consequences of his own (stupid? willfully devious?) actions. At long last, karma showed up at the Mexican’s door looking to collect its dues, and it proved to be the one time throwing money around didn’t solve the problem. This time, the cost of Canelo’s mamadas could only be paid for with his own credibility, and by giving up any hopes of being remembered as a truly “Great Fighter.” In the end, it will be up to the ambitious red-head to determine whether it was all worth it. –Rafael Garcia