Canelo vs Golovkin: Four Steps To Make It The Event Of The Year

Louis C. K. has a good bit about how words are neither good nor bad, but just happen to become good or bad depending on how people use them. Then he explains his desire to take back some words that have turned offensive over time—words like faggot, cunt, and nigger—and start using them in an appropriate manner. “I would never call a gay guy a faggot, unless he’s being a faggot,” is both the opening and the crux of his argument. What he’s getting at is that even if people use certain words in a wrong way, that shouldn’t mean no one gets to use them anymore; instead, the situation should be considered an opportunity to start using those words the right way.

It wasn’t long ago that Oscar de la Hoya and Canelo Alvarez made the rounds at media pressers riffing on Louis C. K.’s argument, complaining about Floyd Mayweather Jr. holding hostage and abusing the coveted Cinco de Mayo and 16 de Septiembre fighting dates by staging mismatches instead of thrilling fights. Along with their rants came promises that once Canelo took over as Boxing’s Biggest Superstar, he would take back those dates, allowing boxing fans to once again celebrate the long-misappropriated Mexican holidays with healthy doses of ring violence, as opposed to Mayweather’s string of glorified sparring sessions.

Canelo vs Junior: not a glorified sparring session?

By the time 2016 rolled around, Money May’s retirement along with Manny Pacquiao’s receding relevance granted Canelo full reign over North American boxing. However, the Alvarez era didn’t have the most auspicious of starts: his first headlining spot on Cinco de Mayo saw him take on a guy whose chin these days can’t be distinguished from Reginald Denny’s windshield. Canelo then followed that with a spectacular performance last September at Cowboys Stadium in front of over 51,000 fans, the drawback being that 50,000 of them had never heard of his opponent. Finally, just a few days ago, he met the so-called “Son of the Legend” in what was both the most profitable and the most uncompetitive all-Mexican grudge match ever.

It’s not a stretch to say Alvarez’ run resembles Mayweather’s own parade of showcases, but it’s more accurate to call it an extrapolation of Canelo’s pre-Austin Trout appearances, where he disposed of lesser opposition in front of growing crowds for ever-increasing paychecks. Comparing the Kermit Cintron–Shane Mosley–Josesito Lopez run to the Amir Khan–Liam Smith– J. C. Chavez Jr. run, you quickly realize it’s not that different from watching Jordan Belfort go from pushing penny-stocks to becoming the Wolf of Wall Street. The nature of the hustle remained the same; it’s the scale of the hustle that changed.

To all that, add a hearty dose of mamadas and it’s hardly surprising that Canelo’s mainstream appeal is reaching new heights (Canelo vs Chavez Jr. reportedly surpassed one million pay-per-view buys), while at the same time his street cred among hardcore fans is ready to hit all-time lows. Ironically enough, the only thing that stopped the Canelo stock from tanking was the same thing that seemed so distasteful to so many boxing fans: announcing the Gennady Golovkin fight before Chavez Jr.’s nose had stopped bleeding.

Then again, boxing fans are a notoriously difficult bunch to please. If Canelo and Oscar cared at all about restoring the 26-year-old’s reputation as a bad-ass, the Golovkin fight had to be made in 2017. Waiting any longer would’ve put a serious dent on the claim that Canelo wants to build a respectable legacy in the sport; as it is, Golovkin is already old enough that there are some who will give little credit to Canelo for anything he might accomplish on September 16. Thus, by announcing Canelo vs Golovkin the minute the fight with Chavez Jr. was over, Canelo’s team effectively shut down most of the naysayers who claimed Alvarez would never face Triple G, while also allowing themselves more than four months to hype the long-awaited showdown.

Like it or not, this is Canelo’s world.

Whether you thought the move was smart or shameless, the truth is this is Canelo’s world and the rest of us are just living in it. Having made peace with that thought, the only thing left for us is to try and make the best of it. And in that vein, we’d like to submit a few suggestions to help ensure Canelo vs Golovkin becomes a resounding success not only with boxing’s hardcore base, but with the sports world at large. To hear Oscar de la Hoya say it, #CaneloGGG will be the anti-#MayPac in every way, but that’s easier said than done. Thus, the first order of business will be to learn from the mistakes made on the road to Mayweather vs Pacquiao, and apply those lessons to the promotion and staging of what could be the biggest, most eagerly anticipated, and most exciting boxing event of 2017, though, admittedly, Joshua vs Klitschko set the bar pretty high.

Two years ago we decried the fact that MayPac was held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the modern mecca of boxing, but also a venue dismally suited to hold a true mega fight. The 16,000-seat arena saw ticket prices skyrocket out of all proportion, effectively pricing out true fight fans, and letting in only celebrities and high rollers. To make sure that doesn’t happen again, Oscar and Tom Loeffler, Golovkin’s promoter, would be well advised to book a larger venue to accommodate at least a modicum of the ticket demand Canelo vs Golovkin will surely generate.

Canelo’s showing in Dallas last year demonstrated that his star power there is impressive indeed. If Oscar and Tom want to promote the biggest fight of the year, Canelo vs Golovkin will have to surpass the remarkable numbers posted by Joshua vs Klitschko at Wembley Stadium. And in fact Cowboys Stadium would be the perfect venue to accomplish that, as it could be outfitted to accommodate over 100,000 souls. It would be easy to reach that number too, considering the number of boxing-crazed metropolises, think New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City and Guadalajara, that are a short flight away, to say nothing of all the Texan and Mexican border cities which are within driving distance. Forget Madison Square Garden or Las Vegas: Cowboys Stadium is where Canelo vs Golovkin needs to land.

Headed to Cowboys Stadium?

But the issue of the venue is only part of a larger problem of big-stakes boxing: accessibility. It’s too often a difficult task for true fight fans to indulge their passion and watch the fights live. The pay-per-view is always shamelessly expensive while there’s absolutely no guarantee the show will deliver the excitement we crave. But at the same time it’s difficult to find bars and restaurants that will reliably broadcast the action, while online accessibility has, until very recently, been equally inconsistent and unreliable. All this makes it hard for regular fans to take in the action, but it also turns off casual fans who might otherwise be willing to grant some attention to boxing.

The remedy is for the promoters to make the broadcast as easy to find and consume as possible. Golden Boy has shown some progress in this area, playing big events at movie theatres and broadcasting PPVs online. But if Canelo vs Golovkin is really going to break into the mainstream, it will be necessary to take things further. While Mayweather vs Pacquiao boasted of an unprecedented $100 price tag, the truth is that figure likely turned off a lot of people who just couldn’t bring themselves to drop a Benjamin for a 48-minute contest.

If Canelo vs Golovkin wants to right that wrong, those involved should find a way to keep the PPV price reasonable. This will have the added benefit that more fans will fork out their cash, boosting viewership numbers, which in turn will reinforce the narrative that boxing is mounting a serious comeback in 2017. The sport benefits when it tries to reach the masses, not when it retreats into short-sighted exclusivity and shameless cash-grabs.

No more shameless cash-grabs.

Oscar and Tom will likely get sore throats from all the times they’ll repeat “This fight sells itself!” at every media presser on the road to September 16. And while the line might be true when talking about boxing’s hardcore base, it will still be necessary to push, push, push this fight to make sure it reaches the broadest possible market. The fact Golden Boy Promotions has a deal with ESPN to broadcast boxing cards already gives them an edge in this department. This was evident in the lead-up to Canelo vs Chavez Jr. as the sports network featured plenty of coverage of the match both before and after May 6. Oscar and his team will surely do all they can to also maximize ESPN exposure for Canelo vs Golovkin.

Do you remember the undercard to Mayweather vs Pacquiao? Me neither, and probably neither do those who actually fought that night. It was a dreadful parade of irrelevant fights that rivaled the main event in terms of tedium. Needless to say, the undercard gave absolutely no one watching any reason whatsoever to want to tune in next time a “big fight” came around. If Canelo vs Golovkin is going to make the case that boxing is alive and well and getting better, then a solid undercard is necessary, as it will increase the chances that casual fans continue to pay interest to boxing once the show is over on September 16. It will also serve as a hedge in the unlikely case the main event doesn’t provide the fireworks everyone expects it to.

Can David Lemieux beat Curtis Stevens?
Might we see Lemieux on the undercard?

Concussive banger David Lemieux, who earned a one-sided but entertaining decision on May 6, has fought repeatedly on Canelo undercards, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t do it again. Lucas Matthysse’s performance on the undercard of Canelo vs Chavez Jr. surprised many by showing he might still have enough left in the tank to make a final championship run; with the right opponent in September he could keep building his case as a legitimate welterweight challenger. Similarly, pound-for-pound phenom Chocolatito Gonzalez has been a regular attraction at Golovkin-led shows, and deserves to be watched by as many people as possible. Orlando Salido, on whom Golden Boy holds options, would be a terrific addition as well; why not match him against newly signed Golden Boy talent Jezreel Corrales?

The bottom line is the potential for a grand and explosive night of boxing on September 16 is there for all to see. But while Canelo vs Golovkin is a genuinely great match by itself, those involved have to play their cards right if they want to turn it into a major statement in the eyes of the sports world at large. Let’s hope that just like Canelo’s and Golovkin’s teams delivered an attention-grabbing fight announcement on Cinco de Mayo, they now finish the job and deliver an outstanding event on Deciseis de Septiembre. It would be the cherry on top of an already impressive 2017. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.             — Rafael Garcia 

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