Canelo Lacking Competition

A recent article by ESPN’s Dan Rafael discusses the possibilities for Saul Alvarez’ third fight of the year, which Golden Boy Promotions has slated for December 6th.  His last two efforts, since his one-sided loss to Floyd Mayweather, have been very successful, and his most recent win over Erislandy Lara has secured his place at the top of the division (just below Mayweather).  As if to provide the fans with what they want most, the next fight will be shown on cable rather than pay-per-view, saving us about 65 big ones for holiday season expenses.  When you see the list of potential opponents, however, you’ll realize why Golden Boy is being so generous to Canelo’s fans.

Three fights in a year is actually a very ambitious schedule for a top-level fighter, and both Angulo, and, especially Lara, were very legitimate opponents for Canelo’s comeback fights.  His third contest of 2014 may not be so satisfying.  Rafael points out that the list is short, only three names, none of which are much less than disappointing.  The top competitor, according to Rafael, is Demetrius Andrade, who to be fair, has had a successful and rapid rise to the top of the division.  The next two are less interesting, given their records: big puncher James Kirkland and king-of-the-clinch Joshua Clottey.  Sure, Kirkland’s style is worth watching every time.  He’s imprecise, but methodical, and devoted to using his power to overwhelm opponents.  Andrade has looked nimble, technically proficient, and hungry, but when the biggest name on your resume is Vanes Martirosyan, should you really be fighting the number two guy in the division?  And as for Clottey, all I can think is, “why?”  He’s fought four times in as many years and was never interesting when he did.  De la Hoya says he wants a fighter who won’t run the whole time (as Lara did) but does he want a fighter who won’t punch either?  I’d guess Clottey would probably headbutt and clinch as much as he would punch, and if he somehow managed to beat Alvarez on points, it would be the most excruciating decision to watch since Dirrell-Bika II.  Kirkland and Andrade could be better choices, but neither has been tested consistently enough to have a good idea of what the result might be.

Fighting for the WBO belt doesn’t really make the Andrade match more interesting to me.  As far as I can tell, Andrade is performing much as he did as an olympian in the 2008 games: impressively, but without superior talent.  It’s just a matter of time before his belt is taken, and after only his first defense, it seems senseless for both he and Canelo to risk their places in the division for such a small reward (Andrade beating Alvarez would be like Angulo beating Mayweather, not a good indicator of anything).

I’m not advocating Mayweather-Alvarez II, or even criticizing Canelo for taking an easier fight every so often, because he almost never does, but a fight with the division’s third champion, Carlos Molina, might be a little more rewarding for fans.  Even more exciting would be a foray into the middleweight ranks, as large as Alvarez is for a 154-pound fighter, and especially in the lead-up to the highly anticipated (but also uncertain) match against Miguel Cotto.

Golden Boy’s announcement about Canelo’s third 2014 fight, by coincidence, came just days after Cotto’s announcement that he would not fight again until next year.  This was to be expected, and even if Cotto had taken another fight this year, it’s almost certain that it would not have been against Alvarez, but it makes you think.  Alvarez can’t really expect to have ultimate success in the junior middleweight division because Mayweather will clearly dominate it until his decline, but it’s possible that, given the right matchupsand training, Alvarez could comfortably move up to middleweight and reach his full potential.  Fighters like Gennady Golovkin and Miguel Cotto would make stylistically ideal opponents for Alvarez, and fans would be champing at the bit to see the results.  I’ll be the first to admit that such a venture could be disastrous, but when your popularity as a fighter relies on your reputation for taking on all comers like boxers did in the golden age (and you’re no longer undefeated), why just tread water?  I’ll be glad to see my favorite active fighter in action again without the hefty price tag, but I hope it amounts to an exhibition for Canelo’s talent, and not a confidence-challenging anomaly.

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