Photo Credits: EFE / Sáshenka Gutiérrez
Tomorrow night a Civil War is being fought for the soul of a boxing nation.
One man with a legacy attached to his name like no other in the sport – heavy is the head that wears the crown.
The other, the new Golden Boy of boxing, responsible for some of the richest fights in recent memory.
Yet skepticism clouds the bout. As always Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions (GBP) have done a fine job of marketing the fight, though a bit contrived and seemingly directed at a very specific target audience the strategy appears effective and significant buzz is now generated for the clash between the two Mexican stars.
The Plot Thickens
Fair to say at this point fans are already suspicious of De La Hoya and any pronouncements regarding the planned fight between Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin & Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
After all, Canelo handed GGG his WBC middleweight title won in a slugfest against durable Miguel Cotto in November 2015, without ever throwing a punch refusing the World Boxing Council mandate to fight GGG ostensibly to unify the championship.
Skeptics were further emboldened when within days De La Hoya’s interview on ESPN promising a GGG/Canelo fight in May 2017 buzz has been created around a fight on Cinco De Mayo weekend between Canelo and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at a catch weight of 168 pounds! – yep THAT Chavez. Son of Julio Cesar Chavez, the greatest Mexican boxer of his generation and practically royalty in Mexico.
Mexican press has not been as kind to the prodigal son over the years, vacillating between apathy and contempt. They often see Jr. as lacking discipline and the grit his father had. However, with a record 50-2-1 and 32 KOs, he has made a nice career for himself.
More importantly is this. Size matters. Chavez Jr. is 6’1 with a 73” reach. Like GGG, a pressure fighter that hits hard and has competed at super middleweight and light heavyweight! He has even sparred GGG at Freddy Roach’s famed Wild Card Gym in LA in a video that has been viewed over 530,000 times on YouTube. Golovkin is a natural middleweight. A powerful 5’10” with a 70” reach. GGG of course fought Danny Jacobs a won a hard-fought decision, however GGG was far from dominant.
Perhaps Canelo Alvarez/GBP is playing the long game here. They know how dangerous GGG is. He’s the current, pound for pound, Boogeyman of boxing! An imposing record; perfect 37-0, 33 KO. He has one of the best amateur records in modern boxing; 345-5 (some sources claim he has as many as 8 losses). GGG is a stalking pressure fighter with underrated craft known to employ “shifting”, an old-school technique made famous by Jack Dempsey though the technique likely predates his heyday, where by a fighter may throw punches regardless of their preferred stance using the momentum of the punch to carry them into the opposite stance and back again. This enables the fighter to throw punches whilst moving, remaining balanced and rooted.
The Tao of Floyd Mayweather
Conspiracy theorists grab your tin foil hats and unite!
Since GGG was anything but impressive against Jacobs, he and promoter Tom Loeffler will likely have even less leverage with GBP. De La Hoya already believes he has the “A” side fighter. If Canelo/Chavez Jr. brings the house down (and it should) that could mean GBP retains control of the purse and contract negotiations in any perspective match with GGG. Furthermore, GGG will turned 35 on April 8th, Canelo is just 26. Though neither fighter has taken much damage, Canelo has only lost to Floyd “Money” Mayweather, the best boxer and biggest draw in boxing of the last 10-15 years.
How about a brief trip down memory lane for context?
Mayweather had been linked to fight, the great Manny Pacquiao, since mid-2009. When they finally did meet in May 2015, it was too late for it to matter and it was a disappointing fight. The interesting point here is Mayweather signed to fight a man with a similarly awkward style and a dangerous puncher Marcos Maidana the WBA welterweight champion. On May 3rd, 2014, the two men met in Las Vegas. The Argentinian gave Mayweather problems early with his hyper-aggressive style. Mayweather adjusted and out boxed Maidana to take a majority decision. An immediate rematch took place four months later with Mayweather totally out classing Maidana cruising to a unanimous decision victory.
Mayweather made the necessary adjustments and was totally prepared for the style of fighter he was facing. In roughly that same period, between 2009 and 2015, Pacquiao fought Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito, Timothy Bradley (twice) and concluded a brutal series with the great Juan Manuel Marquez, culminating in Manny’s frightening face plant KO. Those fights and that pace took a toll on Pacquiao and could be argued was practically a shot fighter when he got in there with Mayweather.
I would contend that Canelo Alvarez vs. Chavez Jr. is a sparring session and a game of chicken all rolled into one. It’s a gamble to face a naturally bigger man at a weight fully ten pounds above where you are comfortable against a less dangerous opponent. It will be a big money fight and allow Canelo’s team to test a strategy that may be employed against GGG.
It may be that some of the Mayweather juju rubbed off on Canelo and his brinksmanship may pay off in the ring against GGG and on the GBP balance sheet.
Ultimately Canelo and GBP further manipulated the agreed upon weight for the fight going from 168 pounds to 164.5. Knowing the struggles that Chavez Jr. has had making weight in the past and likely banking on the younger Chavez to be weight drained and unable to accept those massive left hooks to the body by Canelo, a style not unlike Julio Cesar Chavez Sr!
The ‘X’ Factor of course is most in the know have never seen a more motivated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. He’s enlisted famous Mexican trainer Nacho Beristain who has been quite critical of Chavez Jr. in the past, he’s made weight with relative ease though he looks uncomfortable and may be upwards of 180 pounds when he steps in the ring, for once Canelo who is something of a weight bully will be the smaller man come fight night.
Ultimately the game of chicken that GBP and Oscar De La Hoya is playing may not end well for Canelo Alvarez who’s a very brave fighter cut from the same cloth as all the great Mexican fighters before him. However, all the money in the world can’t polish a tarnished legacy.