The first weekend of May and the second weekend of September represent the most important dates on the boxing calendar, the traditional stomping grounds of the sport’s biggest star.
Most recently that’s been Floyd Mayweather, whose last 10 fights have taken place exclusively on the Saturdays of Cinco de Mayo or Mexican Independence Day weekend.
No longer – not after Canelo Alvarez’s decisive, career-best win over Miguel Cotto on the Las Vegas strip. The ink had hardly dried on the scorecards late Saturday night when Oscar De La Hoya announced Canelo’s next two fights would take place in May and September of next year. The symbolism was obvious. By planting the flag on the dates reserved for boxing’s top draw, De La Hoya only formalized what his prized moneymaker had just shown: that Canelo is the new face of the sport.
“The bottom line is: we have the guy,” De La Hoya said. “We have the guy for many years to come.”
The Golden Boy Promotions founder had attempted a coup last year when he announced Canelo would fight on 2 May after signing a multi-fight deal to return to HBO. Only when Mayweather chose that date for his much-anticipated fight with Manny Pacquiao did De La Hoya blink, moving back Canelo’s fight with James Kirkland at Houston’s Minute Maid Park one week.
Yet it’s hard to imagine any fight causing De La Hoya and Canelo to back down now, not even the bandied-about rematch between Mayweather and Pacquiao. With an amiable personality, good looks and a crowd-pleasing style that have endeared him to fans the world over, Canelo is too big to fail. And he’s only 25.
Mayweather routinely tabbed opponents of Mexican or Puerto Rican heritage for his May and September outings, among them Canelo, Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero, leveraging the enormous Hispanic fanbase that represents the industry’s engine room into a vast personal fortune. Yet not since De La Hoya himself fought Mayweather nearly a decade ago, the event that made Floyd a household name, has a fighter of Mexican descent represented the A-side of a Cinco de Mayo promotion. That drought will end on 7 May.
Now that Canelo holds the WBC and lineal middleweight titles, the obvious choice for his first turn as a top draw on the sport’s biggest stage is Gennady Golovkin, the division’s consensus alpha dog who holds the WBA and IBF belts following last month’s eight-round obliteration of David Lemieux at Madison Square Garden. The Kazakh fighter known as Triple G has torn through the middleweight division with a rare blend of patience, technique and weapons-grade power in both hands, fighting up to four times a year in a concentrated effort to build his value as an attraction. The Lemieux stoppage represented his 21st consecutive knockout, a streak dating back to when he was fighting eight-rounders during George W Bush’s administration.
For years it seemed Golovkin, whose nominal title of boxing’s most feared and avoided fighter offers no remunerative value, was too good to get a big fight. He’s thus found a godsend in Canelo, a big name who’s built his brand on a willingness to take on all comers. “I’m ready,” Canelo said through a translator. “I have respect for [Golovkin] but I’m not afraid of anybody. I’ll fight anybody, anytime.”
Both Canelo and De La Hoya made it clear on Saturday they will call the shots in the negotiations with Golovkin, whose pay-per-view debut against Lemieux attracted a relatively modest 150,000 purchases. Saturday’s bout, widely expected to generate at least six times that buy rate, was contested at a catchweight of 155lbs, five below the division limit, while Golovkin has never fought below 158½. There’s no question who holds the cards here.
It’s been a stunning reversal for De La Hoya. The last time Canelo was on this stage, coming up short in a 2013 blockbuster against Mayweather, De La Hoya wasn’t even in attendance, having checked himself into rehab for drug and alcohol addiction the Tuesday before the fight. Earlier this year, the majority of his Golden Boy promotional stable departed en masse for Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions series. Two of the biggest names that remained, Lucas Matthysse and Lemieux, have suffered devastating knockout losses in recent months.
Now De La Hoya controls the fighter who is poised to be the face of boxing for the next decade. In a sport where so much can take place in so brief a period of time, the Golden Boy, at least for now, appears to be back on top.
This article was written by Bryan Armen Graham, for theguardian.com on Monday 23rd November 2015 20.51 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010