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Azad Championship Report - Canelo Takes Charge

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In a business that must prepare for life without the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in the very near future, it’s important that boxing develops future marquee attractions. While there are many individuals who hold the designation of “champion” by virtue of a sanctioning body title, rarer are those who have genuinely earned the right to call themselves the best in a division, the truly elite who are listed among arbitrary pound-for-pound lists. But few are those who can truly say they are legitimate draws, those who are truly franchises and move the needle. When they fight, it’s not just a fight but an event, a happening that is vital to the industry.
 
Quick, name some fighters who carry that lofty distinction in North America besides the aforementioned duo?
 
Miguel Cotto comes to mind. As does Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Lucian Bute also must be mentioned.

Then there is Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who may have just cemented his status as a bona fide star on both sides of the border. Yes, it’s true that he must still beat the talented and difficult Austin Trout on April 20th in San Antonio, Texas but who else could tell Mayweather to take a hike when the man who headlines a pay-per-view card on May 4th versus Robert Guerrero simply wouldn’t commit to a fall showdown? Throughout much of the early part of the year, it was assumed that “Canelo” would play a supporting role (again) on Mayweather’s card and then face him in mid-September.
 
When that didn’t happen, Alvarez decided to simply get off this card and headline his own show.
 
“That is correct,” said Alvarez through Golden Boy Promotions publicist Ramiro Gonzalez on March 4th, a day he spent in Los Angeles to shore up his deal to face Trout. “There were negotiations in December where they said I would fight on May 4th in order to face him on September 14th, Mexican Independence Day [weekend]. Unfortunately, he was saying this; he was saying that but nothing was concrete. So today, I came to see [Golden Boy CEO] Richard [Schaefer] and Oscar [De la Hoya] at the office and we finalized my fight against Austin Trout because he never kept his word. I think he was making me wait the last couple of weeks because he had other intentions. That’s what I think but like I said, I have so many options where I can do my own thing.
 
“Now I have the fight against Trout on April the 20th, which is going to be a great thing.”
 
Most fighters would beg and plead for a televised spot on a Mayweather card. For Alvarez, it was becoming an inconvenience, an impediment to his Q-rating in the States. It was important for Alvarez to headline his own show. He simply was not going to be used by anybody to bolster his pay-per-view bottom line.
 
“Yes, absolutely,” he said, “and I don’t want to depend on anybody. I’m very happy that I have my own date, my own venue, my own fight, which is going to be a big fight and I feel very happy because I don’t have to depend on somebody else.”
 
Theoretically, promoters are supposed to work on behalf of their clients but in reality, the overwhelming majority is dictated to like employees and relegated to orders. By virtue of his star power, Alvarez is that rare fighter who gives directives to his representatives. And it didn’t surprise Schaefer that he stuck by his convictions. “He was actually very consistent on that, he said that from the very beginning and so I’m not surprised he did that. We have to understand - and maybe for us, it’s a little difficult - but in Mexico, the guy is like Mayweather here. You look at the ratings when he’s been on the Mayweather cards, the last two fights, they actually peaked with him. Then when Mayweather came on, the ratings went down on Televisa. So [Alvarez]’s like a god over there. He’s bigger than the national soccer team.

“And even though he’s young, he has a mind of his own and he felt very strongly about it, that, ‘If Mayweather commits now, great. I’ll fight on the [May 4th] card.’ We met at the office and he said, ‘I’m going to focus on Trout and after that, we’ll see. And that’s what Mayweather said as well, ‘If everything goes well, if ‘Canelo’ wins, we’ll have conversations to see if we can put that fight together,’ for that fight between Mayweather and ‘Canelo’ for September 14th. Mayweather is very determined about that and so is ‘Canelo,’ hopefully we can get it done.”
 
But will Mayweather, who’s much more of a welterweight than junior middleweight, ever move back up in weight to face a young, hungry fighter in his prime like Alvarez, as he is now in the midst of a record-breaking deal with Showtime? Last year, at 154 pounds, while Mayweather defeated Cotto handily on the scorecards, it was still a physical contest that saw him get touched up and bloodied.
 
So will Mayweather ever get a taste of cinnamon?
 
“I don’t know,” admitted Alvarez, who believed it was time to concentrate on his own business, “and that’s why I will not wait for his decisions because those are his decisions. That’s why I came to the office and we have a plan. I’m going to fight on April the 20th and then I’m going to have my first pay-per-view on September 14th. I will not wait for anymore lies because I’m a fighter; he’s a fighter but he never committed to what he was saying. So I don’t know if he will fight me or not, so I don’t want to pause for the same situation. I’m an elite fighter and I’m going to keep fighting.”
 
And Alvarez will do so at the Alamodome, no stranger to the “Sweet Science” having hosted Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s fight last year against Marco Antonio Rubio in front of a sizable throng and, most famously, for having over 63,000 (mostly Mexican) patrons in the house to see Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. battle Pernell Whitaker to a controversial draw in 1993. With its high volume of Mexican-Americans, San Antonio is an ideal setting for Alvarez to continue increasing his profile in America. No, they won’t draw what Chavez vs. Whitaker did but they will most likely draw the highest attendance of any show in the United States in 2013. Much of it because of Alvarez’s prodding.
 
“Y’ know, what ‘Canelo’ told us as well, he wants to make sure that there’s going to be tickets for every size of wallet,” said Schaefer of this promotion, which will coincide with the annual San Antonio Festival. “We are actually going to have tickets less than movie tickets - 10 bucks. Tickets are going to start at 10 dollars and there’s going to be plenty of 10 dollar tickets available. We really want the masses to be able to see ‘Canelo’ because I think we are witnessing something special.” The young man seems to realize there is strength in numbers. In an era of quality fighters relegated to performing in sterile casino ballrooms, Alvarez is clearly establishing himself as an entity who can move the turnstiles on both sides of the border. Former junior lightweight titlist Jesse James Leija, now a promoter alongside his partner, Mike Battah (who formed Leija Battah Promotions), will be handling this event locally for Golden Boy. He says the Alamodome will be most likely configured for a capacity between 25,000 and 30,000. The pricing for this event (which will range from $300 to $10) will help ensure there won’t be a preponderance of empty seats.
 
“And that comes directly from ‘Canelo.’ He wants to make sure that the families show up, take their kids and be part of that. I have to really hand it to ‘Canelo’ for wanting to send that signal,” said Schaefer.
 
Yeah, this is about business and branding but Alvarez also hopes to legitimize his run as the WBC’s junior middleweight champion. His title run is as much a testament to how cherished he is by the organization’s president Jose Sulaiman for his ability to drive higher sanctioning fees than his actual ability to compete at the world-class level. In many ways, “Canelo” is akin to that young pop sensation whose early albums went up the charts and sold platinum but there was still a question of just how well he could really sing. Does he really have the pipes or is he a creation of slick marketing? In the last year or so, there had been a rising chorus of criticism which escalated as Chavez Jr. had a series of more meaningful bouts that culminated in a failed shot at the middleweight crown against Sergio Martinez.
 
He says of the barbs thrown his way, “The criticism is going to exist always. I have to deal with that. I have to live with that. We have to live with that criticism forever. Even though if you defeat good opponents or the bad ones, criticism is going to exist.” Alvarez hasn’t exactly faced the likes of Mike McCallum since he won this belt in March of 2011 but to be fair, it wasn’t completely for lack of trying. Last year, he saw the likes of Paul Williams, Victor Ortiz and James Kirkland all fall by the wayside as his September foe for various reasons. Then as he looked on ringside from Madison Square Garden in December, he saw his payday against Miguel Cotto evaporate as the Puerto Rican was outboxed by Trout.
 
Yeah, the “Curse of ‘Canelo’” was alive and real. Prospective opponents fought in front of him at their own peril.

“For a moment when I was by myself, I was thinking, ‘Why is this happening to me? Why?!’ But it’s part of the boxing life and at the end of the day, I reflected and said, ‘Everything’s going to be OK. Something has to come out well on behalf of my team and myself and my fans,’ and look, it’s happening right now,” says Alvarez, who, at 22 years old, is wise beyond his years.
 
And this fight, risky as it is, is more than just a unification bout (as Trout holds the WBA title). It’s something much deeper.
 
“Besides the fact he’s a good fighter, this is something personal,” explained Alvarez, who has a career record of 41-0-1 (with 30 stoppages to his credit). “He defeated my brother and, honestly, I really liked this fight. That’s why I chose it. That’s why I wanted Austin Trout because this is something personal; besides the championships involved, the WBC and WBA, this is personal. He defeated my brother, Rigoberto.”

SEPT 14TH

OK, at last count, Alvarez and Floyd Mayweather have stated their intentions to headline the highly coveted September 14th pay-per-view slot. So if they don’t face each other, whose is it?

“We’ll worry about that after the fight,” said Schaefer, who made it clear that a potential match-up between Mayweather and Alvarez is still not out of the picture.

Then you have Top Rank and Bob Arum, who have intentions on placing Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Manny Pacquiao 5 on this date. Yeah, history is repeating itself (over and over) with these two companies but don’t count on two pay-per-view boxing cards on the same night. “The industry will make that decision, Pac-Marquez 5 against the ‘Canelo’ fight is a no-contest,” said Arum, who isn’t exactly unbiased in his assessment.

One of the possibilities being thrown around to face Alvarez in September is middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, who faces the rugged Martin Murray in Argentina on April 27th. When asked about this, Martinez’s adviser, Sampson Lewkowicz, told Maxboxing, “We have an excellent, three-fight deal with HBO. [Alvarez] would have to come to our side of the street and come up to HBO.”

Currently, Alvarez is part of the mass exodus of Golden Boy fighters now appearing on Showtime’s airwaves.

CANELO FLURRIES

Prices for “Canelo” vs. Trout: $300, $150, $100, $75, $50, $25 and $10 and will go on sale Monday according to Jesse James Leija...Leija says the return of the “Baby Bull” Juan Diaz will take place on April 13th in Corpus Christi...Speaking of Chavez Jr., who will return in Texas in June, Brian Vera - who is from the Lone Star State - is in the running to land that assignment...The bout between Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne will now take place on April 27th and will be added to the HBO broadcast alongside Martinez vs. Murray and Antonin Decarie vs. Luis Abregu as part of a split-site tripleheader. This means both HBO and Showtime will have competing three-fight telecasts that evening...RIP to Paul Bearer...I can’t lie; I really like “Rules of Engagement” on CBS
I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.


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