LAS VEGAS – Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center featured history on display, as Saul “Canelo” Alvarez defeated Miguel Cotto to capture the WBC middleweight championship via punishing unanimous decision. Shown live on HBO PPV, the card felt like a vintage HBO “After Dark” presentation with its black ring canvas and largely underground feel in a battle of two proud nations.
It was thought (or at least hoped) before the fight by Cotto’s trainer Freddie Roach, that the wildly popular Mexican sensation would break down and fatigue in the middle rounds. Instead, it was a distinction that belonged to Cotto; as Canelo used a series of blistering uppercuts, hooks and overhand rights to doom the former champion, while unleashing a savage attack to the body.
In subduing the Puerto Rican legend, Alvarez was able to extend his own, winning the majority of fierce exchanges while getting stronger as the bout progressed. 11,274 fans jammed the arena to see the action, including new UFC bantamweight champion Holly Holm – fresh off of her devastating KO of Ronda Rousey – and middleweight boss Gennady Golovkin. “GGG” was looking to scout the winner and got an up close look at the Mexican sensation’s game in anticipation of a 2016 super-fight. Emotional after the wide verdict was announced (Alvarez won by scores of 117-111, 118-110 and 119-109), Canelo seemed to know that talk would turn to Golovkin after his historic win.
As soon as the belt was placed around his waist– making him not only the new WBC middleweight champion, but also the lineal champion, HBO’s Max Kellerman wasted no time asking about a fight the entire world wanted to know about. “I know Triple G very well. He’s a friend of mine.” Canelo spit, “But I’m not afraid of anybody.”
That much shouldn’t be in question, as the 25 year-old Alvarez (46-1-1, 32KO) has already demonstrated a willingness to fight anyone, although he was quick to mention that the fight would have to be conducted on his terms. What this probably means is that Golovkin would have to budge on his insistence that the fight be made at the 160 lb limit. After destroying David Lemieux at Madison Square Garden in New York City on October 17, Golovkin told this writer that facing the winner of Canelo/Cotto was ‘not his dream fight’ and that the only fighter he’d be willing to move down in weight to face was Floyd Mayweather.
YOU GOT 99 PROBLEMS ‘GGG’ AIN’T ONE
Now, the matter comes down to what the WBC will really mandate, for after having dealt with the shenanigans of Miguel Cotto (40-5, 33KO) seems poised to make a Canelo-Golovkin unification bout a priority. Evidence of this was on display last week, as the WBC stripped Cotto of the title for his refusal to pay a 300K sanctioning fee he had no problem with on two other occasions. Jay-Z. head honcho for ROC Nation Sports, presumably orchestrated the tactical move designed to maximize options for Cotto (who was essentially renting the WBC belt). By waiting until the last minute to refuse payment of the sanctioning fee, “Jigga” ensured the WBC’s move wouldn’t hurt the promotion while giving his fighter an escape route. Cotto never wanted to face Golovkin and all but guaranteed he wouldn’t have to had he beat Canelo. Now, the WBC is putting even more pressure on Canelo, giving him just 15 days from now to agree to terms on a bout with Golovkin.
Cotto would’ve more than likely been butchered by Golovkin. He’s now been walked down by a virtual super lightweight in Manny Pacquiao November 2009 and was forced to fallback by a solid welterweight in Mayweather back in May 2012. The same thing happened when he escaped Shane Mosley at 147 in December 2007, which was before he got stoned by a plaster loving Antonio Margarito in July 2008. After so many wars, there is no way Cotto’s 35 year-old face could endure a challenge from the damaging fists of Golovkin. After four or five relatively close rounds on Saturday night, Cotto got on the bicycle he’s famous for once he realizes he cannot hurt his opponent (and has been hurt by them). His ability to move and avoid the majority of Canelo’s firepower was impressive – particularly late in the fight (even though he still took a beating), as he bravely kept trying to win. Cotto’s cherry-picked middleweight run and career renaissance was admirable (if not dominant), and he’ll go down in history among the pantheon of great Puerto Rican champions.
CANELO VS. GGG: A LOOK AHEAD
What a year its been for Oscar De La Hoya, for he and Golden Boy have rebounded nicely following a battle of personal demons and Al Haymon. He signed 80 of the world’s best prospects recently and is intensifying efforts to stage the best fights in the world. In less than 2 months, he’s been involved in the biggest events in boxing and has another coming up on an actual HBO “After Dark” card in Vernon, NY on December 19. Nicholas Walters will probably stop Jason Sosa in the headliner, but its very conceivable that his heavyweight, Luiz “The Real King Kong” Ortiz, can beat Bryant Jennings to become a real player in the heavyweight division.
The “Golden Boy” now has arguably the top attraction in possession of a very prestigious world title and he’ll probably move quickly. Since Golovkin emphatically stated he wants to unify ‘all of the belts at 160’ and understands the magnitude of a Canelo bout, he’ll want to come to terms knowing what a victory over Canelo would do to his popularity.
From this vantage point, a Canelo vs. GGG unification bout makes the most sense for both fighters on “Cinco de Mayo” in May 2016 at the new MGM/AEG Grand International. The obvious incentive for the winner would be a bout with Floyd Mayweather at that very same arena in September 2016. It doesn’t seem logical that a new $375 million-dollar arena won’t be interested in a few 2016 blockbusters, or that Mayweather (who no one believes is retired) won’t be a part of that equation.
In beating Miguel Cotto (a fighter willing to die in the ring that also knows how to survive), Canelo got past an aging fighter with a lot of scar tissue to protect. While Cotto was clearly beaten- he wasn’t exactly dominated (I had it 116-112 Canelo), and Golovkin isn’t someone he’d force to back up or bust up. More than likely, both things would happen to Alvarez, who showed enough overall improvement to suggest he’d be capable of at least ending Golovkin’s 21 bout KO streak. Such a fight would go a long way in reestablishing Golden Boy’s promotional pull, while not doing anything to diminish that of Alvarez, even if he were to lose to the powerful Golovkin. The desire has been to return boxing to its mainstream roots, and to do so, the best must have a willingness to face each other according to fan (not PPV) demand. Canelo vs. GGG in May 2016 would do both. Stay tuned for more details on what happens with this saga over the next two weeks.
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