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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: CANELO VS. COVID VS. BOXING

By Paul Magno | July 13, 2020
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: CANELO VS. COVID VS. BOXING

Saul "Canelo" Alvarez will turn 30 this week. He's smack dab in the middle of his prime as a fighter. And, as someone infinitely concerned about his legacy as a Mexican great, he's also smack dab in the years where the greats build the bulk of their legacy.

A knockout of Sergey Kovalev last November to win the WBO light heavyweight title-- his fourth divisional championship-- should've gone a long way in pushing him down that cement-your-legacy road. Except...Covid-19 came along. 

Alvarez has already missed his traditional Cinco de Mayo fight date due to the pandemic shutdown of all sports. His other yearly event-- on Mexican Independence Day in September-- is now increasingly in doubt because of a bounce back in virus infections within the US. 

Canelo's promoter, Golden Boy, has been vocal about the Mexican superstar's apparent burning desire to keep his September appointment, while also adding a December date. The question is how...and against whom?

There are tons of potential opponents in Canelo's weight range. That's not the problem. 

The problem is that the virus has complicated the matchmaking process to an obscene extent. 

Super middleweights Callum Smith and John Ryder are quality B-side foes, but both are based in the UK and visa maneuverings during a raging pandemic might offer too steep a wall to climb. Had Brit Billy Joe Saunders not pulled himself out of talks with Team Canelo, he may have been stopped dead in his tracks by those same potential visa issues. 

Sergiy Derevyanchenko, who pushed Gennady Golovkin to the brink of collapse in his last bout, has also emerged as a top contender to be Alvarez's next opponent. Canada's Golden Boy-friendly David Lemieux is always a phone call away from being a possible Canelo fall guy and may be easier to bring down to Vegas with a visa. 

As layers of reality are peeled back, however, we're starting to learn that Canelo is not so much exploring opponent options as he's trying to decide whether he even wants to fight in this "new normal."

As Golden Boy president Eric Gomez told Sky Sports, Alvarez will be facing the likelihood of "taking a significant pay-cut" for his upcoming bout. He'll also be fighting in an empty arena, without an adoring crowd cheering him on, without a multitude of Mexican flags waving in the air. And, to make matters worse, he may have to settle on an opponent who is less than ideal for his purposes, just because wrangling a quality, bankable foe right now, in this world as it is, will be hard. 

So, what, exactly, would be the motivation for keeping his September date this year?

Well, nobody is NOT going to take a multi-million dollar payday offered to them, even if it's a fraction of what was supposed to be coming their way. But Alvarez is not exactly starving for cash at the moment. 

Streaming service DAZN kinda, sorta needs him back for them to regain some of the losses suffered from having zero boxing to broadcast over the last five months or so. But, even though Canelo is their $365 million cash cow, the guy will clearly not be weeping over leaving his broadcast host hanging. 

There's the whole "legacy" stuff where maybe Canelo won't want to go more than a full year in his prime without a "big" fight (or any fight, for that matter). But it IS only about a year lost. A year to recover fully from the aches and pains associated with any high-end athletic endeavor.

The truth is that there's no real, pressing reason for him to rush back into action. No reason at all. And that probably scares the shit out of DAZN and Golden Boy, which piggybacked their own deal with the wannabe "Netflix of Sports" off of Canelo's.

With Covid cases on the rise once again and Vegas seriously considering re-closing its lifeblood casinos, the guarantee of a September Canelo fight is not so guaranteed. Nor should it be guaranteed. 

As Gomez, himself, told Sky Sports, "We are not living in the world that we lived in last year." 

Canelo has time and leverage on his side. Waiting for there to be some sort of return to normalcy would be in his own best interest. That definitely sucks for what's in the best interest of everyone depending on Canelo, though.

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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