With Floyd Mayweather officially retired and Manny Pacquiao on a steep decline due to age, the number one question in the boxing world over the last year has been: Who will replace these legends as the face of boxing?
Although he’s not a household name in America just yet, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (47-1-1, 33 KOs) has emerged from a group of boxers jockeying for the top spot. If you don’t believe me, or Canelo’s Boxing Hall of Fame promoter Oscar De La Hoya, all you have to do is look at the numbers.
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
Since Mayweather’s last fight on September 12, 2015 against Andre Berto, which recorded 375,000 Pay-Per-View buys, only Canelo’s fights against Puerto Rican legend Miguel Cotto last November at 900,00 PPV buys and former junior welterweight champion Amir Khan this past May at 460,000 buys have eclipsed “Money” May’s last fight.
Canelo prepares to face his next challenge in WBO light-middleweight champion Liam “Beefy” Smith (23-0-1, 13 KOs) whom he fights on Mexican Independence Day Weekend, this Saturday, September 17 at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, in Arlington, Texas.
The man who is universally known for his tough, hard-punching Mexican fighting style, along with his cinnamon red hair, is very cognizant of where he wants to go in the sport.
“It’s a very big responsibility for me to be in this position, but I’m very happy and honored to be here,” Alvarez told The Shadow League in an exclusive interview. “I’m very considerate of the people who have supported me, which helped me get into this position. That’s why one of my motivations is to be 100 percent committed to the sport that I love and train very hard to be the best at.”
In addition to possessing the talent which has allowed him to defeat everyone he’s fought other than the aforementioned Mayweather, Canelo has a massive and very loyal Latino fan base. Another key ingredient to his success is the business and personal relationship he has developed with De La Hoya over the years.
As the cash cow of boxing from the late '90s into the mid 2000’s, De La Hoya consistently produced around 1 million PPV buys per fight , developing the blueprint on what it takes to be the face of boxing.
While Canelo is his own man and creating his own path, he admits that having De La Hoya as a major resource and friend is something he holds close to his heart.
“I’ve always had a good relationship with Oscar, and I definitely consider him a part of my team,” Canelo said. “Our relationship has definitely gotten stronger over time, and I greatly appreciate that fact.”
As the Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, De La Hoya is always applying his tricks of the trade to make his protégé the biggest star in boxing. If you listen to any of his press conferences concerning Canelo, you might walk away thinking the Mexican superstar can beat any fighter, regardless of weight class.
But when you take out a the bravado from De La Hoya’s comments about Canelo, one can see that he truly feels his friend and protégé is the current established king of boxing, and should stay on top of his throne for a very long time.
“I strongly believe that at the age of 26, Canelo is a bigger star and a better fighter compared to any fighter out there today.” De La Hoya said. “The best thing about Canelo is that his best years and best fights are yet to come, and I’m just glad to be a part of his team and a friend.”
While many in the boxing world are looking to see what Canelo’s PPV numbers will look like after fighting a relatively unknown fighter, in a stadium which can be scaled to seat 80,000 for boxing, De La Hoya feels pundits are looking for something that already occurred last November, when Canelo defeated Cotto to become the lineal and Ring Magazine middleweight champion of the world.
“Well, the passing of the torch has already taken place - with Mayweather being retired and Pacquiao almost retired, Canelo is the face of boxing now,” De La Hoya said. “He's proven it with ticket sales. He's proven it with Pay-Per-Views, and he's going to prove it once again by outselling Manny Pacquiao at AT&T Stadium.”
Although he has huge fan bases in boxing-crazed states such as Texas and California, which both have large Latino populations, one thing which has kept Canelo from blowing up in America is that he doesn’t speak English in public often.
Much like Pacquiao ten years ago, Canelo has a very captivating and likeable personality, but must get a handle of the English language if he ever plans on being the crossover star that he has the potential to be.
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
“Of course being a crossover star is the ultimate goal and one of the reasons why I’m doing what I do and love,” Canelo said. “Being mainstream is something I want to accomplish in my career. And I feel I have a lot of time to get there since I’m only 26 years old and already building towards that.”
A quick way for him to overcome the language barrier and captivate the general American public is to simply put on a mega-fight with Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. The unified WBA (Super), WBC, IBF and IBO middleweight has knocked out 24 opponents in a row, and in some circles is known as the “Boogey Man” of boxing due to being the least called-out fighter in the world.
After his spectacular knockout of Amir Khan, and with “GGG” ringside, a very pumped up Canelo called out Golovkin, which ramped up speculation they would fight this year. When the posturing and boxing politics were finally over, Canelo and Golovkin’s teams tentatively plan on having the two superstars go at it next September.
If the fight is ever made, it has the potential to be the biggest event since Mayweather vs. Pacquiao.
“I know it’s a fight people want to see, but it’s definitely not a fight I have to have to be a part of my legacy,” he said. “In the end, GGG needs me; I don’t need GGG because I’ve already made history, and that’s why I’m in this blessed position that I’m in.”
Not so sure that anyone agrees with that.