If Canelo wants to shed his protected image he should steer clear of Miguel Cotto.
If you expected Miguel Cotto's decisive defeat on Saturday night to end any discussion of a potential fight with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in May then you were wrong.
And if you expected Austin Trout to get the spoils of his victory over Cotto in the form of a match with Alvarez, you were equally wrong.
In short, this is what is wrong with boxing today.
It's no longer about making the best fights. It's about making the most money possible. That's why the product suffers and fans walk away.
Sitting at the post-fight press conference the other night in Madison Square Garden, you got a distinct sense that Golden Boy Promotions was still hyping a potential Canelo-Cotto matchup.
It was evident in their attempts to create faux outrage over the scoring, which was 100-percent accurate, and with their ludicrous assertions that this was some sort of close fight.
It wasn't. Miguel Cotto lost clearly. He got beaten by a man who (at least that night) was the better fighter, and he doesn't belong in a ring with Canelo Alvarez.
But listening to Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, who handles Alvarez, you'd never get that impression. He told ESPN after the fight:
Definitely [Canelo-Cotto] is still a possibility. We will talk to Miguel and see what he wants to do. Miguel is an exciting fighter. He always gives a great show, entertaining the fans. Sure, you always want to win more than lose, but I still think that Cotto-Alvarez is a very good matching of styles and it would be a great fight
This sums up pretty well something that become a frequent criticism of Alvarez in recent years—that he is protected and has yet to fight a true junior middleweight.
And you'd have a very hard time dismissing that claim. Alvarez has a fair amount of good names on his resume, but nobody you'd consider either in their prime or a true junior middleweight.
Most recently he fought Josesito Lopez, who two fights previously was at junior welterweight, a full 14 pounds below the 154-pound limit.
Before that, it was Shane Mosley, a great fighter at 135 and 147 pounds in his prime, who was at least three years past his best and had lost two of his previous three fights.
And before that it was Kermit Cintron, again a decent welterweight who had lost two of his last three fights at 154 pounds before facing Alvarez.
Even those without a keen eye for detective work can spot a trend developing here.
In facing Miguel Cotto in May, Alvarez would find himself in there with a great champion at welterweight who is past his best and who has lost two fights in a row.
Who should Canelo Alvarez face next?
You can come to many different conclusions about Alvarez at this stage based on his opponent selection.
One reasonable theory concludes that Alvarez is extremely protected and the people at Golden Boy Promotions are not willing to place him in there with a fighter they feel can beat him and derail a potential fight with Floyd Mayweather next year.
They took that risk with Cotto by placing him in there with Austin Trout, and look how that ended. And this theory is buoyed by comments that Schaefer made to ESPN regarding the possibility of a Canelo-Trout matchup:
I don't think one fight in itself gives you a big, big fight. It's an accumulation of things you do. I really don't see that happening. But again at the end of the day it's not up to me. I think maybe have Austin Trout do a few more big fights
On its face, this doesn't pass the smell test.
For one thing, Austin Trout just won a big fight. And he did it in the most hostile of possible environments you'll find in boxing.
For another, the idea that the man who just won the fight, and convincingly, should lose out to the guy who got beaten is counter-intuitive.
But it does give you some insight into the handling of Alvarez's career. All you need to do is compare the relative merits of fighting each guy.
Austin Trout holds the WBA junior middleweight championship. He's undefeated, coming off the decisive win over Cotto and would represent a chance to unify belts in the division.
Even with his win, he's still a newcomer to the mainstream boxing world but would satisfy many of the criticisms against Canelo should he face him and win.
This fight also produces an interesting angle—revenge—as Trout won his WBA title by going to Mexico and defeating Canelo's older brother Rigoberto.
Miguel Cotto is a warrior and a surefire Hall of Famer. He's coming off consecutive losses—convincingly against Mayweather and now Trout—and seems to be on the downslide.
He's still a huge name in the sport with a rabid fanbase that would absolutely tune in to see what could be his final fight.
But he's no longer close to the biggest challenge Alvarez faces in his own weight division. That was clearly shown this past Saturday.
From a financial standpoint, which is, after all, the reason almost everyone is in boxing, the Cotto fight still makes sense.
But a win over Cotto would do absolutely nothing at this point to enhance Canelo's career. It will be dismissed, and rightfully so, as coming over yet another blown-up welterweight who has already seen his best days.
It will feed into the perception that the people at Golden Boy know something the rest of us don't, but many suspect—that they're steering him clear of real challenges so he doesn't get exposed.
And that may or may not be true.
But as long as they continue to peddle these fights to the public—and dismiss better ones—this criticism will not go away.
Want to make it go away? Face Austin Trout, the guy who won the fight.