Saul "Canelo" Alvarez
I can already hear the confused mumblings, "How will a loss benefit a boxer more than a win?" I know that this is an odd statement to make, but I truly believe Saul "Canelo" Alvarez's career, or should I say legacy, will benefit more in the long term with a loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. than with a win.
Alvarez is a very gifted fighter who, after becoming a professional boxer at just 15 years of age, holds an undefeated professional record and is a world champion in the light middleweight division. Boxing immortality is already close at hand for a fighter who has achieved so much at such a young age.
So an undefeated fighter who already holds world championship belts will benefit more by losing to the reigning pound-for-pound king than he will by defeating him? I know, I must be absolutely nuts. There is reasoning behind my madness.
Boxing is in the business of generating huge amounts of money for fights. We all saw reports by Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes informing us of the guaranteed $41.5 million Mayweather will earn for this fight with Alvarez. This type of sum shows the enormous role money plays in boxing, and it is a big reason behind a win being potentially more damaging to Alvarez's legacy than a loss.
The side of the business that is able to generate such large amounts of money is based around the marketability of a fighter. Exciting fights, undefeated records and facing well-known fighters who are known to casual fans as well as hardcore fans can all increase a fighter's marketability.
Alvarez is already an incredibly marketable fighter for his promoters at Golden Boy Promotions. He is a young, strong champion who is usually engaged in hugely entertaining fights. He has a huge following from his boxing-crazed Mexican homeland, and he has an ever increasing profile in the rest of the world thanks to his crowd-pleasing style.
Yet I still feel he has more to gain with a loss? Crazy, right?
A loss may put a dent in Alvarez's immediate earning potential, but it may free him up as a fighter. While numerous doors will be opened for Alvarez with a win, there could be many more that will be slammed shut by his promoters as they seek to maintain that marketability.
A win for Alvarez would instantly make him one of the most marketable fighters on the planet. As the man who dethroned the long-time pound-for-pound king, Alvarez would have a huge target on him for every fading fighter looking to cash in one more time the glory that will be surrounding Alvarez.
In his short but already prolific career, Alvarez has defeated some good fighters, but not many who can be considered household names. Guys like Jose Cotto, Carlos Baldomir, Lovemore N'dou, Ryan Rhodes, Kermit Cintron and even the undersized Matthew Hatton are impressive names for a young fighter to have as scalps on his resume. As impressive as they are to boxing fans, to many casual observers, these names mean nothing.
He has made his name and earned his shot at Mayweather by taking on fighters based on their boxing skills and ranking rather than name. For Alvarez to carve out the type of legacy he seems to want in boxing, he needs to be able to continue in the manner of fighting based on rankings and competitive benefit.
A loss to Mayweather will allow Alvarez to continue to be involved in fights that matter, fights that make sense from the standpoint of competition level. Fights against guys like Austin Trout, Erislandy Lara and Ishe Smith will allow Alvarez to unify his weight class. After unification, he can step up to middleweight and seek out fighters like Gennady Golovkin, Daniel Geale or Sergio Martinez. These are fights that will build his legacy.
A win, on the other hand, will lead to his hand being forced by taking on fights that will generate huge sales but have lower value to his legacy. Fading stars in or around Alvarez's junior middleweight class like Miguel Cotto or Manny Pacquiao. Sure these fights would make Alvarez a huge amount of money, but they risk turning him into the guy who beat up on fading, smaller opponents.
That driving force of money will undoubtedly be too much for Golden Boy to ignore with a win. The pressure will be on them to make matches that seem competitive, but they will only serve to maintain the undefeated record in order to keep the money rolling in.
Ironically, with a win over Mayweather it is entirely possible that Alvarez will go on to have a career in which the press and boxing fans question his every opponent choice in terms of competitive value.
Whether you agree with the criticism of Mayweather's opponents or not, it does seem as though he is looking toward his lasting legacy by choosing Alvarez as his next opponent. It makes you wonder if the wiser, sager mind Mayweather has developed with age had been present earlier in his career, would he have pushed for different opponents?
It would be a shame to see a young, promising fighter win against the odds against a long-time champion only to have his career stalled with a host of mismatches to simply maximize ticket sales at the expense of competitive bouts.