On the surface, all is as it should be.
Showtime’s hottest boxing property, a perpetually wondrous 30-something by the name of Floyd Mayweather, spent Sept. 14 in Las Vegas re-establishing himself as the best dual-gloved athlete since the days of Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran.
He’s two fights into a six-fight deal inked in the spring, a transaction in no small way responsible for a reversal of perception that’s moved the perpetual little brother in the premium cable boxing family to the head of the table spot last occupied by its “Network of Champions” nemesis.
Nonetheless, the remarkable ease with which “Money” dispatched his latest pound-for-pound challenger, 23-year-old Mexican heartthrob Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, may actually have done more harm than good when it comes to marketing the Mayweather product going forward.
And if nothing else, the decisive win made the final four fights more of a challenge to sell to an increasingly jaded customer base—which will necessitate the folks in the executive wing getting a little creative.
They Can’t Do the Can(elo)-Can(elo)
Whether the match with Mayweather came too soon on the 23-year-old’s career arc—or whether it would have mattered a year later—is up for debate. But what’s not in dispute is that Alvarez was far and away the most attractive among Money’s practical opponent possibilities.
The kid drew attention when fighting on the champ’s undercard as a teenager and proved his crowd-appeal chops by drawing nearly 40,000 to San Antonio’s Alamodome for a nice attraction—but hardly a transcendent matchup—against Austin Trout.
The enthusiasm shown to him by fans on the Showtime press tour in the summer—dubbed “Canelo Mania” by Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer—went a long way toward boosting the pay-per-view numbers past the 2 million mark. And it’s no real secret that the promotional and TV execs were pulling for a competitive contest that would warrant a rematch—and possibly even better numbers—in six months’ time.
Embattled judge CJ Ross might believe otherwise, but no one else can really make a case for wanting to see the same thing again in the spring, which takes away a slam-dunk option for fight No. 3.
Nothing in the Pipeline
Though Showtime boxing chief Stephen Espinoza was quick to rattle off a handful of names when asked about future foes, none of the fighters he suggested in the summertime has nearly the gravitas that Canelo possessed. Nor would any necessitate a similar 10-city hyperbole tour.
Lucas Matthysse had the inside track to the next fight by virtue of his 3-to-1 favorite status for the Mayweather-Alvarez undercard feature, but his surprise loss to Danny Garcia removed all the intrigue from what would have been a classic bull vs. matador confrontation.
Fellow Argentine Marcos Maidana is a popular TV commodity because of his blood-and-guts style, but only supporters with the blindest of faith could concoct a scenario in which he’d give Mayweather anything beyond a mild annoyance.
Elsewhere, former 147-pound claimant Victor Ortiz turned a few heads with his effort in a Money shot two years ago this week, but a broken-jaw loss to Josesito Lopez and a subsequent 15 months on the sidelines has reduced him from headliner to “whatever happened to” status.
If he were to return to the ring to defeat Alvarez—a bout that was scheduled before Lopez’s upset victory—the perception could change. But until then, the folks clamoring for a repeat of the controversial cheek-kiss/cold-cock sequence are more likely few and far between.
Think Outside the Box
Beyond the Matthysse, Maidana, Ortiz ilk lie a few intriguing possibilities, given the right tweaks.
The aforementioned Garcia earned a high spot in the pecking order with the impressive handling of Matthysse, though that fight’s positives would be best accentuated by taking it out of the flavorless desert surroundings and relocating to the East Coast, where Garcia is more of a known product.
It’s easy to envision the youngster’s Philadelphia connections helping to sell out a date at Madison Square Garden or Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, or perhaps even his hometown’s own Citizens Bank Park.
While it wouldn’t make the fight any more competitive, a backyard locale could add juice to the runup and maximize the blowhard potential of Garcia’s talkative father and trainer, Angel.
A similar road trip could make a match with former 140-pound champion Amir Khan a worthwhile endeavor as well, especially if it were located in Wembley Stadium or some other venue in the gifted, albeit flawed Englishman’s partisan backyard.
Beyond fellow welterweights or rising lighter men, the most interesting quarry for Mayweather lies in another division beyond Alvarez at middleweight.
WBC middleweight champ Sergio Martinez was the last of the names suggested by Espinoza, and the former 154-pound titleholder has expressed interest in a Mayweather match in the past—perhaps even a willingness to drop back to his former weight class to get it done.
His promoter, Lou DiBella, was in Vegas for the Alvarez match, but he refused comment when asked after the fight if he’d had any discussions regarding his man and Mayweather.
Where for Art Thou, Manny?
As has been the case for the last half-dozen years, any mention of possible opposition for Mayweather always includes at least a passing mention of the multidivision champion from the Philippines.
Promotional and personality conflicts between Mayweather and his former business partner, Bob Arum, have been the main sticking point thus far, and Manny Pacquiao’s stunning KO loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last winter removed a great deal of the relevance the bout might have had years earlier.
The same boundaries will keep the fight on the “what could have been” list for the foreseeable future, though the perception since the Marquez fight has been that Pacquiao may be more amenable to the purse splits and drug tests that were initially labeled as deal-breakers.
Should Pacquiao return impressively later this year against Brandon Rios, the drums will start beating again. And, given the latent interest that still exists, don’t be surprised if the suits do ultimately find a way to get it signed before the rivals get their matching plaques in Canastota.
Unless otherwise cited, all quotes were obtained first-hand by the writer.