Canelo's next fight will be exciting, but is it pay-per-view worthy?
With the ink now dry on the contracts, we know that former junior middleweight champions Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Alfredo "El Perro" Angulo have a signed, sealed and delivered date with destiny on March 8 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
The fight, which will be televised on Showtime pay-per-view, pits Alvarez—the cinnamon-haired rock star personality who took the boxing world by storm in 2013, against Angulo—a crude, unrefined brawler who never hesitates to go to war once the bell rings.
On paper, the matchup seems to be the perfect comeback fight for Canelo, who suffered a huge setback in his last fight—a lopsided decision loss to pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather in 2013's fight, card and event of the boxing year.
But it would seem that, as a PPV attraction, this fight seems destined to flop.
Angulo, unlike Canelo's previous two opponents, is not a tricky boxer who will attempt to befuddle him with movement and defensive acumen. He's going to come forward, let his hands go and try to hit Alvarez harder than he can hit back.
Defense, with all due respect, is not a word that you often see collide in the same sentence with the 31-year-old former interim WBO junior middleweight champion, and Angulo is not about to change just because he finds himself in a high-profile PPV fight.
He claimed the right to challenge Alvarez over two other frequently mentioned potential foes: IBF junior middleweight champion Carlos Molina and interim WBA champion Erislandy Lara.
And judging by some fans' reactions, there seems to be a bit of consternation about his selection. Some of them seem disappointed that Canelo didn't come up with something bigger and better for his return to the ring.
That emphasizes both the promise and peril of becoming a boxing rock star. Everything that Alvarez does is placed under a microscope, and it's rarely ever good enough to satisfy the critics.
Angulo is a worthy challenger, and Canelo has earned something of a break. Mind you, this fight is only a break when viewed in the context of his last two foes.
Both Mayweather and Austin Trout are known for their ability to hit and not get hit. Stylistically, both are much tougher matchups than the straight-up brawler he'll see in March, but that doesn't mean this fight is a gimme.
"Perro" is a live dog—forgive the pun—who has tremendous punching power and guts. In his last fight, he fought tooth-and-nail with the virtually unhittable Lara, dropping the Cuban hard twice before being stopped due to an eye injury.
Now, whether or not fans choose to shell out money to watch the fight on PPV is an entirely different question.
At the box office, at least in the TV sense, this fight has flop written all over it. And there are a number of reasons why.
Alvarez more than proved in the lead-up to his big showdown with Mayweather that he is capable of holding up his end of a promotion. At every stop along an ambitious 10-city press tour to hype the fight, he was swamped by thousands of adoring fans.
His promoter Richard Schaefer dubbed the phenomenon "Canelomania" at a media luncheon held in September to hype the bout, and Showtime executive vice president Stephen Espinoza stressed Alvarez's ability to reach the masses:
In Mexico City, we were staying very close proximity to where the press conference was, to realize that not only were there going to be 20-30,000 people there, but the vast majority of those people were there four, five, six hours ahead of time.
The emphasis on Canelo being the next great Mexican star is obvious. The outpouring of love and support that he received on the trail was only exceeded by the atmosphere greeting him in and around the MGM Grand during fight week.
Throngs of Mexican fans converged on the Vegas strip, waving flags, beating drums and chanting his name with a fervor they hoped would will him to victory.
When Canelo stepped through the ropes in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, fans and media around ringside sensed that something special was about to happen.
And it did, only not to his benefit.
He got dominated by a fighter who was older and smaller but just better in every facet of the game. Over 36 minutes of action, Mayweather was as brilliant as ever, and Alvarez, fairly or unfairly, looked every bit the 23-year-old overhyped pretender that detractors portrayed him to be.
Now there's no shame in losing a fight to Mayweather.
In all, 44 men have seen their name across the marquee from the pound-for-pound king, and each and every one of them has gone down in defeat. Many have rebounded to achieve great success in the fight game, and Canelo is young and strong enough to bounce back in the ring.
But what damage has been done to his image?
Image is largely what sells fights on PPV—just ask Mayweather—and we don't yet know the extent of the damage done to the Mexican star when he got wiped out in the biggest boxing event in years.
All you had to do was walk through the glut of people trying to make their way out of the MGM Grand after the fight—many with tears in their eyes and disappointment on their faces—to see that some significant damage had been done.
None of that is meant to say, or even imply, that Canelo's fanbase will abandon him en masse. But it calls into question whether or not this particular group of people, who went all-in with him against Mayweather, will be willing to buy in for what—in the context of "The One"—must feel like a letdown.
Against Mayweather, the appeal was obvious.
The bout was a chance to unify the junior middleweight division against the biggest name in the sport whom all other current boxers are measured by. When Mayweather retires, he will receive a plaque at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in short order.
He's quite possibly not just the greatest fighter of his era but possibly one of the best of any era. And there was a very real chance—at least if the hype were to be believed—that Canelo would be the guy to knock him off.
That was high drama, and it helped contribute to the approximately 2.2 million buys on PPV—not enough to break the all-time record but more than enough to surpass the gross revenue record.
Where is the appeal in Angulo as a PPV opponent? On regular Showtime, no problem. But when you ask people to drop their hard-earned money for an event, you have to give them, well, an event.
And while this is a potentially exciting fight, it's simply not an event, and Angulo won't be viewed by the mainstream public as a threatening enough foe for them to fork over their cash.
Even if the undercard ends up getting stacked—per FightNews.com, there have been rumors of Leo Santa Cruz and Omar Figueroa showing up—are any of those fighters guaranteed to add a significant number of fans who wouldn't have already decided to order the fight?
Will Santa Cruz's presence on the card convince people to buy the fight who wouldn't have in the first place? How many people is Figueroa—who is about as exciting a young fighter as you'll see—going to draw in at this stage of his career?
There's no compelling backup plan on this card.
Even amongst the people who felt that Canelo was jumping out of his depth against Mayweather—and correspondingly that the fight would fail to live up to its hype—there was still a sense of excitement for Danny Garcia's defense against Lucas Matthysse.
Where is that compelling secondary storyline on this card? There isn't one.
It would seem, at least on this one, that Showtime has overreached.
Canelo vs. Angulo is the type of fight that makes you salivate as the headliner of a Showtime card. But as a PPV main event?
Prepare for a box-office flop.
All quotes were obtained first-hand by the writer.