When it comes to Saul Alvarez, one thing appears certain.
One clear defeat doth not a pay-per-view attraction spoil.
Though he was a majority loser after a desultory 12-round dance with Floyd Mayweather Jr. last September in Las Vegas, the 23-year-old Mexican redhead has by no means reached the end of the line when it comes to stoking the desires of premium cable television network executives.
Ample evidence of that reality comes Saturday night at the MGM Grand, where “Canelo” returns to the top of the marquee in a comeback encounter with fellow Mexican slugger Alfredo Angulo that will headline a four-bout card to be broadcast by Showtime beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
The appearance is Alvarez’s first since a Mayweather event that included a hyperbolic 10-city press tour beforehand and yielded a record gross revenue of $150 million after generating 2.2 million PPV buys.
And while long-proven interest in the pound-for-pound king played a significant role in the windfall, Showtime boxing czar Stephen Espinoza is quick to point out that Alvarez’s stature in the promotion’s success went far beyond the simply symbolic—and his burgeoning popularity shows no signs of wane.
“From every indication we’ve seen, he has benefited from the exposure and his fanbase is continuing to grow exponentially,” Espinoza says. “We’re still seeing massive traffic as far as he’s concerned. We’re seeing fans clamoring for autographs at his public appearances and the viewership numbers are strong for the shows and the online pieces with which he’s involved.
“His star power continues to grow and he has a long, long career ahead of him.”
Which begs the question, assuming Saturday night goes as planned—Alvarez was a 9-to-1 favorite, as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Vegas Insider—where exactly could that career take him?
Espinoza suggests a long and fruitful run at 154 pounds is the most likely sequence for the short term, while teasing the possibility of a lucrative ladder climb to face a reigning middleweight title claimant.
“He’s not short on possibilities,” he says. “My expectation in the near future is that he’ll stay at 154. There are plenty of options for him in the weight class. Making 154 is no problem; it’s where he feels comfortable and there’s no reason to rush. Having said that, the results of other fights could make some great matches possible at 160 pounds.”
Of specific interest toward that end, the June 7 meeting between Sergio Martinez and Miguel Cotto for the WBC’s middleweight championship—both for name recognition and physical comparisons.
Martinez, who stands 5’10”, began his career as a welterweight and weighed 153.25 pounds for a fight as recently as 2009, while the 5’7” Cotto started as a 140-pounder and was the WBA’s titleholder at 154 pounds until losing the belt to Mayweather in 2012.
What is the most intriguing Canelo fight?
Alvarez, at 5’9”, weighed 139 for his pro debut in 2005 and was still at 147 in 2010.
“Martinez, or Cotto if he wins, would be a great matchup,” Espinoza says.
“There’s been conversation about 168-pounders or some of the bigger guys at 160, but the reality is that he’s not really the same physical stature of Ward or some of those other 168-pounders. There’s no shortage of opponents at 154 or 160.”
And for those who missed out on last year’s circus, a reunion with Mayweather is on the table, too, particularly if Alvarez’s activity in the next 12 months—read: becoming middleweight champion—convinces people that a second go-round might be different than the first.
“In the long run, I think we may see a rematch if circumstances warrant,” Espinoza says. “Stylistically, it may make sense to put them in the ring again, if there’s a chance the result could change.”
NOTE: All quotes were obtained firsthand.