Looking back on it, the stage was always a little too big. The limelight too strong. The too-soonness so enrapturing that we all—fans, media and maybe even Canelo Alvarez himself—had to suspend disbelief and talk ourselves into the hype.
Alvarez was never beating Floyd Mayweather last September. Barring one momentary, monumental screwup—something we've not seen Mayweather do for 45 professional fights and counting—Alvarez was there as the latest recipient of the $12 million Floyd Mayweather Beatdown Foundation award winner. (I've suggested changing the title to something more catchy, but to no avail.)
For folks with two eyes, two ears and a working understanding of how the sport of boxing works (e.g. people not named C.J. Ross), the fight played out exactly as it should. Mayweather, the grizzled tactician so brilliant he can more than overcome for whatever slippage he's had physically, dominated from the opening to closing bells.
Alvarez got a round here. Got a round there. But it was more the table scraps left to him by an overstuffed Mayweather than a true anointing to boxing's big-boy table.
Mayweather did what he wanted exactly when he wanted, peppering Alvarez with a series of jabs that made his face resemble the right side of his his native Mexico's flag. With three competent judges at the table, Mayweather would have walked away with his third straight unanimous decision win.
Instead, Alvarez joined Oscar De La Hoya as the only fighter to ever even tie Mayweather on a judge's card. History has already made the collective decision to scrub that 114-114 card from our memories. Alvarez lost because he was always meant to. He was the great hope—the one who played the part of boxing's next great superstar to a T and then shared the fate he was always bound to.
Now, still 23 and probably with more than a decade remaining in his prime, Alvarez begins writing the story of how history will view him post-Mayweather.
Alvarez returns to the ring for the first time since his "big break" on Saturday night in Las Vegas, where he'll take on Alfredo Angulo. The fight has been pitted as a war for distinction of Mexico's best boxer, as Angulo told reporters earlier this week:
Every fight is important, but this one is more special because all of the fans in Mexico will know that the winner of this fight is the number one Mexican fighter. It’s a huge fight for Mexico and it’s a huge fight for Canelo and me. Everyone can have their own opinion on who will win the fight. My fans know what I do in the ring and they know what to expect on Saturday night.
The reality is far simpler.
Angulo is a patsy. He's a far lower-scale version of what Alvarez was to Mayweather, someone with just enough bankability and just little enough chance of winning to be the perfect opponent. The promoters of this fight are understandably pushing the Mexico vs. Mexico angle—because it's really the only bullet they have in the chamber.
Angulo hasn't fought since last June, when he suffered a fractured left orbital in a 10th-round TKO by Erislandy Lara. The injury was as gruesome and unsightly as you'll ever see in a boxing ring—and perhaps proof positive Angulo isn't quite on the level of other top-tier fighters. He's now dropped two of his last four fights.
And just in case you were wondering, those two victories came against guys (Jorge Silva and Raul Casarez) who don't even have Wikipedia pages.
Let's just say there's good reason for Alvarez being a -900 favorite, per Vegas Insider. Angulo was the guy Alvarez's team went to after Miguel Cotto declined an eight-figure payday, and they realized Canelo had to fight someone early in 2014.
Like we did in September for Alvarez, you could probably talk yourself into Angulo pulling off the upset. He's a big-time power puncher, recording 18 knockouts in his 22 career victories. It would just be another suspension of disbelief.
One of the biggest criticisms about Alvarez coming into the Mayweather fight was that he hadn't proved himself against enough elite opponents to warrant the hype. Angulo won't do anything to change that.
What this weekend will do, however, is provide an interesting test case for how much Alvarez's mainstream stock has fallen.
Because Mayweather is the most famous boxer alive, he's rightfully received most of the credit for the 2.2 million pay-per-view buys Showtime landed. But it's gotten lost just how much Alvarez's huge following—both in Mexico and the United States as his hype reached a fever pitch—played a part in all the records set.
Fans were promised the next face of boxing. They got another Floyd Mayweather fight. Brilliant from a tactical standpoint but lacking in aesthetics for the slugfest-loving casual fan—you don't have to look hard to find people describing Alvarez-Mayweather as "boring."
And with Alvarez lacking the bombastic and controversial personality that's made Mayweather a must-watch celebrity, it's fair to wonder about the next step. Fans can love boring dudes who enthrall inside the ring. They can love entertaining personalities who don't go swinging for every knockout.
But can someone like Canelo, baby-faced but lacking in discernible personality traits with a proclivity for reaching the judges' scorecard, ever reach the status of mainstream superstar? Coming into the Mayweather fight, everyone would have said "yes" without hesitation.
Now, it's hard to be sure. The hype factor has been sliced considerably. The fight? Promoted by Showtime but not given the all-out bombardment we saw in September. Saturday, make no mistake, is a test.
Alvarez may not face all that difficult of a time inside the ring against Angulo, but rest assured once the numbers come back we'll know how far (if at all) his impact has waned outside the ring.
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