Canelo Alvarez has a fight this weekend.
And for some pretty obvious reasons, he wants to win it.
He’s in with a big-name opponent (Erislandy Lara) who’s not been at all shy about broadcasting plans for a post-Saturday victory celebration. He’s eager to stay in line for potentially lucrative fights with either middleweight champion Miguel Cotto or welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Not to mention, he’s a competitive, elite athlete who, by that very definition, doesn’t like to lose.
Still, given recent developments on the nonringed side of the sport, it matters for other reasons, too.
Though he holds no major championship belts at the moment, the soon-to-be 24-year-old Mexican is clearly the crown jewel on display at Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, an organization that’s experienced some headline-making upheaval in recent weeks.
Most notably gone from the GBP fold is CEO Richard Schaefer, and it’s the mystery surrounding exactly what Schaefer will do next that makes Alvarez even more valuable to Team De La Hoya.
Thanks to his close relationship with seemingly omnipotent manager/adviser Al Haymon, it’s the expectation of many that Schaefer will ultimately reappear with a promotional operation of his very own, which could in turn lure the allegiance of several fighters who now fight under the Golden Boy banner but are simultaneously aligned with the burgeoning Haymon stable.
Among the high-profile fighters now waving both flags are Marcos Maidana, Adrien Broner, Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse and Amir Khan, not to mention Alvarez’s aforementioned Saturday foe, Lara.
But while nearly all those fighters have arguably accomplished more than Alvarez, none of them carry the same measure of fanbase street cred that he displayed on behalf of Golden Boy last summer.
Lest we forget, Alvarez rode shotgun to Mayweather on the No. 2 pay-per-view seller of all time in September, and his share of the viewership load was borne out on the prolonged press tour that took place more than two months before the opening bell.
The fighters hit 10 cities—New York, Washington, D.C., Grand Rapids, Michigan, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Mexico City, Houston, San Antonio and Los Angeles—on the nine-day odyssey, and Alvarez’s supporters carried a loud majority in all but one, Grand Rapids.
Still, even in Mayweather’s hometown, the split was no more than 60-40 in the local’s favor.
Schaefer punctuated every appearance on the tour by describing Alvarez both as the “Mexican James Dean” and “the next one,” the latter in keeping with the event’s “The One” branding.
One of his executive cohorts on the tour, Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza, told me at the Miami stop that Alvarez’s fan-gathering prowess at such a young age—he turned 23 a few weeks after the tour ended—had been rivaled in the past only by De La Hoya, who helped establish the still-standing PPV record when he fought Mayweather in 2007.
“Oscar, at that point, had been an icon in the sport for a very long time. This is a kid. The amount of fan support and hysteria [Alvarez] created did take Floyd by surprise. Floyd didn't expect it. We’re a little bit surprised, only because it seems to be growing so quickly,” he said.
“We know he’s got an incredibly passionate, enthusiastic fanbase, but what’s been a little surprising is that it seems to be growing, literally, by the day.”
So while Canelo loosely translates to cinnamon in Spanish, it might as well mean gold.
And while a loss would simply drop a still-impressive pro record to 43-2-1, it would be promotionally apocalyptic.
De La Hoya was particularly breathless when announcing Alvarez’s presence on a media conference call this week, and, given his words—he referred to Alvarez as “one of the most compelling fighters on the planet today”—it’s not hard to infer how much he’s got riding on this weekend.
While Alvarez would still be a viable junior middleweight commodity and have sizable recognition edges over the belted likes of Demetrius Andrade (WBO champion), Carlos Molina (IBF champion) and Zaurbek Baysangurov (IBO champion), a second clear defeat in three fights would all but erode the go-to PPV status that Golden Boy has counted on while aggressively building his brand over the last two years.
It’d severely dent the chances of a 160-pound grab at Cotto, take away any legitimate reason for a second go-round with Mayweather, and, in De La Hoya’s own hyperbolic lingo, quickly move the all-important compelling needle from intergalactic to meh.
With all the Schaefer/Haymon instability perhaps nearby, it’s a body shot Oscar can’t afford to take.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first hand.