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Canelo Alvarez Still Losing the PR War to Gennady Golovkin After Liam Smith Win

Jonathan Snowden@JESnowdenCombat Sports Senior WriterSeptember 18, 2016

Canelo Alvarez punches Liam Smith during the eight round of the WBO Junior Middleweight championship boxing match at the stadium in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. Alvarez won with a knock out in the ninth round. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
LM Otero/Associated Press

A vicious Saul "Canelo" Alvarez body shot ended the night for Liam Smith at 2:28 of Round 9 on Saturday, reducing the British champion to little more than a brave victim and culminating an assault that lasted more than 26 minutes.

Alvarez won all eight rounds on the judges' scorecards, and while Smith was game, he was badly outclassed at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

It was an offensive onslaught, with Canelo scoring at will off the front and back foot against the ropes, countering Smith whenever the Brit found the courage to attack. It was the kind of blowout that eventually fades from memory and mostly made you wish they had found someone better for Canelo to fight.

Soon enough, no one will recall the particulars, and the fight will be all but forgotten, even by the most diehard fans. It will live on as black type in the historical record, with Smith just a name on a long list of Canelo victims—but it wasn't the kind of fight legacies and legends are built upon.

Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

Canelo lacks the kind of win that typically defines a fighter trying to make his case as the face of boxing. In his first megafight, he fell short against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a bout where Floyd was never challenged. Then, last year, he dismantled the great Miguel Cotto—but it was clearly a Cotto who was a shadow of the fearsome fighter who stamped his own ticket to the Hall of Fame.

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As veteran boxing reporter Kevin Iole pointed out, building his own reputation won't be easy for Canelo:

The problem is, the public was convinced that Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao were the best fighters in the world for a long time.

That belief isn't nearly as strong about Alvarez, and particularly since he was blown out by Mayweather. Fighting less-than-compelling opposition isn't going to build his reputation by any stretch.

As boxing continues to fade from the mainstream and become an increasingly niche sport, there are fewer and fewer fighters capable of exciting passions and activating casual fans. With the retirement of Mayweather and the decline of Pacquiao, there is only one man who can elevate Canelo from "the next big thing" to the king of boxing.

Unfortunately, it's a name Canelo is sick and tired of hearing. As HBO's Max Kellerman said, it's a name that has become obligatory to ask Canelo about in every interview.

Golovkin
GolovkinRichard Heathcote/Getty Images

Gennady "GGG" Golovkin is the middleweight champion of the world. He holds most of the alphabet soup titles in the division and has built himself into a star by knocking down every man they put in front of him.

By beating Cotto for the WBC championship, Alvarez found his way onto Golovkin's radar as the Kazakh knockout artist attempted to collect every bauble the sport offered in his division. Anticipation escalated when Canelo called Golovkin into the ring this May to challenge him to a bout.

"I invited him to come to the ring," Alvarez said. "Like we say in Mexico, we don't f--k around. We don't fight for belts and stuff like that. I don't fear anyone...Right now, I will put the gloves on again and fight him."

It was an uncharacteristically brash moment from the usually taciturn Alvarez. With those unambiguous words ringing throughout the boxing world, and promoter Oscar De La Hoya promising to begin work on the fight post-haste, the bout, for the first time, seemed like a real possibility.

Instead, Canelo relinquished his claim to middleweight gold and made a tactical retreat back to 154 pounds.

Since then, the two men and their camps have engaged in an extended war of words. But the public relations battle is one Canelo can't win. No one will forget his standing in the ring making bold claims. If he doesn't live up to them, the implications are obvious.

Arash Markazi @ArashMarkazi

Amir Khan and his corner were more interested in challenging Canelo to fight Triple G than talking about their fight when it was over.

Even his opponents, as ESPN's Arash Markazi pointed out after the Amir Khan fight, are eager to see Canelo live up to his promises. Before the fight, Smith was no different.

"I definitely think Canelo ducked a fight with Golovkin," Smith told ESPN.com. "Rightly so, because Canelo isn't big enough. He went the totally wrong way about it, calling for the fight against Golovkin and then giving up the belt.

"There's massive pressure from the fans because he wants to keep them on board, and he will want to make a statement after what has happened."

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 16:  Fans walk around before Canelo Alvarez of Mexico and Liam Smith of Great Britain weigh-in for their WBO junior middleweight world championship fight at AT&T Stadium on September 16, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronal
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Unfortunately for fans, despite Canelo's bizarre claims that he had offered a fight to Golovkin a month ago and never heard back, the bout seems farther away than ever. Canelo's box-office success, including packing 51,240 fans into AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for the Smith fight, puts him firmly in the catbird seat.

As long as he doesn't need Golovkin to make money, the fight is unlikely to happen until the 34-year-old Golovkin is a little more safely beyond his best days.

"People will always talk and will always want the very best when you are on top of the world, and that's what Canelo is right now," De La Hoya told ESPN.com's Dan Rafael. "He's on top. He is the star fighter in boxing, and people want him to fight the very best. And he has always fought the very best. And fighting a Golovkin is going to be no exception. He's going to fight him, but when he's ready to move up to 160."

Golovkin, it seems, understands that Canelo has no intention of actually stepping in the ring with him any time soon. After his win over Kell Brook last week, he challenged WBO middleweight champ Billy Joe Saunders instead of Alvarez.

But, even if GGG is willing to move on with his life, fans aren't about to give up. The questions will remain until the fight happens and boxing is ready for a megafight to erase the bad taste of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao from everyone's mouth.

In fact, there's only one way for Canelo to win the battle in the press at this point—and that's making the fight. Here's to hoping an honorable man does the right thing, both for his own legacy and the sport he loves.

       

Jonathan Snowden covers combat sports for Bleacher Report.

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