It will be spring soon and that's appropriate. One thing you learn about boxing if you stick around here long enough is that fighters come and fighters go. It won't be long before aging stars Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez will all be gone.
But like springtime - things regenerate, new growth happens and before you know it the little buds bloom. And so it is in boxing.
Most everyone now agrees that Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is the anointed one - and he is in full bloom. It will be Canelo that the sport of boxing will hook its wagon to - he is the star. The fight racket always has one person who is designated as the one to "carry boxing" on his shoulders. A generation or so ago it was Muhammad Ali, who then passed the torch to "Sugar" Ray Leonard. Not long after Leonard was gone it was Oscar De La Hoya and now it's Floyd Mayweather, Jr. That is the way it goes and that is the way it has always gone.
At only 23-years-old, Canelo is already headlining his own pay-per-view shows and is the anchor of this weekend's big show in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand where he will meet Alfredo Angulo. Despite the fact that he lost to Mayweather last September, Canelo did not embarrass himself and more importantly he seems to have dealt with the loss as part of his learning process. It reminds me a bit of a young Alexis Arguello who lost early on to Ernesto Marcel - but still went on to win three world titles and become a superstar in the sport.
Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions has thrown their full weight behind the young Alvarez. From the beginning they told anyone that would listen how good he was - and how good he would become. To their credit, they were right. He passed early tests in the ring with flying colors and has boxing skills that guys his age typically don't display. Three aspects, however, ensure that Canelo will be "the one" once Mayweather and Pacquiao step aside: (1.) He is personable and is of solid character (2.) He is good looking, which makes him marketable (3.) He can actually fight.
Alvarez is already a hero of epic proportions in his native Mexico and when his bouts are televised much of the population is tuned in to watch him. He has numerous corporate sponsors that all want in on the action. But more than anything, there are not a lot of other big-name, marketable and bankable fighters around right now that people here in the United States will spend money on. Browse the rankings of any division from heavyweight to strawweight and the only other names that can carry a major pay-per-view event on their own in this country are Mayweather and Pacquiao.
During last year's multi-city press tour for the bout against Mayweather, Canelo's promoter Richard Schaefer was amazed at the support for his young charge. "Canelo-Mania has hit the United States," he said. "I've seen it across the nation, in Mexico and in the U.S. We had 100,000 fans come out for the press conferences." The bout against Mayweather would ultimately go on to become the richest in all of boxing history, surpassing the 2007 bout between Mayweather and De La Hoya.
"He is the one superstar from Mexico," says Schaefer. "I told you guys before already the ratings for his last fight set an all-time TV record in Mexico. He is exciting, he has that will and that fire to win. He has been a pro since 2005 when he was just 15-years-old, he is without any question Mexico's biggest boxing superstar. But really he has clearly transcended here in the United States as well, has a huge following - and yes it has a little bit to do with his looks and the red hair and so on. He is a handsome guy, but at the end of the day it really is his fighting style and his charisma. He picked an opponent [Angulo] he knows who's a tough guy, a big puncher who comes toe-to-toe, but that's what Canelo wants. Canelo realizes that boxing is entertainment, and he is the ultimate entertainer."
For his part, Alvarez realizes that he is the one that will carry the sport into the future. "I'm very happy, it's a big responsibility, a great responsibility," he says when asked about the subject. "But I thrive on it, and I'm very honored, honored to be headlining and to show the world that not only fighters from other countries can headline events like this but also the Latinos, the Mexicans. We can do it as well. So again, it's a big responsibility but I thrive on it, and I enjoy it and with hard work we're here.That motivates me more even to work harder."
Some worried the loss to Mayweather would be one that Alvarez couldn't recover from. Boxing history is replete with stories of young fighters that suffered their first loss and were never the same either physically or psychologically. There seems to be no danger of that with Alvarez and if anything the fans seems to have forgotten about the loss. For them and for Alvarez, the night against Mayweather seems almost an afterthought.
"I'm very strong-minded, I'm very strong-minded," says Alvarez of that fight. "So yes it was a loss, but I learned a lot from it, and I just move on. I just - I gained experience and move on. But again, I'm strong-minded. I don't dwell on the past. Now I look forward to the future."
For he is the future.
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