Boxing’s “Imperfect” Storm Hits Las Vegas

By: Matt Greco, Co-Founder, THEFIGHTVOICE

In early August news broke of a highly anticipated prizefight that would typically be a pipe dream for fight fans given the highly political and often times dirty business that is boxing.  However, over the past year the business of boxing seemed to turn a corner, for the benefit of the fans, whereas new stars were born, free programming on cable increased through the arrival of Premier Boxing Champions, and the previously combative promoters were willing to put their egos aside in order to make the fights that fans were hungry to see.

The appetite of the fans was teased for for over five years as the saga of the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao “fight of the century” plagued the boxing world.  When that dish was finally served; cold, overcooked and unsatisfying, the backlash from fans and media alike would lead you to believe that the sport was doomed.

On August 13, 2015, it was announced that Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KO’s), the budding Mexican superstar would fight Puerto Rican legend Miguel Cotto (40-4, 33 KO’s) in a clash of young vs. old, Mexico vs. Puerto Rico and rising star vs. hall of famer.  It was a fight that fans have called for, and one they all deserved.

With the fallout of Mayweather-Pacquiao behind the boxing world, the arrival of the new era, which includes Gennady Golovkin, Roman Gonzalez, Nicholas Walters and Sergey Kovalev, and a legit super fight in the works that boxing may have been hit with the perfect storm.

That is until fight week for Canelo v Cotto arrived.  A mere three days ago the boxing world was abuzz with the arrival of Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas for their highly anticipated fight.  Media outlets from around the world touched down on the Las Vegas Strip, social media became a hotbed for funny memes, and unfortunately it created a forum for the WBC to affirm their place among the Mt. Rushmore of impotent boxing figureheads.

Somehow, someway, Miguel Cotto was stripped of his WBC Middleweight belt upon arrival, which resulted in a domino effect of penalties, ultimatums and dramatic storylines that reminded fight fans why they continue to questions the business and politics of the sweet science.

After reading the statement by the WBC, I remain confused.  I don’t consider myself particularly bright, but I am capable of the simple things like balancing a checkbook, measuring dried goods for a pie recipe and calculating my taxes, but I must admit . . . I am completely lost with this one.

For the full details, read The Sweet Science Editor, Michael Wood’s article at http://ringtv.craveonline.com/news/404311-mauricio-sulaiman-answers-miguel-cotto.

It breaks down like this; from what I can gather.  Miguel Cotto arrived in Las Vegas and was promptly stripped of his WBC belt due to an issue with sanctioning fees.  Let me play “boxing fans” for a moment.  “Who cares?”  Exactly.  However, there are over one million reasons for the WBC to care.  For Cotto, in order to fight Alvarez he would need to pay $300,000.  If Cotto was victorious, he would then need to pay $800,000 to fight Gennady Golovkin.  If you are currently asking yourself the question: “I thought the fighters were the ones being paid?”  I respond to you with a crooked smile and a nod of my head.

The good news is that the fight will still go on.  Belts in boxing have become as valuable as the sweater your grandmother gave you for Christmas in 1994.  The reward is in the paycheck, as it should be.

The real shame that comes from this story is that the news came out during fight week.  Furthermore, for fight fans, if Cotto were to win on Saturday night, the possibility of a super-fight between Gennady Golovkin seems highly unlikely now that a belt would not be involved.  I am confident Golovkin would ultimately laugh at the excuse that a belt is not on the line, given the fact that he has been more than willing to throw his name in the ring for any fight, with anyone.  But more on that in a moment.

Oscar De La Hoya promptly called the move by Cotto a disgrace, stating “he (Cotto) didn’t follow the rules.”  Cotto calmly dismissed the comment from De La Hoya saying “ask Oscar to pay the fees to the WBC…”  And another storyline was born only three days out from fight night.

Ultimately, the promoters dropped the ball on this one and should’ve vetted the issue with the WBC sooner, rather than later.  Since Cotto fights under Jay-Z’s newly formed RocNation promotion, which has less than two years in the fight game, it is safe to say they haven’t figured out the “blueprint” for promotion just yet and they have more than ninety-nine problems.

How does Canelo Alvarez fit into this all of this?  Up until today, it appeared that maybe all of this drama would benefit Alvarez, allowing him to avoid the media circus that Cotto was dealing with and simply focus on the fight Saturday night.  Maybe.  Unless your biggest focus for fight week is ensuring you can make the 155 lb weight limit that was set for the bout, despite the middleweight division weight limit actually being 160 lbs.

What, what?  Confused yet?

When Cotto became the WBC middleweight and lineal champion last year he wouldn’t agree to a fight with Alvarez unless the weight limit was 155 lbs.  It became a catch-weight, when it didn’t have to be.  My hat goes off to Alvarez who has continued to be steadfast in his approach that he will fight anyone at anytime, and that ducking a fight in his nature.  He kept his word when he signed the dotted line, and I applaud him for that, but he still gave Cotto a five-pound cushion when he didn’t need to.

Chalk one up for Freddie Roach and Miguel Cotto who outplayed Alvarez’s team on this one.

Even though Alvarez continues to be a super welterweight, he is still young; and likely growing, which could make it difficult to make the 154 lb limit going forward.  Seeing Alvarez in person just three weeks ago, after a rumored 14-week training camp, it is hard to deny that is frame is big and he carries more muscle than the average prizefighter for his division.  In the end, I fully expect Alvarez to make weight . . . but at what cost?

There is one more layer:  GGG.  As the drama unfolds Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Center in Las Vegas there is still one man who is anxiously awaiting his shot at the winner of the fight.  Gennady Golovkin seems ready for whomever wins, but the question remains; are they ready for him?

Golovkin has been nothing short of perfect over the last five years, demolishing his opponents in brutal fashion and hitting the mainstream last month when he walked through power-puncher David Lemieux.  Things looked up and Golovkin was not shy about his desire to face the winner of the Alvarez-Cotto fight.  Hell, he even made the claim that he would get down to 154 lbs to face Floyd Mayweather, which in my opinion was a misstep on his part.  The Mayweather train has left the station and it is not returning for a fight with a certified killer.

Since Golovkin said he would hit 154 lbs for Mayweather, one can assume that he would also make the 154 lb limit for a fight with either Alvarez or Cotto, but again, at what cost?  Golovkin’s size is undeniable and the thought of making that weight would leave you to believe that we may not get the best GGG, which defeats the whole purpose of making the fight.

Adding more fuel to the fire, both Alvarez and Cotto have not shown particular interest in a matchup with Golovkin.  Alvarez stated he intends to stay around 154 lbs and Cotto, with the backing of trainer Freddie Roach, said on Wednesday that their goal is to win the fight against Alvarez and lure Mayweather out of retirement.  Oh boy.

I think I need a cold shower and a cigarette at this point.  And we haven’t even scratched the surface on De La Hoya’s open letter to Floyd Mayweather, which was published in Playboy last week.  I digress.

Considering everything that has transpired during fight week, my biggest hope for the outcome of this intriguing fight is that it becomes legendary and the underlying storylines from the week can be set aside for 36 minutes so the fans can come out victorious.

If I have learned one thing from my role as a media member in the boxing world, it is this.  Don’t ask the fighters the question: “What would you like next after this fight?”  While the question is legitimate, the majority of the time you won’t receive the answer you are looking for.  The typical response is, “I am only focused on this fight.”  Maybe we should all do the same.

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