Apparently, after a tiff about the size of the ring they will be fighting in at AT&T Stadium, Billy Joe Saunders is showing up to meet Canelo Alvarez on Saturday night.
That’s good, because it’s what 70,000 fans are paying to see.
But does it really matter? It could be Saunders, John Ryder, or anybody else, and the Canelo faithful will show up. Build it, and they will come.
An estimated 15,000 of them showed up to Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium in Florida to watch a drubbing of epic proportions as Alvarez, the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, dispatched overmatched Avni Yildirim in three rounds.
This weekend, they will do it again, traveling from wherever they can to watch the Mexican hero do his thing.
And don’t get me wrong, Saunders is a legit opponent who has earned his place in a big fight. But dare I say that the odds of him winning are slim, and that a good number of those fans don’t care who Alvarez is fighting in Texas.
That’s where the problem comes in.
Now anytime a boxing event can pull in massive numbers, whether in a venue or on pay-per-view, or dare I say both, it’s a great thing for the sport. And the rise of Alvarez from teenage phenom to question mark to legitimate champion to the biggest name in the sport has been one of the great stories of recent years.
But he’s here now. Pound-for-pound king, boxing’s biggest draw, and the rare fighter who is able to call his shots in all aspects of his business. No problems there, as he shed plenty of blood, sweat and tears to get to this point.
So where does he go from here? Alvarez has made no secret of his desire to unify all the belts at 168 pounds, which means IBF champ Caleb Plant next should he emerge victorious on Saturday. Like Saunders, that’s a legit fight, and one that may even have more heat on it than the one with the Brit, which didn’t have much fight week buzz on it until Saunders’ team threatened to pull him from the bout. Add in Alvarez’ choice words for Team Saunders in a video that went viral on Tuesday afternoon, and now people care.
Whatever it takes, I guess.
Yet by the end of the year, if all goes to plan, Alvarez will beat Saunders, beat Plant, be the undisputed super middleweight champion, and then we will see where his head is at.
Would I blame him if he decided to take on more opponents like Yildirim or Rocky Fielding? Probably not. This is the most unforgiving of sports, and while it’s not great for your legacy to take the least risk for the most reward, as human beings, why wouldn’t we be happy for someone to do that and then get out on top?
That’s the human part of me; the fan part wants to see the fights that would make me pay for a ticket when I could probably get in for free.
Alvarez vs. Jermall Charlo
Alvarez vs. Demetrius Andrade
Alvarez vs. Gennadiy Golovkin III
Alvarez vs. Artur Beterbiev
Canelo Alvarez is already a Hall of Famer three years after he hangs up the gloves. Wins over a Who’s Who of the sport, including Shane Mosley, Erislandy Lara, Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Danny Jacobs, Sergey Kovalev and Golovkin guarantee that. So it would be easy for him to want to rest on his laurels in his closing years in the game and fight whoever the sanctioning bodies throw out as mandatories, picking up mega-paychecks along the way.
Or is there more to the 30-year-old than just the catchy “No boxing, no life” motto? Just writing “30-year-old” makes me pause and realize how young Alvarez still is. He may very well be in his physical prime as he approaches his 59th pro fight, which means all the aforementioned bouts wouldn’t just be a way to cement his place as an all-time great, but to do what he always promised to do.
I recall an interview with Alvarez before his 2015 bout with James Kirkland, when he told me, “I want the best fights. I want to fight the most dangerous, the best fighters out there. I like to give my fans the best fights and the best of me. I take this very seriously. You can see it in my interviews, you can see it in my fights, and I respect the sport. It’s something that comes naturally, and it’s a part of me.”
Six years later, he hasn’t changed his tune, telling Brian Custer on the Last Stand Podcast, “I want to make the fights people want to see.”
Sure, it’s talk, and boxing’s a lying game. To get anywhere, a fighter has to tell himself that the left hook that shattered his nose didn’t hurt, that he has more gas in the tank as his body gasps for air, and that 10 seconds is an eternity to get up when he’s been knocked down.
But Canelo Alvarez is a fighter. He’s proven that. And I’m of the opinion that he’s telling the truth when he says we’re going to get the fights we want to see before he walks off into the sunset.
The 70,000 fans packing AT&T Stadium apparently agree.