Showtime Sports head Stephen Espinoza believes Canelo Alvarez’s return to the network this past November was not only a win for his company but a net gain for boxing as a whole.

Showtime beat out rival network Fox to obtain the rights to air the super middleweight unification bout between Alvarez and Caleb Plant on Nov. 6. This marked the first in seven years since Alvarez had appeared on Showtime, the last time being in 2014 when he beat Erislandy Lara by split decision. Alvarez (57-1-2, 39 KOs) knocked out Plant in the 11th round to unify all 168-pound titles.

“I think it was important for the sport,” Espinoza said of Alvarez’s return on an episode of the PBC Podcast. “It was obviously important for Showtime. It allows us to continue the business we started with him back in 2013, 2014. But it also elevated his events back to where they belonged.”

Espinoza, of course, was referring to Alvarez’s prior long-term relationship with the streaming platform DAZN, where Alvarez’s last six fights had taken place. Unlike Showtime, which is owned by media conglomerate ViacomCBS (which also owns and has a built-up subscriber base and decades of experience marketing and delivering boxing content, DAZN is relatively new on the sports media scene, having only been introduced to the US market in 2018. Moreover, as an over-the-top media service that targets its consumers directly through the internet, DAZN does not have access to traditional distribution methods, such as cable and satellite.

Espinoza believes that Alvarez’s absence in the pay-per-view realm led to a diminishment in his overall visibility, at least going by anecdotal evidence.

“Along the way, I heard – and this is going to sound strange to the hardcore boxing fan – but there were comments among his core base, Mexican and Mexican-American fans—not the hardcore followers of boxing, but the fans that show up for the big Mexican Independence Day fights, who watch a couple of times a year – and I heard from some of them, ‘What happened to Canelo? We thought he had retired there for a couple of years,’” Espinoza said.

“And he just wasn’t as much part of the mainstream as his events should have been. And that’s no fault of Canelo. His star power is as strong as ever. He just wasn’t getting that mainstream marketing push. He wasn’t in the mainstream media as he should have been. It felt right. It generated the type of attention, the type of gate, the type of pay-per-view that he should have been all along. He certainly didn’t lose anything in the meantime.”

In the fall of 2020, Alvarez sued DAZN – and this then promoter Golden Boy – to get out of the contract. The parties ended up settling, thus paving the way for Alvarez to become a free agent and his return – at least for one fight – to Showtime. It is not clear if Alvarez, who has hinted that his next move could involve going up to the cruiserweight division, will be returning to Showtime in his next fight.

“I think with our credibility and our marketing expertise we were able to elevate his events back to where they should be, those types of mega events that everyone tunes into every year,” Espinoza said.