By Andreas Hale
The “real” fight is upon us. And, in some ways, boxing’s future is at stake.
Not to say that Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor wasn’t real, but it was more like NBA All Star Weekend festivities, whereas the September 16th showdown between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin can be likened to the NBA Finals.
But the question isn’t necessarily whether the “real” fight will live up to the hype. Rather, if the fight will pick up the hype it deserves among the casual fans. Obviously, it won’t be the blockbuster that Mayweather-McGregor was, but if Canelo-GGG can become the first fight in over a decade that garners over a million PPV buys without the names Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao attached, it would go a long way for a sport that is finally moving into a new era.
Although most thought the Mayweather and Pacquiao dominated era ended when the two fighters finally met in 2015, Mayweather’s return for one last fight against McGregor proved that he still had a stranglehold on public interest. Meanwhile, Pacquiao’s fight with Jeff Horn raked in a monster 4.4 million viewers on ESPN. But it’s obvious that it is time for that torch to finally be passed to the next big thing and that should be the winner of Canelo-GGG.
It really all depends on how many people cough up the cash to watch the pay-per-view showdown between two of the best fighters in the sport. But we already know how big this fight is. Does the casual fan?
Canelo Alvarez will undoubtedly have the support of the Mexican community on his side and that is a very powerful force in the buyers market. However, his inability to speak English has slowed his infiltration into the mainstream. Meanwhile, Golovkin has become a unique force that has captured the interest of a handful of casual fans with his savage power. But he’s coming on very late in his career at the age of 35, which leaves him very little time to be a torchbearer for the sport if he manages to upend Canelo.
In many ways, the immediate future rests squarely on the shoulders of the 27-year-old Mexican. That’s not to downplay Golovkin and what he brings to the table, but there are already metrics established by Canelo that explain his immediate impact on the sport. Aside from his fight with Mayweather, Canelo has proven to be the biggest draw in the sport with his other PPV fights against Miguel Cotto and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. hovering right around the million buy mark. Obviously, to extend his reach he would need to improve his English, but he’s held his own without it.
Canelo’s loss to Mayweather is forgivable considering that the product from Guadalajara was still wet behind the ears when it came to facing established opponents. But the experience and exposure he gained was simply undeniable. However, a loss to GGG would be very damaging to his mainstream appeal. Not only can he not suffer a loss, neither can his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya.
Simply put, there is a lot on the line for Canelo and Golden Boy heading into this fight.
As for GGG, while his boxing legacy is at risk, he’s playing with house money when it comes to establishing himself as a PPV attraction.
Although it often feels like everyone talks about Golovkin, he’s yet to establish himself as a mainstream star. His PPV numbers for his fights against David Lemieux (150k) and Daniel Jacobs (170k) were respectable but nowhere near the numbers his opponent on September 16th has put on the board. That can all change with a victory against Canelo.
GGG already has the boxing world buzzing and the talking heads sports networks have done a solid job of giving Golovkin the rub. Curiosity about Golovkin has piqued and there will be an opportunity to turn in a star making performance. Given GGG’s “Mexican style,” it’s highly likely that he can convert some new fans if he performs well against Canelo.
Perhaps the best thing that can happen is that the fight is a barnburner that begs for a rematch. A blowout victory for either fighter may do more harm than good when it comes to the future of the sport. But if Canelo and GGG becomes a scintillating brawl that remains competitive for as long as it lasts, it will leave the world begging for more. It’s very rare that a fight with so much hype behind it actually lives up to it. But this fight features two fighters with styles that rarely resulted in a boring fight.
Ultimately, Canelo-GGG needs to capture the imagination of casual fans now and leave an impression that demands their attention in the future. It’s rare that two fighters, who are at the top of their game and possess styles that are nothing short of exciting are in the ring together. The ingredients for an explosive fight are there. Hopefully, Mayweather-McGregor gave just enough of a nudge to casual fans to have them pay up to see the “real” fight between Canelo-GGG. And if those two can please the buyers and leave the talking heads with something to talk about the following Monday, it’s likely that boxing’s future will be in great hands.
Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s not a big deal, because it is. Canelo-GGG is the fight that everyone needs to watch and will go a long way when establishing boxing’s future with a mainstream audience.