by David P. Greisman
Don’t hold your breath for Canelo Alvarez vs. Austin Trout in 2013. If Alvarez ends up fighting Trout next year, it won’t be the promoter’s or the network’s first choice.
It wasn’t Golden Boy Promotions’ or Showtime’s first choice going into this past weekend. That will remain the truth as each begins to mull the options for Alvarez following Miguel Cotto’s loss to Trout on Saturday.
If this were a just sport — please, boxing fans, don’t all laugh at once — then upset winners and those who topple house fighters would be rewarded for their victories.
That’s not the way this sport works. Boxing, fittingly, has learned how to roll with the punches.
Erik Morales was six months removed from topping Manny Pacquiao when the two boxers again shared a card — this time in separate fights in September 2005 that were meant to set up their coming rematch. While Pacquiao did his part by dispatching Hector Velasquez, an out-of-shape Morales was embarrassed, out-boxed and defeated by Zahir Raheem. Nevertheless, Morales-Pacquiao 2 aired on pay-per-view just four months later.
Oscar De La Hoya didn’t lose to Felix Sturm in June 2004 — not officially, at least, though many observers disagreed with the judges’ decision — but he didn’t do much to sell his coming challenge of middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins. Nevertheless, Hopkins-De La Hoya aired on pay-per-view just three months later.
And the fighters that upset the proverbial apple cart rarely get to cash in on the fruits of their labor:
Sturm never appeared on HBO again.
Raheem stunk himself out of the spotlight with his subsequent appearance on the network.
Dmitry Pirog hasn’t been back on American airwaves since he stopped prized prospect Danny Jacobs on HBO more than two years ago.
Heavyweight Johnathon Banks will probably be back on the network, thanks in large part to the fact that the prospect he demolished, Seth Mitchell, will be exercising his contractual rematch clause.
And Vyacheslav Senchenko’s November appearance on Showtime was his first, and possibly his last. After scoring a body-shot knockout of Ricky Hatton, Senchenko has returned to his native Ukraine and is left waiting for another name welterweight to call on him.
Hatton-Senchenko was supposed to set up the comebacking British former 140-pound champion for a rematch with Paulie Malignaggi.
Afterward, Golden Boy Promotions executive Richard Schaefer wasn’t talking about making Malignaggi-Senchenko 2 (they first faced each other earlier this year), but rather about still being able to do Malignaggi-Hatton 2. (Golden Boy promotes Malignaggi)
“If he should want to have a [rematch] against Paulie Malignaggi, and fight for the WBA welterweight championship, I'll be happy to see if we can put that fight together," Schaefer told Lem Satterfield of RingTV.com.
"Everybody had agreed that, prior to the fight, that Ricky had picked a difficult fight for his first one back after three and a half years out of the ring. So, having said that, I have to say that he looked very good, and that he was ahead in the fight, and that he was ahead on the scorecards,” Schaefer said.
It must be noted that Schaefer was speaking prior to Hatton announcing his retirement hours after the loss.
Miguel Cotto had been spoken of as the likely next opponent for Canelo Alvarez, a 154-pound titleholder who was ringside in New York City this past weekend to see Cotto lose a unanimous decision to Austin Trout.
Afterward, Schaefer — Golden Boy promotes Alvarez and has worked with free agent Cotto for two straight bouts — went into damage control.
“There is still a possibility that you could see a Canelo-Cotto fight,” Schaefer said during a post-fight press conference. He also mentioned Trout, James Kirkland and Alfredo Angulo. The real money, though, is still with the fight that had initially been intended.
Losing fighters do still lose luster. But big events can still be sold to the masses. Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao will bring in millions at the gate and tens of millions in pay-per-view revenue this coming Saturday, even though Pacquiao is coming off a controversial decision loss to Timothy Bradley and two straight less-than-stellar performances.
Miguel Cotto will still be able to bring in his Puerto Rican faithful. And no matter who Alvarez faces, a staggering amount of Mexican fans will tune in, and the young superstar is also a proven attraction at the box office.
Alvarez is becoming a boxer who only appears in the biggest events. In 2012, he only fought on two of the traditional weekends for major matches — Cinco de Mayo weekend in May and Mexican Independence Day weekend in September.
That pattern is likely to continue in 2013. And fights between Alvarez and either Cotto or Floyd Mayweather are two of the most significant fights that can be made. Cotto didn’t embarrass himself against Trout. He was just beaten by a better man. That wouldn’t matter much to Alvarez’s and Cotto’s fans.
Even bouts between Alvarez and either Kirkland or Angulo would be bigger than Alvarez-Trout; Trout is just now entering the spotlight, while Kirkland and Angulo have been featured and followed for years.
That’s not to say that this is right, or just. But boxing is a business first and foremost. Fighters who score the unexpected win, or the unwanted win, do not often get to score a big payday afterward. That only happens when their continued appearances are also big for business — or are completely necessary.
A year after upsetting Wladimir Klitschko, Corrie Sanders got a big fight with Vitali Klitschko. Three months after knocking out Roy Jones Jr., Glen Johnson challenged Antonio Tarver.
Yet Sanders was fighting for the top spot in the heavyweight division, and Johnson was looking to become the best at light heavyweight. Trout, alas, is but a titleholder in a division where there are many more vying to be No. 1.
Trout has been in a similar position before. He was among the names listed as possible opponents for Alvarez to face this past September; Alvarez was to have met Paul Williams, but Williams was paralyzed in a motorcycle crash in May. Trout scored a clear but less-than-thrilling win over Delvin Rodriguez in June. Alvarez’s handlers went in a different direction, first substituting in Kirkland, then, when Kirkland pulled out, picking Victor Ortiz, and last, when Ortiz lost to Josesito Lopez, picking Lopez.
That was one case when boxing worked right, rewarding a fighter who had truly earned it with a big win. Ortiz had suffered a broken jaw in the loss and would not be able to perform. Lopez was available and would not present much of a danger to Alvarez, who was readying himself for yet another substitute. Alvarez beat the undersized Lopez with ease.
Alvarez won’t have anywhere near as easy a time handling Trout. More important than that, he wouldn’t be able to earn anywhere near as much money against Trout as he would against other potential opponents.
Alvarez-Trout might still happen in 2013. If it does, though, it won’t be what the network or promoter had initially wanted. We as boxing fans have long sought for losses to matter less, for boxers still to remain in the spotlight despite defeat.
For that to happen, though, it unfortunately means that sometimes wins won’t mean as much either.
The 10 Count
1. The news that recently deflated heavyweight prospect Seth Mitchell will have an immediate rematch with conqueror Johnathon Banks is a surprising but understandable move, one that reflects either immense confidence on the part of his team that his ship can be righted, or a lack of confidence that instead makes the rematch a cash-out fight for one last big payday.
Knowing Mitchell’s team, I’m sure it’s the former — immense confidence — but it’s nevertheless a calculated gamble.
“We will exercise the rematch option, and HBO will buy it,” Golden Boy Promotions executive Richard Schaefer told Lem Satterfield of RingTV.com last week. “We’re currently working on a date. It would be a doubleheader, with Adrien Broner defending his title.”
For Mitchell’s sake, he and his trainer, manager and adviser better be right.
They are going to need to be confident that Mitchell can not only be rebuilt, but that he can be rebuilt in the span of one fight. Or, rather, the span of one training camp.
They are going to need to be certain that Mitchell can completely change who he is as a fighter, moving away from an aggressive style and protecting what is perceived to be a flawed chin.
They are going to need to be sure that Mitchell can master this enough without practicing it outside of sparring sessions, instead of rebuilding over the span of one or more interim fights against lesser opponents.
They are going to need to be right in thinking that this will work against Banks.
His team is striking while the iron is hot, while there is still money from HBO for a rematch. Though I don’t believe Mitchell’s team is cashing him out, money still must play a factor. It’s better to make this gamble for the payday that he will receive than it would be to lose again in a smaller match and for a lot smaller paycheck.
2. After losing to Corrie Sanders, Wladimir Klitschko took out Fabio Moli and Danell Nicholson before meeting Lamon Brewster for a vacant heavyweight title — 13 months after the Sanders loss.
After losing to Brewster, Klitschko faced DaVarryl Williamson and Eliseo Castillo before stepping in the ring with a then-undefeated and still-dangerous Samuel Peter — 17 months after the Brewster loss.
After losing to Miguel Cotto, Zab Judah beat Edwin Vazquez and Ryan Davis before challenging Joshua Clottey for a vacant welterweight title — 14 months after the Cotto loss.
After losing to Clottey, Judah beat Ernest Johnson, Ubaldo Hernandez and Jose Armando Santa Cruz before stepping in the ring with Lucas Matthysse — two years and three months after the Clottey loss.
But there is a shelf life on a shattered fighter. Lucian Bute lost to Carl Froch this past May and then took an interim bout before their contracted rematch. Bute looked shaky at times this past November against Denis Grachev. The rematch with Froch will be a case of “now or never” for Bute.
That’s going to be the case with Mitchell, too. He’s not a former champion like Klitschko and Judah were at those times. He’s yet another prospect, and there is a long line of names waiting for the kind of spotlight Mitchell has received. Not taking this fight could mean losing his place in line.
In baseball, it’s better to go down swinging than to strike out looking.
3. With that said, the Jan. 26 fight between super middleweight champion Andre Ward and former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik strikes me as a cash-out fight for Pavlik.
Barring a massive, massive upset that few outside of Youngstown will pick, this will be the final time we see Pavlik on a big stage.
What a rapid descent for a fighter whose only two losses came against a pair of greats — against Bernard Hopkins in 2008, and against Sergio Martinez in 2010.
Since the Martinez defeat, Pavlik has taken a majority decision over Alfonso Lopez, stopped Aaron Jaco and Scott Sigmon, and out-pointed Will Rosinsky.
Pavlik has not looked the same at 168 as he did at 160. And none of those opponents were anything approaching the caliber of Andre Ward.
There won’t be any shame in losing to Ward, just as there was no shame in being dominated by Hopkins or defeated by Martinez. But this cements a transition for Kelly Pavlik. Should he continue to fight, he will now be the opponent, the B-side of a crossroads fight who is there because of what his name once represented.
4. I understand that Andre Ward deserves a gimme fight, what with his run through the Super Six from 2009 through 2011, and with his win over light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson this past September. But Ward has fought just once this year, due in part to a hand injury he suffered before facing Carl Froch in the super middleweight tournament finale (Ward went through with the Froch fight anyway).
My problem isn’t so much with Ward-Pavlik but with the money that HBO is probably spending on it — it’s doubtful that either Ward or Pavlik come cheaply — that could go toward something else.
Yet as we’ve seen with both networks, often times it’s one fighter that makes for the ratings, and not necessarily the specific pairing of pugilists in the ring. In this case, HBO gets to build on the momentum of Ward’s stellar September performance, keeping him busy and keeping his name out there until his next big bout on its airwaves.
5. Not a historical parallel, but interesting to note nonetheless:
Super middleweight champion Andre Ward is going from defeating the current light heavyweight champion (Chad Dawson) to facing a former middleweight champion (Kelly Pavlik).
Four years ago, then-light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins went from losing to the super middleweight champion (Joe Calzaghe) to defeating the middleweight champion at the time (Pavlik).
6. A network called Bounce TV aired its first boxing broadcast this past weekend…
…and despite the network’s name, it wasn’t about ring card girls. It was a junior welterweight title fight between Joan Guzman and Khabib Allakverdiev.
7. I love that network television not only will be airing boxing again, but will be doing so on back to back Saturdays — first with CBS on Dec. 15, then with NBC on Dec. 22. Each will be in the afternoon/early evening: the CBS show starts at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time, while the NBC show begins at 4 p.m.
The CBS card will feature Leo Santa Cruz, a bantamweight titleholder who has been an absolute revelation and a complete joy in these past six months, beginning with his win over Vusi Malinga on Showtime in June, and continuing with wins on that channel over Eric Morel in September and Victor Zaleta in November. Santa Cruz will be facing a 16-0 opponent named Alberto Guevara. The undercard will have the pro debut of American Olympian Joseph Diaz Jr.
The NBC card has a main event of Steve Cunningham vs. Tomasz Adamek, a heavyweight rematch of the stellar cruiserweight war they waged in December 2008.
The CBS show will follow a college basketball broadcast of Indiana vs. Butler (Indiana is presently the top-rated team).
But what’s as important as the times and the lead-ins is the marketing. I’m not sure of what advertising CBS and NBC have been doing on their main networks, as well as their sister channels. That’s one key to drawing from the mainstream audience.
This isn’t quite the UFC’s debut on FOX, which was for the heavyweight championship and was heavily promoted during the channel’s football broadcasts.
Then again, as Junior Dos Santos KO1 Cain Velasquez showed us, it’s also important that whatever airs is enough to draw viewers in for subsequent broadcasts.
8. Not-quite-dream fight for 2013: David Haye vs. Kevin Johnson for the right to find out who won’t throw punches at a Klitschko…
9. Usually press conference brawls seem to be last-ditch efforts to draw attention to a bout that is just days away. That’s not the case with the altercation that happened this past weekend at a press conference for February’s fight between junior welterweights Danny Garcia and Zab Judah.
Garcia’s father, Angel, is never one to shy away from giving his opinion or from being confrontational. That led to some heated words and, subsequently, heated moments between Angel Garcia and Judah.
If only we could get the fathers/trainers to fight on the undercard: Angel Garcia vs. Yoel Judah.
10. What’s the difference between Danny Garcia vs. Erik Morales and Danny Garcia vs. Zab Judah?
It’s “tainted beef” vs. “contrived beef.”
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter @fightingwords2 or send questions/comments via email at [email protected]