It would be foolish to say it doesn’t matter.
Tuesday’s news that middleweight champion Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez is suing his promoter and network matters. It renders, at the least, an overwhelming likelihood Alvarez won’t be back in the ring in 2020. Depending on the course of litigation, it could run well into next year.
Boxing is an event driven sport. Week to week, there are shows that draw varying audiences and interest from those who follow the sport regularly. There are a handful of battlers, sometimes less, who move the economic needle around the world in a bigger way. The biggest purses, the most attention, the singular events that push boxing to the front of the sporting world, are hard to come by.
Alvarez is one of the fighters who can deliver events. It doesn’t mean every outing amounts to one, but his biggest fights are among boxing’s biggest nights in recent years. Only recently turned 30, there are at least a few more years of his run to go.
His absence matters.
But in terms of sport versus spectacle, it’s still just one career among many. Alvarez can only line them up one at a time. In the current boxing scene, it adds up to about two a year.
Without him, the show still goes on.
As long as his absence continues, there is nothing but opportunity for everyone aspiring to reach his level of income, relevance, and drawing power.
Boxing has been without its biggest stars before. Ray Leonard was out of the ring as often as he was in it during the 1980s. Mike Tyson lost three years to a rape conviction in the 1990s. Floyd Mayweather was away more than a year between wins over Ricky Hatton and Juan Manuel Marquez and then again between wins over Shane Mosley and Victor Ortiz.
In all those cases, other fighters grew their stars. It didn’t fill the vacuum absences left, but it occupied enough of it to keep the train rolling. Marvin Hagler, Evander Holyfield, and Manny Pacquiao, already stars in their own right, had room to grow even further in a way that might have been mitigated otherwise.
It would be foolish to say a boxing landscape without a predictable return for Alvarez doesn’t matter.
It would be just as foolish to focus on this new soap opera over a dense schedule for the remainder of 2020. What matters more for now is who can take advantage of the void. From the perspective of a boxing fan, there is a lot to be excited about in the next few months.
There is still an audience waiting to be served, as evidenced in recent solid ratings for Shawn Porter and Yordenis Ugas on Fox in fights where they were prohibitive favorites. It should encourage everyone about the ceiling for the better matches set to date.
After Showtime and PBC announced a fantastic slate of fights for the fall, eyes turned to PBC’s relationship with Fox and the marriage of ESPN and Top Rank to see what would fill out the remainder of the year. More pieces have fallen into place. No one has a gem in every outing but opportunities abound for memorable fights and brighter horizons.
September 26th was already a big date on the calendar with Showtime’s Charlo twinbill (pun intended) looking well worth the pay-per-view penny. This week, DAZN added the long delayed cruiserweight World Boxing Super Series final between Mairis Briedis and Yuniel Dorticos. It’s a tremendous amount of quality over the course of a single day, the sort of marathon sure to keep boxing trending in social media circles for hours.
Vasyl Lomachenko-Teofimo Lopez on ESPN and Gervonta Davis’s showdown with Leo Santa Cruz on Showtime pay-per-view in October can only further what is a growing wellspring of talent and dollars around lightweight. Errol Spence’s Fox pay-per-view return against Danny Garcia in November will test what had been an upward trend in terms of drawing power before Spence’s car accident last year against a tested veteran.
Hardcore fans have their corner covered as well. Excellent matches at bantamweight in Naoya Inoue-Jason Moloney (ESPN) and Nordine Ouballi-Nonito Donaire (Showtime) are just some of what’s coming before the year is out.
In other words, boxing in the ring has plenty to offer, anticipate, and grow on. That’s before we find out if Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder will join Anthony Joshua as at least active (even if the big fights at heavyweight might move to 2021) again this year.
The sport is down a star but one can only hope that leaves it wide open for new or enhanced stars in the meantime.
If the DAZN/Alvarez relationship comes to an end here, and that’s far from certain, it is worth asking where Alvarez would be most interesting, and challenged, if he found a new home...Catching up on the final season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it’s sticking the landing. A show that got better halfway through its run should be a cult favorite as the years progress and new audiences find it...The same thing is already happening for Lucifer which is finding new life on Netflix after a delightful guilty pleasure run on Fox...Roman Gonzalez still doesn’t have an encore set for 2020. Pedro Guevara is a solid former titlist and legitimate top ten Jr. bantamweight whose name has bandied about. Why not a showdown with flyweight titlist Moruti Mthalane? It might be the best fight we didn’t see during Gonzalez’s run from strawweight to flyweight...Kawhi Leonard is playing on another plane right now.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org