Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya may no longer promote pound-for-pound king Canelo Alvarez following their acrimonious breakup last fall, but he still pays attention to his fights.
Alvarez, boxing’s biggest star, has boxed twice since parting ways with Golden Boy as part of a settlement of his $280 million breach of contract lawsuit against the promotional company, De La Hoya and DAZN. The first bout was on Dec. 19 in San Antonio, where he rolled past Callum Smith to win a virtual shutout decision and pair of super middleweight world title belts, and then this past Saturday night in Miami, where he destroyed overmatched and under qualified mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim, a former Alvarez former sparring partner, who got knocked down in the third round and then quit on his stool after the round.
The one-sided result did not at all surprise De La Hoya.
“I think I saw one round and then I felt this isn’t going to go one or two more rounds,” De La Hoya told BoxingScene.com. “He’s Canelo. He’s the biggest star in boxing today. I respect that. But when you’re fighting your sparring partner we obviously should already know the result.”
Alvarez’s plan is to fight five times between this past December and this coming December in an effort to become the first-ever undisputed super middleweight world champion, either in the three or four-belt era.
Alvarez scooped up Smith’s WBA and the vacant WBC titles against Smith. Then Alvarez made a WBC mandatory defense against Yildirim because Yildirim stepped aside to allow the Alvarez-Smith fight to take place with both men promising Yildirim the next fight if they won.
Next, Alvarez heads into a three-belt unification fight with WBO titlist Billy Joe Saunders, of England, on May 8 – Cinco de Mayo weekend -- at a site to be determined. The fight was formally announced in the ring after Alvarez had polished off Yildirim. And if Alvarez wins that fight, he hopes to face IBF titlist Caleb Plant for the undisputed championship on Mexican Independence Day weekend in September, with one more fight this year possible in December.
De La Hoya said he appreciates Alvarez’s activity as it harkens back to De La Hoya’s own huge 1997, when the prime Golden Boy fought five times.
De La Hoya began that year by defending his junior welterweight world title with a dominating decision win over Miguel Angel Gonzalez, a dangerous opponent, who was 41-0 at the time.
De La Hoya moved up to welterweight for his next fight in April and outpointed the late Hall of Famer Pernell Whitaker to win the world title.
For his first defense, De La Hoya squared off with David Kamau, who was 28-1 at the time, and knocked him out in the second round. Defense No. 2 came in September in a one-sided decision over Hall of Famer Hector Camacho, who was past his prime, with a third defense taking place in December, when he knocked out contender Wilfredo Rivera in the eighth round.
“When I fought five times (in 1997) I fought a whole different level of fighters than (Alvarez) would be fighting but my hat off to him,” De La Hoya said. “If he wants to fight four times this year, my hat off to him because he’d be an active fighter who would keep boxing in the news, which is good for everybody.
“I respect him for (wanting to be the undisputed super middleweight champion). I applaud him for that. I wish him all the best.”
But De La Hoya said Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs), 31, is exactly the kind of opponent who could give the 30-year-old Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs), of Mexico, problems. He noted that Saunders is a southpaw and a technical boxer more likely to move a lot than to stand in front of Alvarez.
“Billy Joe is a guy who moves and could give him trouble. He’s on his toes and a fighter on his toes is very dangerous,” De La Hoya said.
If Alvarez gets past Saunders, he said he did not see Plant (21-0, 12 KOs), 28, of Las Vegas, presenting much of a challenge.
“I don’t see him giving Canelo that much trouble,” De La Hoya said. “He can present some complications but I think the fact that Billy Joe is on his toes moving around can give him some big troubles.”
One opponent that De La Hoya said would be exciting to see Alvarez face is undefeated two-time super middleweight world titlist David Benavidez (23-0, 20 KOs), 24, of Phoenix, who is likes to brawl and is scheduled for a WBC semifinal title eliminator against Ronald Ellis in the main event of a Showtime-televised card on March 13.
“Absolutely, I love that fight. It’s the fight that boxing needs,” De La Hoya said. “The fact that Canelo is fighting often is great for everybody.”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.