The news surrounding Oscar De La Hoya’s exhibition-style ring return has created a Las Vegas logjam.
Media reports have swirled of the Hall of Fame former six-division champion moving forward with a planned boxing exhibition versus UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort. The matchup will headline a Triller Fight Club Pay-Per-View show targeted for September 11 at a Las Vegas venue to be determined.
The theory behind targeting that date is to not directly conflict with rumored plans of four-division and reigning WBA/WBC/WBO super middleweight titlist Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (56-1-2, 38KOs) returning to Las Vegas on September 18. However, Eddie Hearn—who promoted Alvarez’s last three fights and has a partnership with his Canelo Promotions—has recently informed media that September 11 was also in play for Alvarez’s next fight, with their side currently in talks with IBF super middleweight titlist Caleb Plant (21-0, 12KOs).
Both dates are ideal for Guadalajara’s Alvarez, who is intent on having his next fight centered around Mexican Independence Day (September 16). However, a September 18 date would remove Allegiant Stadium and T-Mobile Arena from the mix, as both are booked—Allegiant Stadium is hosting a home college football game for the UNLV Running Rebels, while T-Mobile hosts the annual two-day iHeartRadio Music Festival from September 17-18.
That would leave the MGM Grand Garden Arena as the most prominent venue in town for whichever event winds up taking place September 18, assuming one or both take place in Vegas.
Allegiant Stadium—the new home to the Las Vegas Raiders—and T-Mobile Arena are both available on September 11, while Tijuana-based Grupo Firme occupies MGM Grand Garden Arena from September 10-12 as part of its North American music tour.
East Los Angeles’ De La Hoya (39-6, 30KOs) has not fought since December 2008, when eight one-sided rounds at the lethal hands of Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39KOs) at MGM Grand Garden Arena. By that point, he had already established himself as the sport’s biggest draw of his generation. Among his rise to superstardom was commanding the two big Mexican-themed holiday weekends, headlining seven shows surrounding Mexican Independence Day and another five surrounding Cinco De Mayo.
In that vein, it was believed that his inclusion on the exhibition circuit would also be best served for a September fight date rather than original plans which called for a July 3 PPV event potentially in Texas.
It also causes a shakeup in the plans of his former fighter.
Alvarez was with Golden Boy Promotions from 2010 through their bitter split last November.
During that time, Alvarez—who turns 31 in July—has emerged as a global superstar and by far the biggest current box office attraction in North America. The pound-for-pound king was developed as a supporting cast member to shows headlined by Floyd Mayweather, getting a taste of the big fight feel on Mexican holiday weekends beginning with his May 2019 win over Jose Miguel Cotto on the undercard of Mayweather-Shane Mosley.
The fight was his first of seven Cinco de Mayo-themed appearances and seven more on Mexican Independence Day, with plans to make it eight on the latter once he comes to terms with Plant or the next best option should their undisputed championship clash not come to fruition. All but one Cinco de Mayo appearance came on Golden Boy’s watch, his most recent bout as he stopped England’s Billy Joe Saunders (30-1, 14KOs) after eight competitive rounds to unify three super middleweight titles this past May in front of a North America record-setting indoor boxing crowd at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Alvarez’s previous Cinco de Mayo headliner came in May 2019, when he outpointed Daniel Jacobs to unify three middleweight titles in their DAZN-televised unification bout at T-Mobile Arena. The bout was the last time he and Golden Boy remained on good terms, with their frosty relationship evident ahead of his eleventh-round knockout win over Sergey Kovalev to win the WBO light heavyweight title in November 2019 at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The event came about after Alvarez missed an opportunity both to fight on that year’s Mexican Independence Day and defend his middleweight titles. He was stripped of the IBF belt for failure to come to terms with mandatory challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko, with the breakdown in communication marking the beginning of the end of his relationship with Golden Boy. Alvarez has since worked with Hearn for his past three bouts—a near-shutout decision win over unbeaten Callum Smith to win the WBA/WBC super middleweight titles last December at Alamodome in San Antonio; a third-round round stoppage of mandatory challenger Avni Yildirm this past February at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida; and his aforementioned WBA/WBC/WBO title unifying eighth-round stoppage of Saunders this past May in Arlington.
Alvarez’s win over Kovalev also marked the last time he has fought in Vegas, where he was part of three of the five highest grossing boxing events in the city’s rich history. His pair of middleweight championship bouts with Gennadiy Golovkin—both taking place at T-Mobile Arena in September 2017 and September 2018—rank third and fourth, while his lone career defeat—a 12-round decision to Mayweather in September 2013—ranks fifth.
The latter set the box-office record at the time, its $20,003,150 live gate surpassing the $18,419,200 worth of ticket sales for Mayweather’s win over De La Hoya in May 2007 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. There weren’t any hard feelings, as Golden Boy was the lead promoter for Mayweather-Alvarez as well as Alvarez-Golovkin I and II and his wins over Miguel Cotto (November 2015), Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (May 2017) and Jacobs, all of which are among the 35 highest-grossing boxing events to take place in Nevada.
De La Hoya was also involved in six events on that current list, though going 1-5 among the lot. Losses to Felix Trinidad (September 1999), Shane Mosley (September 2003 rematch), Bernard Hopkins (September 2004), Mayweather and Pacquiao all performed remarkably well at the box office though not so much for their in-ring endings as he would like to remember them. The lone win among the list was perhaps his last great performance during his prime, scoring an 11th round knockout of Fernando Vargas in their September 2002 junior middleweight title unification clash at Mandalay Bay.
Perhaps the most fitting development in the ongoing rift between De La Hoya and Alvarez would be for both to appear in Las Vegas on September 11. Alvarez-Plant—should a deal materialize—for the undisputed super middleweight championship would be an ideal candidate for the first-ever boxing event at Allegiant Stadium. Alvarez could also return to T-Mobile Arena on the date, having christened the venue atop its first boxing show in May 2016 among his five appearances there.
No matter how things shake out, hard decisions will have to be made by all parties involved as well as anyone planning to support either or both events. Unless, of course, Vegas proves to be big enough for the two of them.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox