By Cliff Rold
It would be nice to think of it as just another night in the ring. The fight itself is well made. While not for any title, it features arguably the two best Jr. Middleweights in the world with lineal champion Floyd Mayweather perhaps unlikely to appear in the division again.
That’s reason enough to tune in.
The politics surrounding the fight add an extra layer of intrigue.
In one corner, we’ll have former unified titlist Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (43-1-1, 31 KO). Alvarez might be the most popular Mexican fighter in the sport. Only 23 and with but a single loss to Mayweather, Alvarez looks like he might be one of the sport’s economic bellwethers into the 2020s.
He’s also, easily, the most important fighter currently under contract to Golden Boy Promotions. With battle lines drawn between founder Oscar De La Hoya and former CEO Richard Schaefer, De La Hoya needs Alvarez to win badly this weekend. His company, flush with TV dates and a still deep roster, will be okay if he doesn’t. It’s much stronger if he does.
One of the issues at the heart of the De La Hoya-Schaefer fallout is the accusation that Schaefer used Golden Boy to facilitate appearances for fighters under the ‘advisement’ of Al Haymon without insuring obligations to the promotional company.
In the opposite corner, Cuba’s Erislandy Lara (19-1-2, 12 KO) finally arrives at his big moment. While Lara is featured as a member of the Golden Boy roster on their website, Lara claims to have nothing to do with Golden Boy anymore .
Lara is an Al Haymon guy.
It’s not unusual for fighters affiliated with certain boxing power brokers to see the breaks go their way. What could be called ‘house fighters’ under the umbrella of Bob Arum and Don King over the years won more than their fair share of close and/or controversial calls. Haymon guys have shared in some of the same good fortune.
Lara knows all about it.
Matched with Haymon-advised Paul Williams in 2011, Lara appeared the victor with a clear, commanding performance. He lost a majority decision so odious that the state of New Jersey suspended all three judges following the debacle. One of the three, judge Donald Givens whose card was widest for Williams at 116-114, hasn’t judged a fight since according to BoxRec’s officiating data.
Lara signed with Haymon in 2012. He’s had three high profile fights since, drawing with Vanes Martirosyan in a cut-shortened affair before defeating Alfredo Angulo and Austin Trout. Now he gets a crack at one of the few genuine superstars in the sport. Maybe he’d have that shot anyways.
The connection doesn’t hurt. The results of others say it’s a wise signing.
Austin Trout, before Lara, secured major opportunities after signing with Haymon. Prior to signing with Haymon, Trout had a belt and was defending against Frank LoPorto. After, he got cracks at Miguel Cotto and Saul Alvarez. On one card in the competitive Cotto affair in Madison Square Garden, Trout was awarded a surprising eleven rounds. There was no doubt he won the fight, but that was an eye popping score.
Just as eye popping was a score in his loss to Alvarez that saw him lose ten rounds. While there is no problem with calling Alvarez the winner of that bout, and the consensus was the verdict was fair, ten rounds-to-two was over the top. It appeared closer than that.
Sometimes, the big money guys get odd scores in their favor. Big money is usually the safer bet to get the odd call their way. But, sometimes, guys with the right stroke behind them see the tables turn their way. We’ve got one of each this weekend amid a contentious behind the scenes power struggle.
It would be nice to pretend these things don’t matter. There often isn’t any hard evidence they do. All we have are eyeball tests, anecdotes, and coincidence.
Boxing has enough of those to make anyone question. The question here:
Do we get a fight this weekend where only the two men in the ring determine the outcome? Can this excellent matchup unfold without the politics of the world around it casting a shadow?
It might be that the balance of politics in this fight makes it all come out square in the wash.
It’s probably better to hope for a knockout.
Manny Pacquiao-Chris Algieri, if it happens, isn’t terrible but it’s also nothing people are screaming for. That said, Algieri’s New York connection could get the fight more press and attention than some would initially estimate…McWilliams Arroyo will likely have to go on the road to Thailand after a purse bid favored IBF Flyweight titlist Amnat Ruenroeng. Thailand’s often-outdoor fights can be murder on travelers and Ruenroeng is a tough, awkward pro. Arroyo will have to be the best he’s ever been to crack into the upper echelon of boxing’s most exciting division…Guillermo Rigondeaux has UniMas for his next title defense and would be well advised to go Willie Casey on challenger Sod Kokietgym. With free agency looming, he won’t want his TV stock to drop…It’s Messi vs. the Machine in the World Cup Final and this has been enough fun to watch that this scribe might pay attention to Futbol again before the next World Cup. The Olympics is only two years away.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]