By Jake Donovan
The Nevada State Athletic Commission ended weeks of speculation with a unanimous five-person vote for Golden Boy Promotions to host its May 7 HBO Pay-Per-View show at the newly constructed 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Headlining the first-ever boxing event at the new venue, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez makes the first defense of his World middleweight championship versus former 140 lb. champ and current welterweight contender Amir Khan.
The bout will take place at a maximum catchweight of 155-pounds. It will mark the fifth straight fight just outside the super welterweight division for Alvarez following the lone loss of his career, a 12-round decision to Floyd Mayweather Jr in their Sept. ’13 World super welterweight championship (which came at a catchweight of 152-pounds).
A 155-pound catchweight was in place for Alvarez’ middleweight championship winning effort over Miguel Cotto last November at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Golden Boy reserved the May 7 date during the last commission agenda meeting in January, but with a temporary hold on the MGM Grand, which has hosted most of the biggest fights in Las Vegas since its first boxing event in 1994. However, the hold was merely to allow Golden Boy to buy time in securing a deal to place the show at the venue it has always desired – the T-Mobile Arena – from the moment it was confirmed that Alvarez would next fight on the date.
Alvarez (46-1-1, 32KOs) – who has emerged as the new face of boxing in Mexico’s rich history in the sport - was hell bent on reclaiming the two boxing weekends surrounding Mexican holidays – Cinco de Mayo (May 5, celebrating the Battle of Puebla) and El Grito de Independencia (Mexico’s Independence Day, September 16) – upon returning to HBO. His first fight back on the network following a five-fight stint with Showtime came last May in Houston, Texas, annihilating James Kirkland in three rounds.
The fight took place a week after his first choice, though understandable as the May 2 date was occupied by the biggest event in boxing history.
Floyd Mayweather’s 12-round win over Manny Pacquiao took place at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, destroying every conceivable financial benchmark, but with the aftermath leaving the sport forced to turn to a new star to lead the charge. Mayweather returned in September, outpointing Andre Berto in what the unbeaten former pound-for-pound and box-office king insists was the final performance of his illustrious career.
Pacquiao sat out the remainder of 2015 in efforts to fully heal a recurring shoulder injury which he and his team concealed prior to the Mayweather fight. He returns on April 9 in a rubber match with Tim Bradley at MGM Grand in what may or may not be his last ever fight, as the current two-term Congressman in the Philippine province of Sarangai is actively campaigning for a senatorial seat in his home country, with the general election to take place in May.
While Pacquiao tops the next big event at MGM Grand, Alvarez follows in the footsteps of Mexico’s legendary Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. The former three-division world champion headlined the first-ever boxing event at MGM Grand, although a night that produced his first ever loss after 90 starts in suffering a 12-round defeat at the hands of Frankie Randall.
Chavez Sr. gained his revenge less than four months later, scoring a disputed points win in their rematch on May 7, 1994 – exactly 22 years to the day of Alvarez offering a fistic christening at the T-Mobile Arena in his showdown versus Khan.
With a win, Alvarez’ next mandated opponent will be unbeaten, unified titlist Gennady Golovkin. Whether or not the fight actually happens remains to be seen, although there exists the strong likelihood of Alvarez fighting on September 17, thus reclaiming the two boxing weekends he’s sought to do in the wake of Mayweather’s exit from the game.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox