By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Our long national hyperbolic nightmare is over.
And as we turn from the tattered wreckage of Manny Pacquiao’s mayhem-creating aura – or from the tattered wreckage of his right shoulder, you decide – we can look confidently forward knowing that boxing’s pay-per-view future remains in the capable hands of a 20-something redheaded Mexican.
Or so sayeth Oscar De La Hoya, at least.
The “Golden Boy’s” got a vested interest in that scenario, of course, but that’s not to say that the fight his man will take part in this weekend – in Houston, against oft-menacing Texas native James Kirkland – won’t be worth a watch when it arrives on HBO’s air Saturday at 9 p.m. The match will air live, and will be paired with the network’s replay of some other fight that apparently happened last Saturday.
The former six-division world champion sat down recently to discuss his company’s flagship fighter, the inherent danger of a rumble with Kirkland and the opponent he ultimate sees as a PPV foil.
Fitzbitz: How important is it for you to get Canelo back in a ring to reestablish that brand again?
De La Hoya: This is a perfect example of not worrying about losing a fight or having an undefeated record. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you fight the very best, you go up against the very best and try your very best. This is a perfect example.
People are waiting patiently and anxiously for Canelo Alvarez’s next fight. It’s a building process. It’s going back to the roots. He wants to fight three times this year and he wants to continue that trend. He wants to fight often. He doesn’t want to fight once a year or twice a year, what normal champions do. He wants to be very active in order to keep building his fan base.
Fitzbitz: Talk about his popularity in Houston and why that’s a good spot for this fight, and what you think people will be seeing when May 9 rolls around?
De La Hoya: Canelo’s first choice, because of the beautiful experience he had in San Antonio, he would have loved to fight at the Alamodome once again. It wasn’t available for certain reasons, so I suggested Houston, which is a great market for boxing. We’ve staged some terrific fights with Rocky Juarez and Juan Diaz, who are from there, so we decided to go to Minute Maid Park, which holds about 45,000 people for boxing. We knew going in that we were going to take a chance, but not take a risk.
What I mean by that is when you have Canelo Alvarez, who draws so many people wherever he goes, it’s really not a risk to sell tickets. We feel very optimistic that we’re going to have a sellout crowd. People love watching Canelo Alvarez. He’s an exciting fighter. He’s the future of boxing at the tender age of 24 years old. Next to Pacquiao and Mayweather, Canelo is the pay-per-view star. We’re going to continue building his fan base on the global level.
Fitzbitz: Talk about Kirkland as an opponent. Win, lose or draw against him, it’s probably not going to be an easy night. What do you expect to see come fight night?
De La Hoya: First of all, it’s going to be an exciting fight, a fun fight to watch. It’s a dangerous fight. James Kirkland is a dangerous puncher. When I think about James Kirkland, I think about the beating he gave to Alfredo Angulo in Mexico. Watching that fight up close and personal ringside, you see that he can cause a lot of problems. He has that one-punch knockout power and he can stop anybody in his tracks. It’s going to be one of those fights that you’re not going to want to miss because of the excitement. This fight is going to be an entertaining fight, which fans want to see.
Fitzbitz: He’s linked to just about everybody. Presuming things go well May 9, is his future at 154? Is it Floyd, Cotto, Manny? What sorts of things do you have planned for him if Houston goes well?
De La Hoya: It might be a fight of the year, you might have a rematch. You never know. But let’s say Canelo does win. Obviously there’s a lot of options out there for him. The question is, is he going to stay at 154 or does he want to move up to 160? If he stays at 154, you have names like Timothy Bradley, who wants to move up, for instance. You have David Lemieux, who had a tremendous, tremendous win on HBO, who fights at 160. You obviously have Miguel Cotto.
What I believe is a huge fight that can be made down the road is Gennady Golovkin. There are a lot of options. Pacquiao can move up to 154 and challenge. We feel that if Canelo wins this fight, the sky’s the limit for him.
Fitzbitz: You mentioned Golovkin. He’s a guy who’s been begging for someone to fight him, or at least claiming nobody wants him. Is that a guy you and Canelo talk about for the future?
De La Hoya: Absolutely. Canelo will fight anybody. He proved it against Mayweather. He proved it against Lara. He proved it against Trout. He wants to fight guys that fighters don’t want to fight. He wants to fight them. And that’s what makes Canelo great.
That’s why people love him, because he’s willing to fight the very best. And Golovkin is no exception. He’s eventually going to fight Golovkin and the question is at what point do we let him loose? The time will come. The time will come. And at the right time, people will see that fight.
Fitzbitz: Has Golovkin gotten to a point yet where he’s a pay-per-view guy, or does he still need to clear one hurdle before he’s on a Canelo level?
De La Hoya: He needs a signature win. Golovkin has to fight somebody at 168. Golovkin keeps calling out fighters who are 154. He has to call out somebody at 168 and challenge a big name, like Andre Ward for instance. If he has that type of signature win, then he can maybe become a pay-per-view fighter.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBA super featherweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Takashi Uchiyama (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Jomthong Chuwatana (No. 7 WBA/No. 17 IWBR)
Uchiyama (22-0-1, 18 KO): Tenth title defense; Twentieth fight in Tokyo (19-0, 15 KO)
Chuwatana (9-0, 4 KO): First title fight; Third fight in Tokyo (2-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: If you’re a champion fighting a guy who’s got the same number of fights as you’ve got title defenses, chances are you’re going to be in good shape come fight night. Uchiyama in 8
WBA light flyweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Ryoichi Taguchi (champion/No. 10 IWBR) vs. Kwanthai Sithmorseng (No. 14 WBA/unranked IWBR)
Taguchi (21-2-1, 8 KO): First title defense; Fifth fight scheduled for 10 or more rounds (2-1-1, 0 KO)
Sithmorseng (49-3-1, 26 KO): Fourth title fight (1-2); Held WBA title at 105 (2010-11, zero defenses)
Fitzbitz says: The challenger seems to have the street cred to win his second weight-class title, right up until you realize he hasn’t beaten a foe coming off a win in nearly three full years. Taguchi by decision
Last week's picks: 4-0 (WIN: Miura, Beltran, Mayweather, Lomachenko)
2015 picks record: 26-7 (78.7 percent)
Overall picks record: 665-230 (74.3 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.