By Andreas Hale
What the sport of boxing needs more than exciting knockouts is intense rivalries. And while rivalries aren’t a new concept, a high profile rivalry has proven to be hard to come by.
Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin have the opportunity to set the boxing world on fire on September 16th. And if we’re lucky, it won’t end with just one fight.
When it comes to rivalries in boxing, there are few that pan out to be legitimate box office blockbusters that capture the mainstream’s attention. Of course, Ali-Frazier immediately comes to mind. But there is also Bowe-Holyfield, Pacquiao-Marquez, Gatti-Ward, Morales-Barrera, Robinson-LaMotta and Pep-Saddler. Boxing could certainly use a top tier rivalry where a fight that many expect to be a ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate delivers and develops into a true rivalry.
“Who knows we might even do a second one, this is the type of event that call for trilogies,” Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya said. “When you think about Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, that great trilogy. When you think about Marco Antonio Barrera v Erik Morales. This is exactly what boxing is all about. It’s about even fights.”
That wasn’t the first time that De La Hoya mentioned that he hopes Canelo-GGG turns into a trilogy. During fight week he echoed those very sentiments.
And it makes perfect sense from a financial standpoint. With all of his chips pushed into the middle of the table on Canelo, De La Hoya knows that the biggest payday would be for Canelo and GGG to meet more than once. And with Canelo as his lone cash cow, it’s best that he milks it for all that it’s worth. As for Golovkin, being a wrecking machine does have its drawbacks. Should he be involved in an entertaining battle with Canelo, it’s certain to catapult him into stardom. And that’s what has been eluding the heavy handed Kazakh fighter.
In order for Canelo-GGG to develop into a rivalry, it would require an excellent first fight that would be close enough with the entertainment value to cause fans to demand a rematch.
All of the aforementioned rivalries started with an epic first fight. And, in most cases, that first fight was highly anticipated on its own merit. But the box office for a rematch usually eclipses the initial bout. Boxing could certainly use something to extend the shelf life of a fight that has captured the imaginations of many but was hindered a bit by the circus known as Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor that sucked a bit of wind out of the sails of the promotions.
Obviously, Canelo would love nothing more than a short night at the office against Golovkin. And it’s probably safe to say that GGG is looking for the same kind of fight out of Canelo. However, both have expressed interest in giving fans an exciting fight that would send them home happy. So, maybe there is some interest in these two doing it again. And again.
On paper, Canelo-GGG has all of the makings of an excellent fight. It could go the way of Hagler-Hearns or could be a dramatic throw down like Cotto-Margarito. But the one thing that everyone can agree on is that this has all of the makings of being a barnburner and low odds of stinking up the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. While both Canelo and GGG would probably tell you that they are fine not having to see each other again after this fight, the reality is that they don’t have many places to turn to that will spark public interest like this fight has. The winner of Canelo-GGG could look to unify by facing Billy Joe Saunders or take on someone like Jermall Charlo, Daniel Jacobs or David Lemieux. But none of those opponents at 160 pounds has the drawing potential that these two would have facing each other. More importantly — and especially in Golovkin’s case — none are opponents that the general public would care about. Those are not fights that will be discussed heavily on ESPN’s First Take or FS1’s The Undisputed. But a great fight on September 16th that leads into an immediate rematch captures the imagination of boxing fans everywhere. And for those who may have missed their first fight, the interest would be even higher in a rematch.
Rivalries have defined boxing and are often how eras are remembered. With Floyd Mayweather gone and Manny Pacquiao not too far behind him, people have questioned who will carry boxing into the new frontier. While the answer isn’t totally clear -- but seems to lean heavily on Canelo’s shoulders -- the sport could certainly use an immediate injection of entertainment while keeping the hardcore fans engaged while this is all figured out. There’s no better way than turning what is easily the most anticipated and evenly matched fight in the sport into a legendary rivalry that would define both fighters.
But first, we’ll have to see how everything plays out on September 16th.