COMMENTARY | On April 20, at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Austin "No Doubt" Trout will meet in a junior middleweight title unification bout. The long-awaited 154 lb. showdown is being treated by fans and media as Alvarez's first "real" test from a legitimate, established main stage junior middleweight. But, as is usually the case in the kangaroo court of public opinion, perception and reality aren't always the same thing.
Many in the public perceive the 22-year-old Canelo as a paper champion, skillfully guided to a world title by Golden Boy Promotions and kept on top by a complicit WBC, which has, at times, appeared to be running interference for the popular Mexican fighter. After taking a good, hard look at Alvarez's resume, it's hard to argue with that assessment.
While it's true that the red-headed champ from Guadalajara has faced a solid level of opposition for a fighter of his age, the opponent list is nowhere near what is to be expected of a world titlist with five defenses already under his belt. Even Alvarez's title-winning effort for the vacant WBC belt against Matthew Hatton was dubious. Ricky Hatton's younger, less-talented brother was a welterweight fringe contender with plenty of grit, but no power and absolutely no chance of beating Alvarez.
It's true that Canelo's road to glory has been well-crafted and calculated. His potential to make a buck made him a star long before being asked to prove his ability at the highest levels of the game.
But Canelo is not alone in being a young fighter with drawing power and charisma wedged into a spot well above his level of accomplishment. "Champions-in-training" are all over the sport these days and receive varying levels of respect, mostly depending on the media push behind them. And on that list of paper champions with potentially bright futures is Alvarez's April 20 opponent, Austin Trout.
Trout's unanimous decision win over a faded Miguel Cotto in December was respectable, but there was nothing there that suggested a real coming of age or breakthrough to a next level. Trout's victory, by far the marquee win of his career, teetered on the line between competent and noteworthy, but it blew nobody away.
As for the rest of Trout's career, if Canelo can be categorized as protected, then Trout has to be regarded, at the very least, as fortunate.
Trout's rise to the world title was even more lacking in depth than Alvarez's. Club fights in the American Southwest eventually led to mid-card showcases on the road, and a shot at the vacant "regular" WBA junior middleweight title against Canelo's brother, Rigoberto Alvarez. Trout's points win would earn him a world title belt, but purely of the paper variety-Miguel Cotto had captured the real WBA junior middleweight title eight months earlier.
The fighter from Las Cruces, New Mexico would then go on to beat the solid David Lopez, the laughably overmatched Frank LoPorto, and fringe contender Delvin Rodriguez before fighting Cotto. Along the way, Trout's "regular" WBA title got a magic upgrade after Cotto lost the real belt to Floyd Mayweather and Mayweather opted to vacate.
The perception of Trout as a battle-tested elite fighter is simply more publicity than reality. Yes, he's a good fighter, but his resume, stacked side by side with Alvarez's, is significantly thinner than the Mexican's.
Part of the problem is that Alvarez has been so widely disparaged that everything he has done thus far in his career has been minimized. Alvarez is being held to a higher standard because of his greater star potential and the high-profile career that has created for him. Trout, with a similar resume as Canelo's, was able to fly under the radar and not become a magnet for scorn and derision because of the paper belt he held or a generally weak level of opposition.
Coming into their April 20 bout, Trout's being hyped as the litmus test and Alvarez as someone who will have to prove his worth. The fact of the matter is that Trout-Alvarez is just a good, solid match-up between two undefeated 20-something fighters coming from a similar career background, each with questionable world champ status and a lot to prove.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
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