COMMENTARY | There's nothing to dislike about 22-year-old boxing wunderkind, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez-- except just about everything done in his name by Golden Boy Promotions.
In the ring, the red-headed WBC junior middleweight champ from just outside of Guadalajara, Mexico is as honest and earnest a fighter as you'll ever see. There's absolutely no pretense about the way the kid approaches his work and executes his profession. If calm and cold-hearted bludgeonings are your thing, Alvarez is the type of fighter you can really appreciate. Criticisms and jaded media jabs aside, "Canelo" is a fine piece of work for a 22-year-old kid and even his resume doesn't really offend when compared to what some of boxing's biggest stars were doing at the same age.
Even outside the ring, with one notable exception involving a street brawl incident with boxer Ulises Solis, the young fighter has conducted himself with extreme grace, especially for a young man closing in on the next level of stardom.
However, things get sour whenever his boxing business dealings are brought up-- and all of that ill will can be blamed on promoter, Golden Boy.
Already on his way to stardom as a regional attraction in Central Mexico, the promotional outfit headed by Richard Schaefer and Oscar de la Hoya saw the money-making potential in the then-19-year-old Alvarez and quickly signed him up to an exclusive promotional deal.
Alvarez was understandably thrilled with the deal and the opportunities that would come with being aligned with one of the sport's top two promotional companies:
"I want to show everyone that I will be a World Champion and that I'm ready to fight the best fighters in the world," Canelo said in a statement issued to the press following the signing. "The opportunity to work with Golden Boy is definitely one that I could not pass up as I feel it will help me achieve my goal of reaching my full potential as a fighter and becoming a huge success in boxing."
All was well for his first three or four fights under the deal, but then the developing talent found himself on the fast track to a world title, shoved into a speeding car aimed at a belt he really didn't deserve. Even Alvarez, himself, seemed publicly sheepish about the dubious honor of a no. 1 ranking at junior middleweight with no real, significant wins over top divisional talent.
But Golden Boy was fulfilling its promise of making Canelo a star. They were doing all the things promoters do to expose their fighters to the world, but that attention to publicity and image-making didn't extend to the actual ring work.
Alvarez would fight bloated UK welterweight fringe contender, Matthew Hatton, for the vacant WBC junior middleweight title in 2011, despite the fact that Hatton had never really campaigned in the 154 lb. division.
Hardcore fans then balked at Alvarez's Golden Boy-approved list of challengers, which included the likes of Shane Mosley, Alfonso Gomez, and Josesito Lopez. In a division full of tough, elite-level challengers, Alvarez was fighting smaller and/or low-level fighters while the true top dogs in the WBC rankings were forced to fight eliminator after eliminator to prove themselves worthy of a title shot.
The good will initially generated by this genuinely likeable, overachieving kid from the heartland of Mexico has now been replaced by dismissal, disregard, and cynicism. And all of the blame for this drastic change in public image can be directly attributed to Golden Boy and their behind-the-scenes maneuverings.
On April 20, Canelo faces WBA titlist, Austin Trout in, perhaps, the first well-received defense of his career as world champ. From there, he could very well face the winner of the upcoming Erislandy Lara-Alfredo Angulo bout.
The junior middleweight division is deep and most of it is controlled by Golden Boy, so the opportunity will be there to turn a joke title reign into something much more serious. Schaefer and De la Hoya just need to understand that true superstar status can only be attained in the ring and in bouts that actually matter.
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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