Canelo Alvarez jumps ship, leaves Showtime for HBO

Kevin Iole
Boxing
Canelo Alvarez jumps ship, leaves Showtime for HBO
Canelo Alvarez jumps ship, leaves Showtime for HBO

Canelo Alvarez has bolted Showtime and signed a long-term deal with HBO on Tuesday.

It's intriguing because Alvarez is one of the biggest television attractions in the game and one of the very few ticket sellers left in the sport. It provides HBO with another star to go along with middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin and takes away one of rival Showtime's go-to guys.

The euphoria for Alvarez fans should be tempered until HBO Sports produces legitimately quality opponents on a regular basis for Alvarez. No opponent was announced for Canelo's return to HBO, which is expected to be on Dec. 6 in San Antonio. However, the shopworn former welterweight champion Joshua Clottey is the leading contender to get the nod. 

That's because HBO wants to set up an Alvarez-Miguel Cotto match in early 2015 and doesn't want to risk it by having Alvarez fight anyone who presents too much of a challenge.

The problem is, it's that type of thinking which got boxing into trouble in the first place. ESPN television shows First Take and Pardon the Interruption parroted a common thread last year while referencing boxing, essentially saying the sport is dead.

Golden Boy Promotions President Oscar De La Hoya. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images for SHOWTIME SPORTS)
Golden Boy Promotions President Oscar De La Hoya. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images for SHOWTIME SPORTS)

They ignored the many quality fights with high ratings that were being staged on networks around the world. There were massive crowds of over 30,000 at a number of events in 2013 and television ratings were strong.

More than that, led by HBO and Showtime, the fights were outstanding. In terms of quality fights, 2013 was one of boxing's best years in a long time. There are almost always better fights on smaller networks, but those networks don't attract the casual audience that either HBO or Showtime do.

But instead of building on that momentum, HBO and Showtime have had a very poor year, with the quality of fights down dramatically. And an Alvarez-Clottey fight, if it is made, would add to the slop. There is little denying that Clottey hasn't had a quality win since 2008, when he defeated Zab Judah.

He performed very well against Cotto in 2009, though he lost a split decision. But even if we give him credit for a quality loss, so to speak, that was more than five years ago. He's done nothing since -- literally nothing -- and put up a shameful effort against Manny Pacquiao in 2010 when he just covered up and let Pacquiao beat on his gloves.

He doesn't deserve a fight with Alvarez, who is one of the sport's great young stars, and if he gets it, it will simply be another gift from HBO who hopes fans forget the Pacquiao fight.

Showtime has had just as bad of a year. It gave Rod Salka a major platform which was shown in the ring by Danny Garcia to be an epic mistake.

For this deal to mean a thing, Oscar De La Hoya needs to tell the HBO brass that Alvarez doesn't want tune-up fights or easy touches.

If he does, and HBO follows through, this is a massive coup and a red-letter day for HBO.

De La Hoya told Yahoo Sports in a telephone interview Tuesday that he agreed and hoped Alvarez would face top opposiiton. He said Clottey and James Kirkland are the two most likely opponents for Alvarez.

De La Hoya defended Clottey as a potential opponent and said "he's coming off a win over Anthony Mundine where he looked like an animal." But De La Hoya admitted an Alvarez-Kirkland fight would be fireworks.

Kirkland was supposed to fight Gabriel Rosado, but the fight fell apart because De La Hoya said Kirkland didn't want to fight at 160 pounds.

"We will try to have things finalized next week," said De La Hoya, who said he hopes the fight is in San Antonio. "A Kirkland fight would be incredible, but that's the kind of guy Canelo is. He wants those kinds of fights. You don't have to ask him. Obviously, the biggest fight that could be made in boxing if we assume the [Floyd] Mayweather-[Manny] Pacquiao fight isn't going to happen is Canelo and Cotto. But there are a lot of fights the fans want to see and we intend to give them to them."

That is encouraging, but let's wait to see how this plays out. If HBO doesn't insist on quality and Alvarez sees guys like Clottey across from him, it's sadly just business as usual in boxing.

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