One of the most infamous scenes in boxing history played out in London on Dec. 14, 1992. Riddick Bowe, who on Nov. 13 of that year won the undisputed title by defeating Evander Holyfield in one of the great heavyweight bouts ever held, had been ordered by the WBC to make his first defense against Lennox Lewis.
The proposed Bowe-Lewis bout made sense on so many levels. They had fought in the gold medal match in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. They were both big and talented men and with Mike Tyson in prison, they were the biggest stars in the division.
Bowe, who would go on to make the International Boxing Hall of Fame, didn’t want to fight Lewis for some unknown reason. And so on Dec. 14, 1992, he showed up in London, summoned reporters and summarily dumped his belt into the trash can.
Rather than be forced to fight Lewis, he instead fought Michael Dokes and Jesse Ferguson in far lesser fights.
Though Bowe wound up fighting Holyfield three times, he never did meet Lewis in one of the tragic losses for boxing fans of the era. A Bowe-Lewis fight that could have been the best matchup of talented big men in history never occurred.
And that memory came back front and center on Wednesday when Golden Boy Promotions announced in a news release that Canelo Alvarez had decided to drop the WBC title rather than continue negotiations for a fight with Gennady Golovkin.
Curiously, that move made Golovkin, who had the interim WBC belt, the full champion. WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman confirmed to Yahoo Sports Wednesday that the organization now recognizes Golovkin as its full champion.
This all came about because when Alvarez fought Miguel Cotto for the belt on Nov. 21, the WBC ordered the winner to fight Golovkin next. But when Alvarez and promoter Oscar De La Hoya said they wanted more time to build the proposed Alvarez-Golovkin bout, Sulaiman acquiesced, allowing Alvarez to fight Amir Khan on May 7.
Sulaiman, though, made the stipulation that the winner of Alvarez-Khan would have to fight Golovkin next and come to a deal within 15 days. If not, Sulaiman would order a purse bid, which would essentially allow the highest bidder to put on the fight.
The winner of the purse bid theoretically could have been a Golden Boy rival that GBP chairman/CEO Oscar De La Hoya wouldn’t want promoting an Alvarez fight.
So on Wednesday in a late afternoon Pacific time news release, De La Hoya and Alvarez jointly announced that Alvarez was giving up the belt, though not the hope of facing Golovkin.
“After much consideration, today, I instructed my team at Golden Boy Promotions to continue negotiating a fight with Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin and to finalize a deal as quickly as possible,” Alvarez said. “I also informed the WBC that I will vacate its title. For the entirety of my career, I have taken the fights that no one wanted because I fear no man. Never has that been more true than today. I will fight ‘GGG’ and I will beat ‘GGG’ but I will not be forced into the ring by artificial deadlines.
“I am hopeful that by putting aside this ticking clock, the two teams can now negotiate this fight, and ‘GGG’ and I can get in the ring as soon as possible and give the fans the fight they want to see.”
As far as anyone knows, there were no trash cans around when Alvarez decided to give up his belt.
And we’ll take him at his word that he wants to face Golovkin in his next outing.
Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler had been negotiating with De La Hoya, and still plans to do so, but Alvarez’s actions surely complicate matters.
Loeffler wanted the fight for Golovkin more than anything, because it is if not the biggest fight in the sport that can be made now, certainly in the top three. It would have represented easily the biggest payday of Golovkin’s career and would have given him the big-name, respectable opponent he has long sought to end the whispers that he hasn’t fought anyone of any quality.
But Loeffler’s second goal was to accumulate all the belts, with the idea that if Golovkin has all of the belts, sooner or later, someone with a name will have to fight him.
“We had cordial discussions, but it just seemed that they had a lot more going on on their side that they just weren’t able to close the deal in the short amount of time,” Loeffler said. “We were flexible with location, with pretty much all the terms that were negotiable, but we weren’t able to close a deal.”
This might simply prove to be a big nothing and on Sept. 17, Golovkin and Alvarez will fight each other with the only difference being that Golovkin will be the champion and Alvarez the challenger.
But perhaps this is more worrisome than it appears.
Don’t believe for a second anyone who tells you that Alvarez is afraid or is ducking Golovkin. That is not the case.
What is likely, though, is De La Hoya trying to use his leverage and he could wind up overplaying his hand. Alvarez is the bigger name, and he would have been able to dictate much about what would have happened in terms of weight, revenue split, date, venue, gloves and other issues of that ilk.
De La Hoya pointed out on a conference call before the fight with Khan that he wanted to let a potential Alvarez-Golovkin fight marinate and try to become as big as possible.
It’s wise from a business standpoint, but boxing is risky business. Fighters get hurt. Fighters lose. All sorts of things can happen to scuttle a fight people are desperate to see.
De La Hoya mentioned the six-year wait to put together the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight that resulted in record pay-per-view sales and revenues generated.
But that bout was a unique circumstance and the circumstances surrounding Alvarez-Golovkin don’t come close to matching them.
Alvarez says he wants the fight and De La Hoya says he’s going to keep negotiating.
We can only hope they’re men of their word and will go ahead and make the bout.
Alvarez and De La Hoya were all too eager to play by the WBC’s rules when it allowed him the exception to fight Khan. But though they accepted that, they couldn’t except Part B of it, which was to accept a fight against Golovkin within 15 days.
Boxing fans, of course, are the losers in this scenario.
But remember: They need your money. Consumers still have the ultimate power.
If you don’t like the fights they make (or are angry at the ones they don’t make), fight back with your wallet.
Boxing promoters far too often forget the fans, their customers.
The No. 1 rule of customer service is that the customer is always right.
If Alvarez and De La Hoya forget that, remind them with your wallet. And keep reminding them until they do what you want.