NEW YORK — From a seat on a stage set on the Madison Square Garden floor on Thursday, Canelo Alvarez sat, expressionless. Another fight, another press conference, another event expected to be watched by millions worldwide. At 28, Alvarez is perhaps boxing’s biggest star. After being part of shows involving Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto and Gennady Golovkin, Alvarez is unfazeable in these moments.
Some of the questions Alvarez fielded were new. Why is he back so quickly? After all, we are just three months removed from Alvarez’s career–defining win over Gennady Golovkin, a bruising fight that left Alvarez marked up. Alvarez’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, said that Canelo described the Golovkin fight like “a sparring session;” Alvarez said he likes to be busy.
Why is he fighting at super middleweight? In defeating Golovkin, Alvarez picked up a pair of middleweight titles. Middleweight is a deep division. Why didn’t Alvarez tab a 160-pound contender to tangle with? Alvarez says it’s about making history. His opponent on Saturday, Rocky Fielding, is a super middleweight titleholder. But let’s be real: Fielding is a secondary titleholder. The WBA—as shameless an organization as there is in boxing—has an established super middleweight champion in Callum Smith, who took the belt off George Groves in September. Fielding exists as a titleholder because the WBA has no problem just making one up.
How does he feel about fighting on DAZN? After years of calling HBO home, Alvarez will spend the prime years of his career fighting on the streaming platform, which inked Alvarez to an 11-fight deal worth $365 million in October. DAZN is banking on Alvarez to goose subscriptions and make it a player in the U.S. sports market. Alvarez called working with DAZN “a new phase of his career.”
Some of the topics, though, were familiar. One, in particular: Golovkin. After two fights, Alvarez and Golovkin remain inextricably linked. Nothing is settled. Golovkin remains a network free agent, and is considering offers from ESPN, DAZN and Al Haymon’s PBC. Alvarez says he doesn’t care what Golovkin does. De La Hoya says if Golovkin wants another crack at Canelo, he has to come to DAZN.
It’s odd that Golovkin is still out there, really. DAZN executives are optimistic that he will come over to their platform. In addition to Alvarez, DAZN controls the rest of the middleweight titleholders. Demetrius Andrade won his belt on DAZN in October. Daniel Jacobs won his on HBO last month, but the expectation is that Jacobs, who works with Eddie Hearn, will make the move to DAZN in 2019. Still, the longer Golovkin waits the more likely he is to jump to ESPN, which could guarantee him massive worldwide exposure, or PBC, which could offer him a fight against rising middleweight Jermall Charlo, and others.
Alvarez is indifferent to Golovkin’s situation, or at least he pretends to be. Even now, with his future secured, Alvarez doesn’t reveal much. Asked about what he wants over the next few years, Alvarez says to make the biggest fights. He doesn’t appear motivated by the possibility of becoming undisputed middleweight champion—something he could conceivably achieve in 2019—and he says the move to 168 pounds is just a one-off.
If there’s a question about Alvarez’s future, it’s if he will continue to seek out those great fights. His track record says he will. Alvarez has taken on all comers in his career, from Mayweather (an easy decision, given the money involved) to Erislandy Lara (who no one inside Golden Boy Promotions wanted him to fight) to Austin Trout. But with guaranteed money coming from DAZN, will Alvarez continue to seek legacy fights? Or will he look for a few easier ones along the way?
We’ll see. For now, it’s Fielding, publicly picked for his title, privately selected because he has a glossy résumé but lacks a big punch. Fielding is skilled, and will have a massive 5 ½ inch height advantages that he says he will take advantage of. But the speed and power edges both go to Canelo, and it’s fair to wonder how Fielding—who was knocked down three times in a first–round obliteration at the hands of Smith in 2015—can hold up against him.
Floyd Mayweather is gone, Manny Pacquiao is on the way out. Alvarez is the face of North American boxing now, neck-and-neck with Anthony Joshua for the title of the sport’s biggest global star. The path to eclipsing Joshua is straightforward—high–level fights, including a third with Golovkin. The careers of these two elites are intertwined, and will be until the rivalry comes to a clear conclusion. It’s a big fight for Alvarez in 2019—one of many he hopefully has in his future.