LAS VEGAS — Canelo Alvarez has come to a career crossroads, of sorts. He’s only 28 and in the midst of his prime, yet he’s already forged a Hall of Fame-worthy record and is one of the biggest stars in boxing.
He has a massive bout ahead of him Saturday when he meets Gennady Golovkin in an HBO Pay-Per-View bout at T-Mobile Arena for the WBA, WBC and linear middleweight titles that has already accumulated a massive paid gate with a few days yet to go.
Save for one incident, which we’ll get to in a bit, Alvarez has always been the epitome of a professional with regard to his career. He’s said and done the right things, always come in shape and has established himself as one of the greatest fighters of his generation.
Yet, there is a shadow cast over him as a result of his failed drug tests. Alvarez tested positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol twice in February and blamed it on eating contaminated meat while he was in Mexico.
He did the right thing in the aftermath, pulling out of the scheduled May 5 rematch with Golovkin at the earliest possible time, allowing Golovkin to go on with a bout against Vanes Martirosyan.
It’s become a tradition for Mexicans and Mexican-Americans to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by watching a major boxing match. By pulling out of the bout as early as he did, he allowed Golovkin’s team to put together a fight for that date.
The rematch is nearly here, though, and Alvarez has a chance to finally put the controversy behind him. For all of his professionalism outside the ring and talent inside of it, Alvarez has always come across as over-handled.
Part of that is because he’s so important to Golden Boy Promotions that its employees will do just about anything to please him or curry favor. That’s going to be doubly true when Alvarez is inevitably in the midst of a crowd of reporters and is asked, over and over and over, about his positive drug test.
It’s just about as inevitable that someone at Golden Boy will try to put an end to the line of questioning. And while it will get repetitive – I’ve been at more than my share of these things and watched it play out again and again – Alvarez needs to suck it up and answer every question.
That’s the only way he will put the drug-test failures in the past. The public is amazingly forgiving, especially if one takes responsibility. Now, Alvarez denies intentionally taking Clenbuterol and insists he wasn’t looking to cheat. It got into his system, he says, by eating beef and it’s a known problem in Mexico, though not nearly as widespread as his team has tried to make it seem.
All the public knows with 100 percent certainty is that he failed tests on Feb. 17 and Feb. 20. He passed a hair follicle test and has tried to use that as definitive proof of his innocence, but as USADA told Yahoo Sports in a statement, it’s not definitive in testing for Clenbuterol.
The truth right now, is this: It’s possible that Alvarez ate a contaminated steak and failed two drug tests. But it’s also just as possible that Alvarez did knowingly take a banned substance.
That’s why he needs to be transparent. Explain where he ate the meat in question. Explain what he ate. Admit that he should have taken precautions. Detail the precautions he’s subsequently taken to prevent it from happening again. Apologize to Golovkin, which, notably, he has yet to do.
He’s already done some of it, but the light is going to be on him more intensely than ever this week as the star of what on paper could be the best-selling boxing match of the year.
I’ve lived in Las Vegas for about 30 years and there is an electricity in the air when a major fight week arrives. It may yet come, but Las Vegas does not yet seem overtaken with CaneloMania at this point.
The way it seems now, you’re just as likely to have your Uber driver discuss the identity of the author of the anonymous op-ed in the New York Times about President Trump as the fight.
It’s always difficult to understand why one fight seems to resonate with the public and another does not. Maybe the $84.95 suggested retail price for the bout may be putting people off. A hurricane is about to clobber the East Coast. College football will be all over the TV on Saturday.
There are reasons why people may be thinking about something other than Canelo-GGG II.
To the extent that any of those reasons relate to an anger or disappointment with Alvarez, he should go out of his way this week to dispel them. It won’t be fun, but it will be fun to collect that $50 million or so paycheck he’ll earn.
Alvarez is a smart and well-spoken guy. His handlers need to advise him to be as open and transparent as possible, and then get out of the way and let it be about him.
He’s in his prime as a fighter. It’s time he shines outside the ring, as well.
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