NEW YORK — Saul “Canelo” Alvarez gave himself options in his bludgeoning of Rocky Fielding in their WBA super middleweight title fight before a sellout crowd of 20,112 at Madison Square Garden.
This jump to 168 pounds was supposed to be a one-time thing, designed to allow Alvarez to become just the ninth Mexican fighter to win a world title in three weight classes.
Alvarez dropped Fielding, who towered over him in the ring, four times on Saturday, including three with wicked left hooks to the body. Referee Ricky Gonzalez began the Alvarez Era at 168 by waving the bout off at 2:38 of the third round after the fourth knockdown.
“That was the plan we had, to hurt the body,” Alvarez said. “He committed the error by beginning to exchange with me.”
Alvarez wouldn’t commit to staying at 168, but promoter Oscar De La Hoya admitted it was a possibility. There are elite fighters at both middleweight and super middleweight, but there isn’t a lot of depth.
IBF middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs seemed to be the leading contender, and he was in the ring post-fight to campaign for the bout. De La Hoya, almost certainly trying to gain a negotiating advantage, poured ice water on the notion that Alvarez’s May 4 bout in Las Vegas would be against Jacobs.
“Tonight, Canelo fighting at 168 showed he can fight at either 168 or 160,” De La Hoya said. “We’ve already set aside the T-Mobile Arena for Cinco de Mayo in Las Vegas. We have no opponent whatsoever. Zero. We’re not thinking of nobody. We’re going to enjoy the holidays and enjoy our families. After the holidays, as a team, we’ll collectively determine who Canelo is going to fight. Whether it’s 168 or 160, there are plenty of challenges out there for Canelo.”
The good news for Alvarez going into the holidays is that he is just one fight into a $365 million deal with DAZN, the live streaming service that debuted in the U.S. in January, that runs through 2023. Alvarez isn’t going to be clipping coupons any time soon.
But the problem with such a lucrative contract is that fans will get tired of the kind of mismatches they saw in the ring on Saturday. Fielding gave an effort, and is to be commended for that, but he’s not in the same galaxy as Alvarez when it comes to boxing ability.
He went down in the first and second after left hooks to the body, then was dropped by a short right in the third. He got up and didn’t look good and Alvarez, one of the game’s best finishers, pounced.
Another left to the body put Fielding on one knee and referee Ricky Gonzalez did him a huge favor by stopping it.
“He does everything well,” Fielding said. “His timing is good, his shot selection is good. Speed, power, he’s got everything. He’s the best I’ve been in there with.”
Alvarez is clearly one of the best fighters in the world and, at 28, is just moving into his prime.
To sell its theme that pay-per-view is dead, DAZN needs opponents for Alvarez who will get the fanbase excited. A source said that DAZN expected around 500,000 to watch Saturday’s show, given the heavy advertising of the one month’s free trial it offered.
Keeping those fans will be the challenge for DAZN, even at just $9.99. The best way to keep them will be to promise them fights like Jacobs, former champion Gennady Golovkin and WBC super middleweight champion David Benavidez.
But none are signed with DAZN and there aren’t any opponents who are that, at this point, would excite the masses.
So De La Hoya wisely began pitching the two-division thing, even though before the fight, it was pitched as a one-and-done trial at 168.
“Tonight was a great night for Canelo,” De La Hoya said. “I think he showed not only his patience and his great body work but he showed he can hang in there with the big boys at 168 pounds. Look, I told everyone, I didn’t promote this as the toughest fight for Canelo, but it wasn’t the easiest because of the weight difference and him moving up in weight.”
But given Alvarez’s star power, he means big money for anyone he fights.
“Canelo has a target on his back and everybody wants to fight him and everybody wants to challenge him,” De La Hoya said. “I’m pretty sure [IBF-WBA heavyweight champion] Anthony Joshua wants to challenge him, as well.”
There are no shortage of challengers. Everyone realizes the magnitude of Alvarez’s star power.
But it’s all about finding opponents who will create a buzz and help DAZN grow its subscriber base. It’s investing a lot of money into the sport, and that can only help it grow, but it has to fulfill its mission of putting PPV-caliber fights onto its service.
Alvarez-Fielding was not PPV-caliber.
More than likely, Jacobs will get the call after De La Hoya makes his team sweat it out for a while after the holidays.
DAZN’s investment in Alvarez is such that it can’t deal with too many fights of this caliber.
Eventually, other challenges will develop, and De La Hoya insisted he’s open to working with anyone to make the best fights.
It’s easy to talk.
This deal, though, will eventually be judged by his actions and the deals he’s able to make with other elite fighters.
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