NFL teams don’t get to call themselves world champions without winning the Super Bowl. Likewise, baseball teams need to win the World Series in order to earn that moniker.
The Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the World Series, but if this were boxing, the Red Sox now might be known as the super world champions while, oh, the 82-79 Pittsburgh Pirates might be the regular world champions.
Laugh if you must, but that’s how it is in boxing, and particularly with the WBA. You don’t need to be the best fighter in a weight class. You just need to be a popular fighter, and/or have connected management and promoters.
And so, while Canelo Alvarez is undoubtedly among the handful of best fighters in the world, let’s not get carried away with his so-called “championship match” against Rocky Fielding on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Alvarez will fight Fielding for the WBA super middleweight title, which if he wins — as he almost assuredly will do — it will be his third belt in three weight classes.
The WBA hands out world title belts like street hustlers hand out flyers on the corner.
The WBA has more than one world champion in 10 of its 17 weight classes and has three at heavyweight (Anthony Joshua, Manuel Charr and Trevor Bryan), featherweight (Leo Santa Cruz, Jesus Rojas and Jhack Tepora), and bantamweight (Nonito Donaire, Naoya Inoue and Reymart Gaballo).
Fielding is nowhere near Alvarez’s class as a fighter. That’s not being rude to Fielding, it’s just fact. Alvarez is one of the five, or at worst, 10 best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Fielding is just an average super middleweight who had the good fortune to win a world title in an era when more world titles than ever are available and then to match up timing-wise with Alvarez.
Alvarez proved against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. that size alone won’t beat him. Fielding has five inches in height on him, and that could give Alvarez some issues early, but he’s one of the smartest fighters in the game and have no doubt that he’ll figure it out quickly.
“It will be an interesting fight,” Alvarez said. “I’m entering the comfort zone of the champion. He’s used to fighting bigger people. He’s used to taking bigger punches. It’s no secret that I’m a better fighter. I also have more experience. But moving up in weight levels the playing field. It’s a risk and a challenge. I like challenges so that’s why I’m doing this.
“I do this to be satisfied with myself and my career. It is very important to enter into the history of Mexican boxing. It’ll be interesting to see how the fight develops. Without a doubt, I will give everything in the ring. I hope he does so too, so we can give a great fight to the fans.”
Mexico has a rich boxing history, and Alvarez has contributed greatly to that. At the top are legends like Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Ruben Olivares, Salvador Sanchez and Ricardo Lopez.
[Roberto Franco: The mostly tragic history of Mexican boxers at Madison Square Garden]
He’s only 28 and still in his prime, and has the opportunity to add to that legacy. A win over Fielding would technically bring him a championship in a third weight class, but he’s not even planning to fight at 168 after this bout.
He was careful about taking a fight with Golovkin because he was only at 154 pounds at the time and didn’t want to move before his body had grown into the middleweight division. Going up and down can be difficult — just ask the great Roy Jones Jr. how difficult it was to go back to light heavyweight after beating John Ruiz to win a heavyweight crown — and so Alvarez will likely abandon the super middleweight belt should he win it sometime in the not-too-distant future.
His future, clearly, lies at middleweight, where the likes of a third fight with Golovkin, as well as opponents like Daniel Jacobs, Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Demetrius Andrade, among others, await.
“Right now the goal, the objective, is to fight for this world title and win on [Saturday] and then go back to 160 pounds, where I do best,” Alvarez said. “If we’ll be moving up and down those divisions, we don’t know, but right now our goal is to get the title and then go back to middleweight.”
The WBA super middleweight belt he’ll win is simply window dressing that means little.
But if any doubters remain, Alvarez should prove against Fielding that he’s one of the world’s elite fighters.
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