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Canelo Alvarez shows there must be only one

Canelo Alvarez
Ed Mulholland/Matchroom
By fighting Caleb Plant on November 6 in Las Vegas, Canelo Alvarez is doing exactly what pound-for-pound leaders should do, writes Matt Christie

CANELO ALVAREZ is doing exactly what pound-for-pound leaders should do when he aims for inarguable supremacy over his weight class by fighting Caleb Plant on November 6 in Las Vegas. Alvarez is currently No.1 at super-middleweight with Plant at No.2, meaning the winner will become the world champion at 168lbs.

Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) – with whom Plant is aligned – will promote the event alongside Canelo Promotions.

Eddie Hearn, who promoted Canelo’s last three bouts on short-term contracts to much acclaim from the boxer, will be involved but not as the main promoter. Hearn told Boxing News he will be “working with and on behalf of Canelo Promotions” but won’t be involved in any decision-making in regard to the event. That of course rules out broadcast rights for DAZN, with whom Hearn has an exclusive deal. The streaming platform have screened all Canelo bouts since December 2018, even after the fighter broke free from a long-term deal with them last year. In the USA, it will be a pay-per-view event shown on either Showtime or Fox, PBC’s broadcast partners.

Hearn has identified the importance of certain fighters – like Canelo – retaining their promotional and broadcast independence for the good of the sport and long indicated that Canelo-Plant was unlikely to be a contest he exclusively promoted. “I don’t feel like we need to sign fighters and lock them into long term deals,” Hearn previously told BN. “We can have floating fighters, like Canelo. He comes in and fights Callum Smith, Avni Yildirim and Billy Joe Saunders [under the Matchroom banner]. Then he wants Caleb Plant. But Plant is with PBC so if we can’t make that fight on our platforms we will go collectively with Canelo and make the fight on Fox. You can’t let your ego get out of control and stop fighters from going here or there.”

Should Canelo decide to remain at super-middleweight after this contest, there are further options at Al Haymon’s PBC with No.3-rated David Benavidez and No. 2 middleweight, Jermall Charlo, eyeing showdowns with Alvarez. Elsewhere, world light-heavyweight champion, Artur Beterbiev, and No.1 contender, Dmitry Bivol, will be attractive options.

First, the Mexican needs to be triumphant in November. Should the current odds of 1/10 in Canelo’s favour prove accurate, victory will mark his second world championship after he definitively ruled at middleweight following victories over Miguel Cotto and Gennady Golovkin. He has held alphabet belts in four classes – 154, 160, 168 and 175 – but his current desire to truly dominate his division, as opposed to collecting trinkets and moving on, is to be admired. “I am very excited to have this fight before me,” Alvarez stated. “I am happy because I am going to make history, and in my career that’s exactly what I want to do – leave my mark in boxing.”

Plant might be the 11/2 underdog but he is a live one in the eyes of some seasoned observers. A flair fighter with skills to trouble Canelo, the Nashville-born and Las Vegas-based 29-year-old has long been mentioned as a potential opponent. The bearded “Sweet Hands” was first offered the contest in May last year but declined because he would not have had sufficient time to prepare. Some criticised that decision.

“I’m in this for the long haul,” Plant told Boxing News last year. “I could have taken the fight and things would have happened where nobody would have blinked an eye, but I would have blinked an eye because I would have known that I took the fight for the money.

“The fans today, they get so mad when they say, ‘Oh, he’s just in this for the money, he’s just in this for fame.’ Then they get a fighter like me, who’s not in it for the fame and not just in it for the money, who cares about being great, who cares about legacy, who cares about pride and respect, and they don’t like that either.”

Plant was then in the running to face Canelo in December 2020 before Callum Smith eventually got the nod at the eleventh hour of negotiations. Smith and his team were quietly frustrated with the lack of time to prepare for that contest, which was dominated by Alvarez over 12 rounds, but there can be no excuses from Plant in that regard. There are 11 weeks to go before his date with the 31-year-old superstar. Furthermore, the IBF belt-holder has been in camp for Canelo for quite some time already. The contest was originally muted for September 18 until negotiations hit a wall and the aforementioned Bivol was considered as an alternative. But Plant was always the first choice for Canelo, and what Canelo wants, he generally gets.

Canelo
Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

The word ‘undisputed’ will of course dominate the promotion because all four sanctioning body titles (Canelo owns the WBC, WBA and WBO straps) will be on the line. We can applaud the organisations for coming together and we must also admit that, if Plant didn’t hold the IBF belt, Canelo might not be so keen to face his closest rival. However, at the risk of dampening the enthusiasm for such an occasion, though it is indeed a rarity for all four belts to be in play in one bout, it is even rarer for all four to sing from the same hymn sheet thereafter. No male fighter who has held all of the alphabet gongs has successfully retained them for any length of time because each body has different policies, rankings and priorities.

Frankly, ‘undisputed’ doesn’t make history, it rewrites it: To say that Canelo will be the first ‘undisputed’ champion to hail from Mexico would be doing a huge disservice to the many Mexicans who ruled without argument prior to the convoluted ‘four-belt era’; Anyone suggesting he’s the first super-middleweight to rule without dispute might as well strike Joe Calzaghe from the record books.

Consider this before banging the undisputed drum too loudly… Should the winner indicate he will continue to campaign at 168, the WBO will order him to fight Zach Parker next. The WBA might demand that David Morrell Jnr, Fedor Chudinov or Aidos Yerbossynuly get their shot. The WBC’s mandatory is David Benavidez. The IBF’s leading contender is Evgeny Shvedenko. By fighting one or none of the above, he will break the rules of at least three sanctioning bodies and risk losing three belts. He might even decide – in a similar way to then WBC belt-holder Cotto did prior to fighting Canelo in 2015 – he doesn’t want to keep paying the extortionate sanctioning fees anymore and give up the belts anyway. Are we then to doubt his standing as the leader because ‘championships’ are vacant and, more so, then take the claims of whomever wins those vacant titles seriously? In short, ‘undisputed’ titles ultimately do little for the sport in the long-term purely because they never exist in the long-term.

What we must champion is that the winner will be the champion, the first at 168lbs since Andre Ward moved up to light-heavyweight in 2016, regardless. Kudos to Canelo and Plant for that.

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