THE great hope is that this fight between Miguel Cotto and Saul Alvarez will be an event inside the ring as well as outside the ring, and will help to fumigate the odour that still permeates Las Vegas from Mayweather and Pacquiao.
That was a huge party where all the stars were aligned for a big popular culture event, and people came only because their grandfathers had been to big events. What they saw didn’t convince them they had to come back and see another one. So boxing has to get up off the floor, the best it can be, and hope that we get some spontaneous combustion, and drama. This fight, Cotto and Canelo, has the potential to do that.
If Canelo happens to be the victor impressively he will be the biggest pay-per-view star in the world, because of the interest of so many Mexican and Mexican-American fans. That could lead what is shaping up an informal tournament among middleweights. We’ve already had Gennady Golovkin-David Lemieux, upcoming is Danny Jacobs-Peter Quillin, and then Andy Lee-Billy Joe Saunders. I think there will be some mixing and matching, some ducking and diving, but at the end of the day, Canelo can become the Ray Leonard of this generation. Leonard was a superstar who wanted to fight the best fighters, and the biggest fights. The difficulties in making some of these fights today, from promoter to promoter, from network to network, can be bridged by pay-per-view. If Canelo becomes that big star, the fights between the winners, and losers, of these fights may come to pass and boxing will rise again.
Is Canelo that good? It’s a legitimate question. He submitted a bit too easily against Mayweather a few years ago, which surprised me, and made a lot of Mexican fans who had already anointed him as their great king fall out of love with him because of the way he lost. The way he fought James Kirkland illustrated how he has matured, and is perhaps evidence of how he will approach this fight. Cotto-Canelo is a battle of two guys who can box, and two guys who can bang and I favour the younger, bigger guy.
Canelo wants to be a great man. He understands the vibrations from Mexican fans and somehow he’s carrying their hope. He wants to fight the best, which is why he fought Mayweather – it wasn’t just money – and that’s a good sign. Let’s remember that Leonard lost to Roberto Duran the first time they fought. Let’s see if he’s got the goods against a tough, smart, older pro and emerges as a real force in the game through which a lot of big things can happen.
Canelo has to prove himself, just as Cotto has to show that his comeback over the last couple of years is real. That’s what makes it so appealing for us boxing degenerates, and hopefully the show will be appealing for boxing fans.
I don’t know how to take the pulse of a sport that exists on different levels and has different importance in different parts of the world. It hasn’t been a mainstream sport in the US for a very long time but it has a solid base of supporters, it has a lot of exposure on television, and it generates a lot of money. One event made $600m? Even though it turned out to be a stinker, there are people in the business of entertainment who will look at that and think, ‘When can we pull something off like that again?’ So it may not have the popular culture and meaning that it had at one time, but there is still some muscle memory out there of great fights, of man to man, that can galvanise something deep within us that says, ‘We have to see this’. And right now, that path is through Canelo, and the middleweight division.