Saul Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. are Great...for Boxing By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (June 15, 2011) Doghouse Boxing - Tweet
Guadalajara, Mexico, Saul Alvarez defends his WBC junior middleweight title
against Ryan Rhodes, just a couple of weeks afterJulio Cesar Chavez Jr. captured the WBC
middleweight title against Sebastian Zbik at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
You hear the usual moaning and groaning from the purists about “paper titles”
and the term “fraud” being thrown around in relation to both of these Mexican matinee
But it says here while
nobody knows how good either guy is or how high their ceilings are, they are
both extremely good for the business of boxing.
There, I said it.
It's the absolute,
Yeah, the hardcore fan can
knock them all they want on message boards and forums but the general public-
who boxing needs to recapture- obviously isn't listening to them. The HBO
audience for Chavez-Zbik was approximately 1.5 million (its largest for “Boxing After Dark” since 2007) on a night
opposite the Showtime telecast that aired the “Super Six” semifinal betweenCarl FrochandGlen Johnson. But while theHBOratings
for “Canelo's” last bout may have been trumped up (http://theboxingtruth.com/article.php?id=1959), he far outdrew Junior on March 5th at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California with over 13,000 in attendance (about
double what Chavez Jr. drew on June 4th) to see him face Matthew
Hatton. This weekend, Alvarez’s fight at the Arena VFG- on the ranch of the
legendary Mexican crooner Vicente “Chente” Fernandez- will have a capacity
crowd of 11,650.
You can have all the
skillful guys you want but this industry, like any other form of entertainment,
is dependent on those who are bona fide attractions. You can make the argument
that neither Alvarez nor Chavez- despite having the prestigious WBC belts
around their waists- are in the top tens of their respective divisions (no
arguments here) but let's make this clear; this whole belief that somehow
multiple titles somehow turn away the casual observer of the sport is perhaps
the most overstated and untrue phrase uttered by those who yearn for the
supposed good ol' days of one champion in each of eight divisions. In fact, the
success at the box-office and the Nielsens of both young Mexican performers
show that perhaps fans don't care either way about linear champions or mere
beltholders but they will tune in to see well-promoted, marketable performers
who are entertaining. As for any confusion having so many so-called “champions”
causes, let’s be honest; does Austin Trout holding a version of the WBA
154-pound title really confuse the average fan?
Many hardcore fans don't
even know who Trout is and the guy who watches boxing just once in awhile
doesn't give a damn.
But they will hear of
Alvarez and Chavez Jr. eventually, if they keep winning. That's why they're
vital to this sport.
"Yup, and it's not just their ability to draw," agreedLarry Merchantof HBO Sports. "Their ability to
draw includes their styles as fighters. So it's not just because they're good
looking Mexican kids, one who's a son of an iconic Mexican fighter but one that
has a look and a story that can't help but help him. But they're fighters and
we'll see how good they are. But I think they're a sign, along with maybe
[Victor] Ortiz and nowRobert Guerrero- who
may fight [Marcos] Maidana, which is another damn good fight- of the game
re-arming itself with some exciting young fighters."
Some will say that if you
have a major belt, like the WBC strap, there is an expectation to face the
best. Perhaps, but there seems to be some double-talk as it relates to these
supposedly “meaningless” belts. Did you really need to be told that, as of
right now,SergioMartinez is by far and away the
premiere middleweight on the planet? Those who represent both Chavez and
Alvarez have never stated that they were the best in their divisions. I
think the segment of boxing fans who eschew the belts need to make up their
minds- are the belts important or not?- because by stating that Chavez Jr.
absolutely needs to face “Maravilla” next are only doing so because he has
possession of that WBC title.
In the case of Alvarez, he
is now facing a tough out in Rhodes because being a titlist means facing rated
contenders. That's the risk Golden Boy Promotions and “Canelo” took in taking
the title that was basically gifted to them by Jose Sulaiman. Eventually, both
of these guys will have to face somebody they are not expected to overcome,
likeOscar De La Hoyadid. By the way, the “Golden Boy” won
his first major belt by defeating Jimmi Bredahl for the WBO 130-pound title in
1994. Look at De la Hoya’s dossier; as he matured and developed as a boxer (and
huge draw), he got in the ring with almost every marquee threat by the end of
If Martinez is that fine
jazz musician who is enjoyed by a small yet loyal base of followers in small,
dank clubs, then Chavez Jr. and Alvarez are like a pair of boy bands (think *NSync
and the Backstreet Boys of boxing) that
plays in huge concert halls in front of large throngs of adoring fans. And it’s
because they are marketed on a large scale to a certain demographic. In this
instance, instead of teenage girls, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans on the West
Coast are the target audience.
For everyWinky Wright, every generation needs anArturo Gattior three, fighters who make up for the
absence of overall skill and acumen with passion and the ability to create
interest in the sport.
Merchant says, "It
needs ticket sellers and that's hard to create. There's different arcs to this;
who could've imagined that [Floyd] Mayweather, seven, eight years ago
would've become a ticket seller? They had to send him out of town because he
couldn't sell tickets in Vegas. Did I go to Fresno to see him fight?"
Yes, you did, Larry; back in 2003, when he faced Victoriano Sosa back in 2003.
"So sometimes, it happens later; suddenlyBernard Hopkinshas sorta tipped over into an
interesting case of a veteran guy who simply because he's persisted over a long
time, people are curious about him and he's doing good numbers and then there
are young guys who catch fire."
It says here that Alvarez
will get all he can handle from Rhodes (who is a very, very live dog) and it
figures to be a good fight. Nothing more, nothing less. And isn't that what
it's about- being entertained? For all the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth
over Chavez's close call against Zbik and talk of Martinez being the “real”
champ, it was a solid scrap. Most fans in attendance that night got their money’s
"Yes, it was [entertaining],"
said Merchant who, on his night off from his duties at HBO, attended the fight.
"It was a good crowd-pleasing fight. I mean, two guys standing toenail to toenail
is always going to be good and landing clean shots that you could see from the
cheap seats and all of the hoopla and a first fight that saw another promising
young fighter, by the way, in Miguel Garcia. I thought it was a little smaller
crowd than maybe I expected but with all the surrounding backstories of these
guys, it was a good night at the fights.
"And I think that
suddenly, there'll be a few fights for Chavez, winnable fights and then we'll
see fights where he faces somebody who is considered an elite fighter and we'll
see how he does."
FIRE AND ICE
Don't know if any of you
guys saw “Fire and Ice” on HBO, which detailed the classic rivalry betweenJohn McEnroeandBjorn Borg but I
thought it was fantastic. Believe it or not, as a kid in that era, I was a
pretty big tennis fan and even played a little bit (c’mon, I am Asian, after
all) and this era of tennis was great. I equate the “Four Horsemen” of boxing-Sugar Ray Leonard,Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Roberto
Duran- who really defined that era to the quartet of McEnroe, Borg,Jimmy Connorsand Ivan Lendlin tennis.
Merchant, who covered more
than one Wimbledon for HBO back in the day, thinks it’s an apt comparison.
"I think that in all
individual sports, they're enhanced by great rivalries of athletes in their
prime. And so, yeah, I think it's a reasonable comparison of Leonard-Hearns,
who were similar in age and were great presences in boxing. So yeah, I think
it's a reasonable equation to make," he said.
In both sports, anytime a
combination of those four hooked up, it was more than just a fight or a game of
tennis. It was an event that transcended their sports.
Perhaps you can make an
argument that the likes ofRafael NadalandRoger Federerare superior players but they
certainly didn't bring the same amount of personality and interest to the sport
like the guys of that era, which also included the likes of Ilie Nastase,Vitas GerulaitisandRoscoe Tanner, among others. Like in boxing,
it's not always about being a superior talent or supremely skilled; you need
certain intangibles like a certain persona or the ability to elicit an emotion
with the public.Pete Samprasmight be the greatest player to have
ever held a racket (at least that's what I'm told) but he was a beige spot on a
beige wall. He badly needed that foil inAndre Agassi, who
was as colorful as his wardrobe.
My personal favorite was
Connors (hey, like me, he had a two-handed backhand!).To me, that guy was like
a fighter in many respects. Connors was a guy who may not have had the grace or
the natural skill of other players but he was a guy who could overcome that
with a certain amount or grit and toughness. What most impressed me about him
was that while “Johnny Mac” and Borg peaked in their mid-20s, Connors was likeArchie Moorein the sense that he was still an
effective and exciting performer at an age when most were long retired.
His magical run to the semifinals
of the 1991U.S. Openis still the stuff of legend. To be
honest, I have no clue who won that tournament that year but I have vivid memories
of how Connors electrified Flushing and the rest of the world with his
impassioned play. And who can forget this memorable rally?
I have never, ever heard a
tennis crowd erupt like that.
There were times when
Connors turned tennis matches into prizefights and willed his way to victory.
The day he retired from the
courts is about the time I lost interest in tennis as a fan.
You know what I also miss
about the 80s? When pro teams would make really bad, cheesy rap videos. Being a
diehard Rams fan (till they bolted to St. Loo), this is a personal
favorite: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfqTQkXxt_0[Editor’s note: It takes about 17 seconds
or so to kick off so please be patient]
(C'mon,Eric Dickersoncould flow like Rakim; just say it.)
But the one that really got
this craze started (and actually got play time on MTV- back when they actually
showed music videos) was the“Super BowlShuffle” by the historic '85 Bears,
which I guess makes it the “Rappers Delight” of this genre: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xwk8Da39ANU
WARM SUNNY SO. CAL FLURRIES
Along withPeter Manfredo Jr., the names of Nobu
Ishida and Giovanni Lorenzo are now being kicked around as possible opponents
for Chavez Jr.on Sept. 24th...According
to Kathy Duva of Main Events, two fights have been finalized for the Zab
Judah-Amir Khan undercardon July 23rdat the Mandalay Bay, Tarvis
Simms-Peter Quillin and Joel Julio-Antwone Smith. Honestly, it's too bad
neither fight will be broadcast in the States. These are two very good
match-ups for being part of the non-televised portion of the show...I also
enjoyed “Bobby FischerAgainst the World” on HBO. He actually
trained in the Catskills in preparation for his showdown with Boris Spassky.
Wonder if he ever met Cus D'Amato while he was there?...I'm thoroughly enjoying
the fact that “College Football Live” has a segment or two every day on the
troubles at Ohio State. It's like their version of the Iran hostage situation
on “Nightline”...As a Lakers fan, I can't help but think about the '84 Finals
loss to the Celtics and the troubles ofMagic Johnsonas I saw theMiami Heatmeltdown versus the Dallas “Cavericks.”
Like the Heat, theLakersblew games
two and four and instead of sweeping the series, they ended up losing. Now,
willLeBron Jamesearn his redemption the way Magic did
the next season?...Since he hasn't yet, I might as well pile on. The newest
Nike campaign for him, based on the way he kept disappearing in the fourth
quarters should be “Witness (Protection).” My friend, Joe C., suggested onTwitter(@sportsJC16) that his next shoe
come in a big milk carton. I suggest the tagline be “Got Swoosh?”... ....