The Future of Boxing?
There are always whispers in boxing circles about the next great champion. The industry is hungry for that skilled yet thrilling warrior who will bring the buzz back to the sport similar to how a young Mike Tyson did it in the late 80s. The old-timers in boxing gyms around the country are always on the lookout for the savior who will bring boxing banter back into bars and make the sport relevant again.
Well folks, I can’t guarantee that such a mythical figure will appear any time soon. But I will go out on a limb and say that I believe I’ve found the next great champion who will take the top spot on the Pound-for-Pound rankings and be the star of many Pay-Per-View bouts within just a few short years.
Who is he? The Mexicans call him “Canelo”. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Canelo is roughly translated from Spanish to English as “cinnamon” or “cinnamon-colored.” Yes ladies and gentlemen, this is a red-haired, freckled Mexican fighter. His looks are part of the attraction and I suspect it will help Caucasian fans relate to him.
This kid is going to have an amazing life. At only 20 years old, he has already developed an effective, exciting fighting style. He has developed quite a following in Mexico and regularly fills 20,000-seat Mexican arenas with rabid fans. Because of his potential marketability, I can see him making several hundred million dollars over the course of his career excluding endorsements and sponsorships. To round it out, he is also dating the very beautiful Marisol Gonzalez, a former Miss Mexico Universe. Talk about having it all!
When Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. are gone, I have a strong feeling that Canelo will take over the throne. As mentioned above, his appearance can also help him appeal to a wider market in the United States similar to how Oscar De La Hoya’s boyish good looks won over American fight fans (and quite a few women). I see many similarities between the Golden Boy and Canelo. In addition to their looks, take their monikers as another very basic example. Unlike most ring names, neither implies excessive violence. On the other hand, I think they help appeal to those sports fans who aren’t exactly begging to see blood. You can picture a young lady saying, “Look at Saul. He’s so cute, they call him Cinnamon in Spanish.” No one would ever say, “Wow ‘Ferocious’ Fernando Vargas is so attractive.” It reminds me of all the young girls who used to swoon over the baby-faced Golden Boy. Even Oscar has recognized the potential for Saul to have a career trajectory similar to his own, which explains why Oscar has made some noise about his having signed Saul to Golden Boy Promotions. Even more publicly followed was when Golden Boy renewed his contract after the Carlos Baldomir fight.
The one possible marketability drawback is that Canelo apparently does not speak any English, but makes up for it with his shy smile and humble attitude outside of the ring. However, this reminds me of how Pacquiao spoke terrible English when he first came to American shores. Over time, his sincere and sometimes humorous attempts to improve his English in order to better relate to English-speaking fans has actually made him more endearing to the American public. If Saul takes a cue from Pacquiao, he too can turn this apparent disadvantage into yet another appealing characteristic that will make him a star.
In terms of his boxing prowess, Saul is clearly still an unfinished product, but with maybe 5 more bouts of steadily increasing difficulty under his belt, I think he will begin to gain a larger following in the United States and eventually be considered among the sport’s elite. The recent fight with Carlos Baldomir was a great stepping stone. Baldomir to me, similar to Luis Collazo at welterweight, is a quintessential example of a “gate-keeper.” I am not as critical of Canelo’s current skill level as some sports journalists are, although as mentioned above, I acknowledge that he is at the moment far from perfect. However, if his improvement occurs at even half the speed of Pacquiao’s improvement during the stretch from Manny’s rematch with Juan Manuel Marquez through the Joshua Clottey fight, we could have quite a force to be reckoned with. I suspect that rapid improvement is a high possibility given Canelo’s young age. It’s true that it is difficult to correct an older fighter’s style flaws after being locked into those patterns through years of training camps and fights. This isn’t an issue as Saul is only 20.
Forgive me if it sounds like I worship this guy. I really can’t help it. I see only great things in his future. Hell, I’d love to be this guy.
As they say, it’s good to be the king.
Below, in no particular order, is a non-exhaustive list of fighters who I’ve previously considered very good prospects:
Tavoris Cloud – This guy was beginning to wilt under the pressure from Glen Johnson. I took a close look at his eyes between rounds while his corner was giving him instructions, and I did not like what I saw. I felt like his mind was about to give, and only the reassuring words from his cornermen got him back in the right frame of mind.
Devon Alexander – Thought he looked awful against Kotelnik.
Yuriorkis Gamboa – Still has potential but I am not a fan of his being 28. Expect him to be a very good champion but his age prevents the longevity needed for a talented fighter to really build up buzz. Extra points for his flashy defense and combinations.
Juan Manuel Lopez – Actually think he is very overrated. Getting knocked down in the Concepcion fight made him look very amateur. Initial thoughts are that Gamboa would take him whenever Arum decides to match them up. I also think Rafael Marquez takes him apart over 12 rounds.
Amir Khan – His glass jaw is such a liability, I don’t think he can ever be a true force. He can have a very successful career, but it would be dependent on very selective matchmaking. Which is difficult because the combination of having a recognizable name yet lack punching power (like Paulie Malignaggi) aren’t exactly common.
Andre Ward – No question this man has got skills. However, I think that his seeming lack of power makes him less marketable, especially to the American audience that loves to see knockouts.
Andre Berto – You know, I just can’t get the image of him struggling mightily against Collazo out of my head. All respect to Luis, but the true “top” prospects should be blowing through “gate-keeper” type fighters.