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Monday, December 3, 2012
Right or wrong, Canelo-Cotto makes sense

By Brian Campbell

Boxing promoters, by their very nature, have a way of spinning a "truth" that is exclusively representative of their own bottom line.

So when I asked Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer on Saturday night after Austin Trout's upset of Miguel Cotto at New York's Madison Square Garden whether a superfight between Cotto and Mexican sensation Canelo Alvarez -- who sat ringside for the fight -- was still a possibility, his answer wasn't surprising.

"Oh, absolutely," Schaefer said. "We are going to be talking to Miguel [Cotto] and his team and see what he wants to do next, but the fact is, Cotto always comes to fight and this sport is entertainment. We in boxing can take a page out of that [book] from the UFC. Obviously you want to win more than you lose, but do I think a Cotto and Canelo matchup would be still a fascinating possibility? Absolutely. They say styles make fights, and I think those two guys would be perfect for each other."

The only thing about Schaefer's response that surprised me was that deep inside, I agreed with him -- even if sharing in such a belief goes against any form of moral code or integrity left remaining in this seductively sinister sport.

Going forward with Alvarez-Cotto isn't only the best move for the financial future of Golden Boy. It just might be for the sport, as well.

Don't get me wrong: Trout is clearly the most deserving of a fight with Alvarez, a fellow titlist at 154 pounds. Not only is Trout easy to root for and a pillar of humility in a sport long on braggadocio, his path toward contention has been completed the old-fashioned way -- by winning difficult fights on his opponent's home turf -- with Saturday's victory being the greatest example. It's also an incredibly easy fight to make, considering both fighters compete under the Golden Boy banner.

But Trout, 27, is still far from having a name that resonates with the casual fan. The 22-year-old Alvarez, meanwhile, who turned pro at 15, is at a point in his development as both a fighter and marketing machine that it's necessary for his next opponents to carry an equal level of talent and name value.

Boxing fans can no longer hold their respective breath waiting for a Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao fight to come to fruition. Not only has its perishable window just about expired, as both fighters close in on the twilight of their respective primes, it has held the sport hostage long enough.

So when it's all said and done, the second-biggest fight that can be made in boxing today is a crossroads bout between the long-reigning pound-for-pound king Mayweather and boxing's brightest star, Alvarez, who brings with him the coveted Mexican audience to the box office.

Despite what you think of Alvarez's chances against Mayweather -- even considering his own marked improvement and the hint of vulnerability Mayweather showed in his previous fight -- all roads to that pay-per-view being big and bright for the sport have to go through Cotto.

Alvarez still has plenty to prove in terms of whether his talent will ever match his popularity, fueled in equal parts by his exciting style, unique red locks and handsome visage. But if he can get past Cotto -- a prospect that is far from automatic, even with Cotto coming off consecutive defeats -- it would provide him with the critical credibility his résumé needs.

A spring bout with Cotto also would give Alvarez the push he has desired as a legitimate PPV headliner by adding another chapter to the great rivalry between Mexico and Puerto Rico. And although Cotto, at 32, is clearly on the downside of his surefire Hall of Fame career, he showed enough Saturday against a difficult opponent to prove that he's far from done.

There isn't another realistic PPV that has the potential to draw the kind of money, attention and mainstream appeal the sport needs that Mayweather-Alvarez, if properly cultivated, can generate. And with the 35-year-old Mayweather fresh out of jail and looking for a spring tuneup, the time is now to properly prepare for their potential blockbuster next fall.

Trout-Alvarez is a nice fight, one that will still be there if Trout can continue to perform as he did Saturday. But the best way to find out whether Alvarez is truly ready for the kind of challenges that his talent and potential call for, and the next logical progression for the long-term health of the sport, is to match him with Cotto.