Quit fishing, pick Trout
When a football team is on a collision course for a championship and the other contenders don't quite measure up, it's said that "everyone is just playing for the right to challenge" the juggernaut. And lately, in the struggle for supremacy in the junior middleweight division, it would seem that everyone is playing for the right to face Canelo Alvarez.
The calls for Alvarez to face a legitimate rival have been a constant criticism during his career, and although the 154-pound champ is just 21 and has responded with gradual but steady improvement in his level of competition, doubts persist. To make matters worse, now Canelo can't even count on his opponents to do their part anymore.
Beyond the tragic accident suffered by Paul Williams -- Canelo's original Sept. 15 opponent, who was paralyzed after being injured in a motorcycle crash -- every new candidate has seemingly made a greater effort to avoid Alvarez than to face him. A shoulder injury was the reason given for James Kirkland falling out, although it's just as likely he killed it by pricing himself out of the fight. Victor Ortiz then got the call to make what would have been a fantastic matchup. But with one of the biggest purses in his career on the line, Ortiz was unable to achieve the modest task of avoiding being beaten or broken against the unheralded Josesito Lopez.
Given that scorched-earth landscape, it wouldn't be such a bad idea to put several contingency plans in place for Canelo's Sept. 15 date. If I were the promoter, I'd load the undercard with credible 154-pound contenders to ensure replacements were on hand in case the bad mojo continues. But if I had to choose one opponent to headline in a great boxing match with Alvarez, it would be fellow world champ Austin Trout, a fighter who, despite some criticism to the contrary, has the chops and experience to mount an interesting challenge. This assumes, of course, that Golden Boy has summarily discarded Erislandy Lara as a possible opponent, which seems to be the case considering the Cuban fighter is available, has called out Canelo and still can't sniff the fight despite working under the banner of the same promotional company.
Golden Boy's reluctance to put Canelo in the ring against a pure boxer like Trout is misguided. Alvarez is a much better boxer than most give him credit for, and far from looking like a bull against the deft hand of a matador, Canelo would showcase his skills (to go with his great punching power) against a fighter like Trout, who would have the chance to demonstrate that he belongs in the top of a talent-rich division.
All roads lead to Lara
I don't know whether Saul Alvarez will win or lose his next fight, but Golden Boy has already lost by KO. Three scheduled opponents have come and gone, and with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in jail and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. locked into his own Sept. 15 battle with Sergio Martinez, even the pipe-dream possibilities have dwindled for Canelo.
That's why it seems that fate is pushing Canelo into a fight with Erislandy Lara. There's no other choice, unless you count the rejection of the TV networks as an option. But internal drama at Golden Boy appears to be holding up the show. The trouble, it seems, is that Oscar De La Hoya and his company don't want to risk Canelo's unbeaten status against a fighter from their own stable. Still, it's past the point of ridiculous when, as far as I know, no one has referred to the Cuban fighter as even a Plan B, C or D.
Canelo's remaining "options" read like the chronicle of a catastrophe. De La Hoya horrified everyone when he mentioned Carlos Quintana after Victor Ortiz fell out. And it gets better: Shane Mosley, Kermit Cintron, Carlos Baldomir, Alfonso Gomez, Jose Miguel Cotto. Please! No more calls to the museum when trolling for the young champ's next foe. Canelo must follow the example of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and start fighting the best opposition from his own generation. Taking into account that Miguel Cotto refuses to fight before the end of the year and when you consider the barriers that separate Canelo from a fight with his most natural opponent, Vanes Martirosyan, the only attractive alternative left is Lara.
It would be an even matchup, too. And if we believe the rumblings that the fight will no longer be broadcast on pay-per-view, there should be no objections from networks to promote an alternative show to compete with the Chavez-Martinez PPV scheduled for that same day.
That leads to another point: Why do Top Rank and Golden Boy insist on shooting themselves in the foot by promoting dueling cards? Forget for a moment how damaging their spat is for the sport and just look at it from their self-serving standpoint: Each event will pull viewers and gate revenue away from the other. How does this make sense to anyone? Why not put on a single PPV event featuring both fights? Is it really that difficult to bury the hatchet and smoke the peace pipe to make fans happy and everyone else wealthy?
I understand that Golden Boy is facing a crossroads. De La Hoya and his people have to think long and hard about putting their showcase fighter in with the best men in his division. But Quintana isn't the solution. Neither is Austin Trout, who would be there merely as a stop-gap -- and Ortiz has already proven that bad things can happen even when a less-than-deserving opponent is brought in to fill in for a legitimate contender. For all these reasons and more, I insist: All roads should lead to Lara.
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