“Canelo”, Chávez Jr. to Battle It Out on Sept 15
It looks like Golden Boy Promotions (GBP) has finally found a rival for Saúl “Canelo” Alvarez to fight on Mexican Independence weekend. Josesito López, whose fists are still steaming from the beating he put on “Vicious” Victor Ortiz a few weeks ago, will be taking on the biggest fight of his career for the second time in a row, this time at the MGM Grand Garden of Las Vegas. López will face the additional challenge of filling up in a hurry; his previous victory took place at the welterweight limit–his first showing in that division–but the fight against “Canelo” will occur at 154 pounds. After his performance against Ortiz, no one doubts Josesito’s heart and determination, but there is the generalized feeling that he has bitten up more than he can chew by signing up for this fight.
Unfortunately for Alvarez and his followers, his true rival that night will be much harder to beat than Josesito. The GBP card headed by Alvarez vs. Lopez will go against the Top Rank card scheduled for the same night in the same town at the Thomas & Mack Center. It will pit the other Mexican star of the moment, Julio César Chávez Jr., against the man everyone acknowledges to be the true middleweight champion: the slick Argentinian Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez. So while GBP will be competing directly with Top Rank for ticket buyers and viewers, Alvarez and Chávez Jr. will battle it out for the heart of 113 million boxing-crazed Mexicans.
And boxing-crazed they are. One of Mexico’s most popular newspapers, El Universal, recently published an article in which it argues that the sweet science is even overtaking futbol as the most popular sport on television. The introduction states that “while an elite matchup like Pacquiao vs. Márquez III attracts 12 million viewers, a Chivas vs. América derby (matchup involving Mexico’s two most popular soccer clubs) barely reaches the six-million mark.” According to the same source, Chávez Jr. vs. Rubio attracted roughly six million viewers as well, while the “Canelo” vs. Mosley and Mayweather vs. Cotto card attracted almost ten million viewers.
From the point of view of matchmaking, the Chávez Jr. vs. Martinez fight is easily the more attractive one. It will settle the debate of who is really the best in the division, and should be entertaining while it lasts. The slick and sharp, though ageing, southpaw boxer-puncher that is Martinez will have his hands full with a very big middleweight with a good chin who throws hard to the body, and who will be fuelled by the desire to disprove the criticism he has endured throughout most of his career. Despite the lack of any signs of a good undercard, fans will be willing to open up their wallets and pay for the PPV event, either intrigued by the matchup, out of loyalty for the Chávez clan, or out of the desire to see Martinez give a boxing lesson to Chávez Jr.
The Alvarez vs. López card will be, as per GBP’s press release, a quadruple-header. Besides the main event, fans will get the chance to see a great all-Mexican featherweight contest between Jhonny Gonzalez and Daniel Ponce de León, in addition to a couple of other fights to be announced. If the rest of the undercard comes close to the level of quality of Gonzalez vs. Ponce de León, viewers will be in for a swell night of boxing.
But regarding the main event, there remains the fact that despite GBP CEO Richard Schaefer’s praises for the drive of López and his capacity to score an upset, “Canelo” is expected to win that fight easily. Many observers feel that Alvarez vs. López is in fact a mismatch given the disparity in weight, and conclude that the sales pitch feels too forced this time.
It is hard to say who the biggest winner of September 15 will be. The Chávez Jr. vs. Martinez fight is intriguing and hard to call, but it will carry an HBO PPV price tag. The GBP card will be carried by Showtime in the US (not a PPV), and will likely feature a better undercard. In Mexico, fans will also get the chance to follow their preferred fighter on different, open-TV networks: “Canelo” on Televisa, Chávez Jr. on TV Azteca. All of those involved will be vying for attention, which will give fans the chance to choose–a luxury that doesn’t come often for fight fans.
Many feel that the promoters, the TV networks, and the fighters themselves, are shooting themselves in the foot by pig-headedly going against each other on the same night. But if the events get large numbers of people talking about boxing before, during, and after September 15, it will certainly serve as a boost for the sweet science. –Rafael García Quiñones