The 15-pound leap, in boxing terms, is the stuff of Evel Knievel. Most people sail over the handlebars.
In 1952 Ray Robinson was probably the best boxer the world had yet seen, and he was the middleweight champ. When he challenged light heavyweight champ Joey Maxim, he crashed. There were caveats because Robinson was leading on all cards, but it was a thick, unrelenting June night at Yankee Stadium, and in the 10th round referee Ruby Goldstein had to bow out with heat exhaustion. Robinson also wilted. He stayed on his stool when the 14th round was supposed to begin.
Robinson fought 199 fights, and that was the only time he lost before the finish. Maxim, for his part, thought the better man won. “It wasn’t like there was air conditioning in my corner, either,” he said.
In 1938 Henry Armstrong was the featherweight champ and decided to go after Barney Ross’ welterweight belt. Armstrong only put on seven pounds, from 126 to 133, but he dominated Ross through 15 rounds. Ross retired, at 29, and Armstrong then dropped to lightweight, beat Lou Ambers, and became the first triple-crown winner, with three belts in his closet.
Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins were both middleweights in 2004, but De La Hoya was a visitor to the weight class, and Hopkins had lived there all along. He stopped De La Hoya in nine rounds.
So Canelo Alvarez is doing something he doesn’t need to do. The middleweight champ is challenging Sergey Kovalev, who not so long ago was the best light-heavyweight in the business and still holds the WBO belt.
It happens on Nov. 2 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and it happens even though Canelo has an 11-fight, $365 million deal with DAZN, and it happens even though there are several respectable but manageable middleweights out there.
“If I am going to continue to build history,” Canelo said, “I must take these types of risks.”
Canelo sat in a small conference room at Union Station on Wednesday and was asked why he isn’t meeting Gennady Golovkin for the third time. He said that train has already left.
“He doesn’t represent anything for me,” Canelo said.
Yes, but promoter De La Hoya is saying we can count on Canelo-Golovkin III in 2020.
“Oscar says many things that have no sense,” Canelo replied.
So what is his relationship with Golden Boy these days?
“It works,” Canelo said, without visible warmth. “We’ve always worked well together.”
“Promoters and fighters, it’s like a marriage,” De La Hoya said. “It’s stressful but it’s what boxing is all about. It took a lot of patience. I think I bit my tongue like nine times to get this done. Believe me, there were days when I would have rather been on the golf course.
“We have a huge target on our back. Everybody wants a piece of us. Bob Arum has been salivating over Canelo and Ryan Garcia. What is he doing for Terence Crawford (Arum’s welterweight champ)? I’m actually afraid Crawford will not get to the boxing Hall of Fame because they can’t find a good fight for him. Canelo and Ryan will be with Golden Boy for many years. Leave our fighters alone.”
Kovalev was an ominous, undefeated presence until he lost back-to-back fights to Andre Ward. Then he was knocked out by Eleider Alvarez, 13 months ago.
Groping for his career, Kovalev hired trainer Buddy McGirt. He looked sharp in a decision over Alvarez. Then Anthony Yarde dealt Kovalev some pain and suffering before The Krusher got away with a decision on Aug. 24.
“Buddy was going to stop the fight,” Kovalev recalled, “after the eighth round. I said, no, no. I got some adrenalin after that.
“Before Buddy came along I was fighting alone. He is a professional trainer. He saw me and said, ‘Work on the left.’ We would work on it so hard I could barely use my left arm for hours after a workout. But now it is strong.”
Hopkins was on hand, too. He said he felt he had to knock out De La Hoya that night because he didn’t feel the judges would give him a decision.
“But when you’re the bigger man you know that all your punches, no matter where they land, will feel different,” Hopkins said. “And you know inside that you have that advantage. Kovalev will feel that way, too. That’s why all of us will be sitting there watching.”
And that is why Canelo and De La Hoya, who fought Hopkins and Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley when he didn’t have to, will stay betrothed. Fight the best. Anything else is just wasted risk.
Source: Mark Whicker