Friday, May 12, 2017

Alvarez-Chavez: A Silver Lining?

On May 6th the Boxing world converged on the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV to see Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, one of the sport's biggest stars do battle against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a highly anticipated encounter of two of Mexico’s top fighters. Alvarez, a two-division world champion who is quickly making a push to establish himself as Boxing's top pay-per-view draw facing a former WBC Middleweight world champion in Chavez Jr., who for years was pushed as a pay-per-view attraction as “The Son Of The Legend” following in the footsteps of his father Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. the man regarded by many as the greatest Mexican fighter of all-time.

Some would argue that despite being victorious in fifty of his fifty-four professional fights and winning a world championship along the way prior to facing Alvarez, that Chavez Jr. has not fulfilled his full potential perhaps in part due to the impossible task of following his father and trying to establish his own legacy. Chavez had also seen his career marred by inconsistencies in the ring in regard to both problems making weight and his performances as well as personal problems outside the ring. Although Chavez came into the fight having won his previous two bouts after suffering a knockout loss at the hands of Andrzej Fonfara at the Light-Heavyweight limit of 175lbs. in April 2015, this observer did question how Chavez would look in this bout against Alvarez given that the fight took place at a catchweight of 164lbs. four pounds above the 160lb. Middleweight limit and a weight that Chavez had not fought near in nearly five years since losing his Middleweight championship to Sergio Martinez in September 2012. A question that only seemed more valid following the weigh-in when Chavez, who was able to make the contracted limit of 164lbs. looked utterly gaunt.  It was understandable how some including this observer could question whether the process of trying to make weight would have an effect on Chavez in the fight.

Even though this fight had the ingredients of a special occasion for the sport including the passionate fan followings of both fighters, a sell out crowd in attendance, and the festive atmosphere surrounding Cinco de Mayo weekend, this would not be a classic encounter deserving of a label of a “Super Fight” known for a thrilling give and take battle, but rather an occasion that was more about the event than what took place in the ring. For twelve rounds, Alvarez battered Chavez from pillar to post to such a degree that it resembled more of a sparring session rather than an actual fight.

Rather than giving an analysis of a fight that was frankly one-sided in favor of Alvarez, who won all twelve rounds for a unanimous decision victory, the focus should be on what will follow this fight as it was announced immediately in the ring after Alvarez’ victory over Chavez. On September 16th, Alvarez will face undefeated unified WBA/IBO/IBF/WBC Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin for Golovkin’s Middleweight crown.

This is a fight that has been one that Boxing fans and experts alike have been anticipating as the sport’s next legitimate “Super Fight.” Although this is a fight that needs to happen, in my opinion, there has also been an element of controversy that has surrounded the announcement of the fight being signed in that some have questioned whether the Alvarez-Chavez bout was  “A Fix.” The basis of this theory is rooted not only in how the fight was announced with Golovkin making an entrance following Alvarez’ victory over Chavez in a fashion similar to how some Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) bouts have been announced, but also Chavez’ overall lack of offense throughout the twelve round bout.

This observer has talked with several Boxing fans in the days since the Alvarez-Chavez bout took place who all shared the opinion that they felt the fight was a done deal before it got in the ring last weekend. Even though it is understandable how those who paid $69.95 for this fight and it’s accompanying undercard on a pay-per-view basis may feel disappointed due to the lack of action that took place in this bout, it is worth noting that both due to the gradual increase in prices of pay-per-view Boxing cards over the years as well as at times only getting access to between three to five fights on a card for the price rather than the full card that when a main event fails to live up to expectations it may be all too tempting to call a foul on the sport and by extension it’s fans.

Speaking only for myself, I do not feel that the Alvarez-Chavez fight was not on the level. Prior to this bout, some across various social media platforms asked me for my opinion as to whether or not I felt Chavez had a chance in this fight due in large part to how he looked at the weigh-in. I responded to this question by stating that any fighter who gets in the ring has a chance because after all, all it takes is one punch. I also explained that it was my view that it would depend on whether or not the task of coming down to make weight took too much out of Chavez.

Although I do not feel that a thorough analysis is warranted in this case Chavez, a fighter who has almost always had a height and reach advantage over most of his opponents has always used a come forward pressure style that has one goal, to gradually break an opponent down. As some readers who have followed this observer’s coverage of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s career over the years both in magazines as well as various online outlets may recall, I have always been of the opinion that Chavez did not make use of his physical advantages by using his height and reach to keep an opponent at distance. He has always fought in a style that I have stated in the past was perfectly suited for his father who stands 5’7 ½ with a 66” reach who began his career at or around the 126lb. Featherweight division and never fought above the 147lb. Welterweight division in his career whereas Chavez Jr., who stands 6’1 with a 73” reach who began his career as a 130lb. Jr. Lightweight and quickly progressed up the scale to the 154lb. Jr. Middleweight division, 160lb. Middleweight division, and had fought his last four fights prior to the encounter with Alvarez in either the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division or the 175lb. Light-Heavyweight division is a naturally bigger man as compared to his father.

Despite never fighting in a style that would make use of his height and reach, Chavez elected to attempt to box Alvarez from a distance that would theoretically allow him to use his natural size and reach. It was clear after four rounds however, that the strategy Chavez and his new trainer Ignacio Beristain had developed was not working and Chavez simply could not adapt and revert to the pressure style he had used for most of his career. Even though it is commendable that Chavez would look to improve/change his Boxing style after fifty-four professional fights, this was not the time where he should have adapted to a different style and perhaps this in addition to not being able to consistently put himself in a position where he could throw and land punches was the story of the fight.

It does nothing however, to take away from the performance of Saul Alvarez. While it was by no means an exciting fight to watch, Alvarez did what he had to do and looked impressive in doing so against a naturally bigger fighter whom may have been compromised by the drop in weight, but more importantly was compromised by being the lesser fighter in terms of skill.

This brings us back to the story that came out of this fight, the upcoming showdown between Gennady Golovkin and Alvarez which is scheduled for September 16th at a site to be named. If there is a silver lining to a fight that did not live up to expectations or the price that consumers were asked to pay to see it, it is that a legitimate “Big” or “Super” fight is on the horizon.

Although some will no doubt say that this fight could and should have already occurred, it should be noted that this encounter will take place in a considerably quicker time frame as compared to other would be “Big” or “Super” fights that have taken place in years past. One concern however, that those who are behind this fight should keep in mind is the backlash that took place after Boxing's last big “Mega” event when a fight Boxing fans waited nearly a decade for the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao encounter in 2015 turned out to be a major disappointment in the eyes of many as much like the Alvarez-Chavez bout, it failed to live up to expectations. When you factor in that the Mayweather-Pacquiao event was the most expensive pay-per-view attraction in history priced at nearly $100 and the general increase of pay-per-view prices outside of the “Big”, “Super”, or “Mega” event one may question whether Boxing fans will be as quick to spend their money regardless of what the main event of such an event might be. A valid question as more and more consumers are choosing to move away from traditional cable/satellite television and move toward Over The Top (OTT) digital distribution and thus do not have legal access to events carried exclusively on cable/satellite pay-per-view.

As is the case with most “Big” or “Super” fights this observer has no doubt that the event of Golovkin-Alvarez in of itself will be it's own story. It is my hope however, as the event nears, anticipation increases, and the Boxing world focuses its attention on Boxing's next showdown that when all is said and done Boxing fans and those of us in the media are not talking about another underwhelming moment for the sport that will be more known for the “Spectacle” of the event than what takes place in the ring where no matter the outcome the ultimate authority, the Boxing fan feels once again to be the victim of injustice due to paying an expensive price for something that failed to deliver on expectations.

Boxing as a sport is truly given a boost when a “Mega” event is remembered for the right reasons. One only needs to look at the recent encounter between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko to see that when a fight exceeds the atmosphere of the event as well as expectations, the Boxing fan does not complain about being “Cheated” or “Let Down” afterwards, does not offer suggestions of a possible “Fix” and/or questions the integrity of a referee or the judges scoring a bout, but rather talks about the “Great Fight” they saw and what they anticipate may be in store for both fighters next which can only encourage increased interest in the sport particularly among casual fans. Such enthusiasm is even better when the Boxing fan is not charged such a high price in order to witness such an occasion. After an occasion where 90,000 people packed the legendary Wembley Stadium in London, England, over a million more ordered Joshua-Klitschko on pay-per-view in the United Kingdom for a far more reasonable price of €24.95 for the HD broadcast of the event with even millions more tuning in to see what became an all-time classic around the world, Gennady Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez sure have a tough act to follow.

“And That's The Boxing Truth.”

The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.

Follow Beau Denison on Twitter:

No comments:

Post a Comment