One of Boxing’s biggest stars Saul “Canelo” Alvarez will return to the ring on Saturday, December 15th as the two-division world champion will make his debut in the legendary Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY. The current WBA/IBO/WBC Middleweight world champion will be moving up in weight to the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division to face top contender Rocky Fielding in a fight scheduled for twelve rounds.
In his last fight, Alvarez became a two-time Middleweight world champion by scoring a decision victory in his second encounter with previously undefeated longtime champion Gennady Golovkin in September of this year. The victory over Golovkin, a majority decision seen as controversial by some followed a controversial draw in their first meeting in September 2017. Two encounters between two of the sport’s top stars that have left both fans and experts wanting more.
A third fight between the two however, will have to wait as Alvarez will attempt to test the waters in a new weight class. The opposition for Alvarez in his first fight as a Super-Middleweight will be top contender Rocky Fielding. Fielding, who will enter the fight with a record of 27-1, with 15 Knockouts and is riding a six fight winning streak. The native of Liverpool, England is a former British, English, and Commonwealth Super-Middleweight champion who will be fighting in the United States for the first time. Fielding currently holds interim/regular champion status in the World Boxing Association (WBA) Super-Middleweight ratings a designation he earned in his last fight when be stopped Tyron Zeuge in five rounds in July of this year.
Although Alvarez, who will enter the fight with more experience both in terms of competing on the elite level of the sport and in terms of overall career experience coming into the fight with a record of 50-1-2, with 34 Knockouts as compared to Fielding, the questions prior to this fight will largely center on Alvarez. Among those questions is the obvious of how he will respond to being hit by a natural Super-Middleweight who is bigger than him and will have a reach advantage over him as well. There is the equally obvious question of what effect did going twenty-four combined rounds over two consecutive fights with Gennady Golovkin have on Alvarez both from a physical standpoint as well as mentally that Alvarez will have to answer.
There is no disputing despite the impressive record that Rocky Fielding has compiled that this will be a significant step up in the caliber of opposition for him in what is the biggest fight of his career. When this fight was announced, there were some who were critical of Fielding being Alvarez' opponent based largely on the fact that he has never fought outside of Europe as well as what happened in his one career defeat.
In November 2015, Fielding suffered a first round knockout loss to Callum Smith, the recently crowned WBA Super-Middleweight world champion and winner of the recent World Boxing Super Series Super-Middleweight tournament. Although it is easy especially in an age where the sport is a consistent topic of discussion thanks to social media for a fighter to be labeled off of one fight, it was just that one fight and in fairness to Fielding he has been undefeated since that loss three years ago. To Fielding’s credit, in addition to being unbeaten in six bouts since that loss, Fielding has worked his way into holding interim/regular champion status in the WBA ratings, which essentially means he is the current number one contender for the WBA world championship.
A victory over a fighter of Alvarez’ stature would obviously open the potential of a rematch between Smith and Fielding. Whether or not Fielding, who will enter the fight as an underdog will be able to pull off a victory remains to be seen.
From a stylistic standpoint, this figures to be a battle between two boxer/punchers. It is crucial in the opinion of this observer that Fielding attempt to impose his will and get the respect of Alvarez from the outset. He is the bigger man and in order to be successful in this fight he must dictate how the fight is fought and not allow Alvarez to get into a consistent rhythm.
As a fighter who is moving up in weight Alvarez will likely look to make use of the ring by establishing himself as an elusive target by using lateral movement. If this is Alvarez’ approach the intent will likely be to make Fielding work to find a way to land his offense on him consistently by giving him angles and looking to out box him over the course of the fight.
Alvarez is the type of fighter who is capable of scoring knockouts at any point in a fight and it is logical that he might look to tire Fielding early and attempt to step up his offense as the bout progresses into the middle and late rounds. Alvarez must keep in mind that he is the fighter moving up in weight and despite Fielding being stopped early once in his career, he must not assume that his punching power that has been there at lower weights will have the same effect at 168lbs. against a natural Super-Middleweight.
This fight also marks a significant shift in terms of how a card headlined by a bout featuring a top star in the sport is offered to the public. Saul Alvarez, who has been a top pay-per-view draw for several years becomes part of a growing list of fighters including undefeated unified Heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua to step away from traditional television by stepping into the future. The Alvarez-Fielding card will not be on pay-per-view and will not be offered to the public at an expensive price.
As some may know, Alvarez recently signed a landmark $365 million dollar contract which will include his next eleven fights beginning with his bout with Rocky Fielding with DAZN, the digital streaming network. For Boxing fans this means that they will no longer be asked to pay an ever-increasing pay-per-view fee to watch Alvarez compete, but will get access to full cards including those featuring Alvarez both live and on-demand for the economically reasonable price of $9.99 per month.
For readers and those who follow this observer across several social media platforms, it is no secret that I have been very vocal in recent years regarding the growth of Over The Top (OTT) digital distribution as a model of which television is increasingly being consumed over traditional cable and satellite pay television and my stance that Boxing as a whole needed to adapt to the changing landscape. It is also no secret that I have called the traditional pay-per-view model overpriced and undervalued in terms of what consumers are asked to pay on a per event basis and the amount of content offered for the price.
One of the biggest stories of 2018 in not just Boxing, but all of sports has been the inception of digital sports streaming services ESPN+ and DAZN. What this has meant for Boxing has been a shift away from traditional television mediums offering consumers considerably more content for reasonable monthly subscription prices. It has also signaled a gradual transition for Boxing's marquee stars away from the pay-per-view model. While pay-per-view still does exist and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, it is a medium that over time will continue to decline as more consumers look to transition away from cable/satellite pay television and to OTT streaming. With stars like Alvarez and Joshua being among those leading the way, it should be an indicator to those in the sport who remain skeptical that they do not need the traditional pay-per-view model to earn lucrative revenue and for the fighters in the sport, lucrative paydays.
While the topic of OTT digital distribution will remain a topic of discussion of yours truly that will continue to be featured here at The Boxing Truth®, I am pleased to see the emergence of a new era in the sport of Boxing. As DAZN prepares for one of their biggest events to date since expanding into the United States in September of this year, it is my hope that the skeptics that remain reluctant to embrace where not only Boxing, but really all of television is heading toward will test the waters and step into the future.
If the Alvarez-Fielding bout turns out to be viewed as a memorable fight in the rich history of Boxing in Madison Square Garden, it should be considered a win for the sport and its fans. For a sport that is a subject of ridicule and criticism on a regular basis, no matter what happens in the ring where Boxing is heading is a good direction. Why not embrace the good that the sport has to offer?
"And That's The Boxing Truth."
Alvarez vs. Fielding takes place on Saturday, December 15th at Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY. The card can be seen in its entirety on DAZN in the United States and select international countries beginning at 6PM ET/3PM PT and will also be available on demand. The DAZN digital streaming network is available for $9.99 per month. For more information on where DAZN is available, schedules, a list of available streaming devices to watch on both mobile devices and television, and to start your free 30-day trial please visit: www.dazn.com.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the card can be seen on Sky Sports Main Event (Formerly Sky Sports 1) on Saturday, December 15th beginning at 11PM (Local UK Time.) For more information about Sky Sports, schedules and availability in your area please visit: www.SkySports.com.
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