One of the oldest and easiest ways to discredit a fighter is by poking through his resume. Sometimes it’s a perfectly valid investigative method, other times it’s hypocrisy of the highest order.
Most fighters’ resumes, if put under the microscope, could be easily picked apart. Part of the strategy in building a career consists of jumping on the biggest names possible at just the right moment. A young prospect, by the time he reaches the main stage in boxing, usually has a resume full of faded former champs, one-time fringe contenders, and no-hope journeymen. It’s the nature of the sport and it leaves every fighter vulnerable to counter-shots fired from critics and analysts.
Such is the case with Saul “El Canelo” Alvarez, the 21-year-old wunderkind from Juanacatlán, Jalisco, who is set to step onto the biggest stage of his career this coming Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Serving as chief support to the Mayweather-Ortiz main event on the Star Power split-site pay-per-view, Alvarez will be taking on veteran former cast member of The Contender, Alfonso Gomez, who just happens to be from Juanacatlán’s major metro neighbor, Guadalajara, Jalisco.
With a solid overall resume and a blue-collar in-ring work ethic to make up for a somewhat pedestrian skill set, Gomez represents the perfect type of opponent for a burgeoning superstar who is just beginning to emerge from the second-tier land of club fights and easy undercard fodder.
However, “El Canelo” is not just any emerging prospect.
From the moment Alvarez’s promoter, Golden Boy, conspired with the WBC to put a world title belt around the waist of their prized possession, criticism has fallen heavily on the freckled shoulders of the young fighter.
Carlos Baldomir, Lovemore Ndou, Matthew Hatton, Ryan Rhodes, and Alfonso Gomez represent a pretty solid five-fight set of developmental bouts for a kid just getting his introduction on the world stage. But, as the WBC world junior middleweight champion and, before that, a #1 contender, the names just don’t inspire anything other than rolled eyes, critical comments, and the generation of an unfair “protected” label.
There’s no doubt that Alvarez is not the real junior middleweight champion of the world. Alvarez, himself, wouldn’t even disagree. As a matter of fact, Alvarez has spent the better part of six months, ever since he won the vacant belt from the UK’s Matthew Hatton, telling the media that he’s eager to fight the best, but that he’s also still a work in progress.
Critics are critics, though, and the digs directed at Alvarez have been brutal at times and, honestly, something to be expected. Golden Boy has generated a lot of unnecessary heat for their affable, hard-working young fighter. The promotional firm wants a world champion who gets the respect of a real word titlist, yet is treated with kid gloves as a 21-year-old prospect. Things just don’t work that way.
But promotional manoeuvrings and sanctioning body greed aside, there’s a real fighter beneath the boardroom sludge that infects the sport– And he’s a good, honest fighter who is on track to be something significantly better.
For a 21-year-old with just a couple dozen amateur fights and no real promotional support for his first 28 bouts, Alvarez has come a long way and is ahead of the developmental curve.
At the same age, Oscar De la Hoya, an Olympic Gold Medalist with a very long, distinguished amateur career, was fighting the likes of Jimmi Bredahl and Giorgio Campanella. Mayweather, the main event attraction of Saturday’s pay-per-view, had just won his first world title at 21 by stopping Genaro Hernandez. Mayweather also had a long, distinguished amateur career, topped off with an Olympic Bronze Medal. Even Manny Pacquiao who, like Alvarez, jumped into the pro ranks without much fanfare or amateur fine-tuning, had just won his first world title at the age of 21 against flyweight, Gabriel Mira.
Other fighters, who currently populate the top of the boxing rankings, also pale in comparison when it comes to what Alvarez is accomplishing at his age and stage of development. Andre Ward was fighting the 3-1 Roy Ashworth; Juan Manuel Marquez was fighting the 5-5 Gregorio Silva; Miguel Cotto was fighting 11-14-1, Rudolfo Lunsford. The list could go on and on.
In this day and age, belts mean nothing and, sadly, the boxing media has been so compromised that their outrage is laughably phony. In the case of Alvarez, boxing politics have once again clouded real analysis.
But strip all that away and you see a fighter just learning his craft and slowly upping his level of opposition. Whether “Canelo” Alvarez ever becomes a real, elite fighter is debatable…But he at least deserves the chance to become one.
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