LAS VEGAS — Floyd Mayweather is gone. Bob Arum says Manny Pacquiao will follow him out the door after one final fight. With boxing’s two true stars departing, who will carry the torch as the face of the sport?
It appears the man is Canelo Alvarez, who announced he’s ready with a clear decision win over Miguel Cotto on Saturday for the lineal middleweight championship.
Canelo applied measured pressure, stunned Cotto with a thudding body attack and showed improved defense. He slipped Cotto’s punches and showed he’s a better fighter than the young man who was given a boxing lesson by Mayweather more than two years ago.
It wasn’t just the Mexican fighter’s performance against the future Hall of Famer. The 25-year-old, with his good looks and warm demeanor, is a rock star in his native land, and the sellout crowd of 11,274 at Mandalay Bay was vociferous in its support, many in attendance wearing red “Canelo” headbands.
He has the power, fan-friendly style and skill to go a long way in the squared circle. He’s headlined a major pay-per-view show once before — a lopsided defeat to Mayweather — and attracted 2 million-plus buys, though much of that can be attributed to Floyd’s popularity.
“We were very pleased with the early tracking figures for Cotto-Canelo,” Mark Taffet, HBO senior vice president for sports operations and pay-per-view told USA TODAY Sports. “We need a few days to accurately project the buys, but all indications are that the fight will be a PPV success.”
Said HBO Boxing analyst Max Kellerman: “Given his age, if he continues to fight the best in the world, and win or lose, compete at the highest level, he’ll be an economic engine for the foreseeable future.”
Canelo (46-1-1, 32 KOs) relies on his large Mexican following, but he’s reached must-see status for boxing fans regardless of nationality.
CANELO-GOLOVKIN: Is a superfight with Triple G coming?
The 160-pound champ authored the leading candidate for knockout of the year in May with a one-punch victory over James Kirkland in a three-round slugfest.
That fight packed 30,000-plus into Houston’s MinuteMaid Park. After the clear victory over Cotto, Canelo also must be considered a favorite for fighter of the year and should receive further pound-for-pound consideration.
“This fight will take Canelo to a whole new level now — this is a new era in our sport,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Canelo’s promoter and mentor. “Canelo’s next fight will be in May for the weekends of Cinco de Mayo and in September for Mexican Independence Day.”
Those are dates typically reserved for boxing’s biggest stars, holidays during which De La Hoya and Mayweather would routinely fight.
Canelo now will shoulder the load for a sport desperately in need of a standard-bearer, but he can’t do it alone. He needs the proper dance partners to drive boxing, and one such man is the mandatory challenger to the WBC title Canelo claimed Saturday: Gennady Golovkin.
GGG, who is undefeated and has scored 21 consecutive knockouts, has long been avoided by boxing’s best, but if Canelo steps in the ring with him and is competitive (even in defeat), there’s no telling how far he can go.
“I know Golovkin very well, he’s a friend of mine. … I’ll fight anybody, any time. I’m not afraid of anybody. I am ready for him,” Canelo said while flexing. “ … Now it’s my era.”