Am I missing something? Has my judgement of fighters become so jaded that I can't see the trees because I'm too deep in the forest?
Up until last Saturday night, and well into this week, all I have been hearing about is Mexican phenom, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. HBO has rolled out the marketing machine, Golden Boy is salivating at the drawing power, and Mexican fight fans, as well as all fight fans in general, are excited about this 20-year-old punching machine. Up until last Saturday, I too was more than impressed with what I had seen in this young, powerful banger.
Now, that is not to say I am still not impressed. More often than not we are quick to judge and easy to dismiss when someone offers a sub-par performance. I've been in this game too long to jump the gun that quickly.
Having said that, however, there is something stuck in my craw.
I believe strongly in developing professional fighters. I believe no matter how good you are, there is no replacement for development. Too many young, strong fighters have seen their careers burn and fizzle because of promoter or management impatience. When I turned David Lemieux pro four months after his 18th birthday, I vowed to take my time in bringing him along. Now at 25-0 with 24 KO's, and four years after turning pro, David is coming along just fine.
"Canelo" Alvarez is only 20 years old, yet he has 35 pro fights (the result of beginning your pro career at the age of 15). Although I never understood the need for a fighter turning pro at 15 (except of course for the great Wilfred Benitez), Alvarez WAS developing, he WAS being moved slowly and deliberately. Something happened along the way that changed that. With an impressive KO of Carlos Baldomir, suddenly the marketing machine started running and the publicity boys began spinning the story about this great Mexican wunderkind with red hair.
This past Saturday, in what could best be described as a one-sided fight; Alvarez took on Matthew Hatton of the UK, brother of the other, and proving that there is more than one Hatton.
By any other standard, Alvarez's performance could have been graded, at best, as a "B" performance. Not bad at all against a tough-as-boots Hatton. Sadly, however, the hype around Alvarez hurt more than it helped. Seemingly desperate to create a new star, HBO and Golden Boy began force-feeding us the "Alvarez is great" story. I believe Max Kellerman even had the gall to say that Alvarez "fights like George Foreman."
C'mon guys! Enough is enough; fight fans aren't blind. Give us the information and allow our eyes to be the judges of the possible potential and the measure of talent. Please stop with the open display of affection in trying to justify why a welterweight like Matthew Hatton is fighting a junior-middleweight like Alvarez at 150 lbs for a 154 lbs title. Confused? Me too.
While I am on the subject of weight, and I use that word loosely here, "Canelo" agreed to a catch weight of 150 lbs. Unable to make the weight, Alvarez came in at 151 ¾ lbs. The California State Athletic Commission, in their infinite wisdom (oh lord, please don't get me started on this gang again!), fined Alvarez $70,000 for not respecting the contracted weight. Sounds normal right? Wait, there's more. Normally when a fighter is overweight, the fined amount goes to his opponent. Or, a new deal is made with the opponent which usually calls for an increase in pay. Well, the great C.S.A.C. saw fit to fine Alvarez, but then only gave Hatton half the amount or $35,000 and then kept the rest for themselves! Say it ain't so, Joe!! That in itself merits its own blog!
My apologies, I digress.
Instead of Jones, Kellerman and company telling me how great Alvarez is against a light fisted opponent like Hatton, why doesn't HBO explain why Vitali Klitschko's heavyweight title defense against unbeaten Odlanier Solis next Saturday is not on their air. Here's the hook for this fight; can anyone tell me when was the last time two Olympic gold medalist vied for heavyweight honours? After some of the mediocre fights we've seen on HBO, this one should have made air.
Instead, we get force-fed a diet of praise and a front row seat to a love-in with a fighter who is only beginning to find his groove in a very tough and demanding field. Give him some room!
There is no doubt that HBO puts on a boxing show like no one else, Saturday night they sounded like a publicity agent looking to pull the wool over your eyes.
"Eye" for one, wasn't having it.
On a side note, and for those of you who saw it, the California State Athletic Commission once again proved their ineptness in the opening bout on HBO as Adrian Broner was handed a "gift" decision over a game and hard-punching Daniel Ponce de Leon.
While the fight was close and two judges had it 96-94, most ringside observers and those watching on TV had de Leon as the winner. What was completely embarrassing about the whole thing was Judge Tony Crebs' card of 99-91 for Broner. Being in the business, I understand just how difficult it can be in scoring rounds, but giving nine rounds out of ten to Broner proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Tony Crebs never even watched the fight.