Heavy is the head that wears the crown, they say. Or in this case, heavy is the burden of being boxing’s next big thing.
Golden Boy Promotions knows it. They, along with television partner Showtime, have put most, if not all, of their golden eggs into the cinnamon basket of Canelo Alvarez. Who could blame them?
There’s a lot to like about the undefeated junior middleweight. At the tender age of 22, he’s already Mexico’s biggest boxing star. More than that, though, he’s one of the country’s most recognized celebrities period.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Had I not witnessed it firsthand, I would have never believed it myself. The PlazAmericas mall has become the de facto home of Houston’s pre-fight proceedings. When the three-city, two-day Alvarez vs. Trout press tour rolled into town in March to promote their WBC and WBA Super Welterweight World Championship unification bout, I was prepared for normal proceedings.
Oh, how I was wrong.
Many top-level boxing celebrities had traveled through: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Erik Morales and Nonito Donaire, to name a few. All brought big crowds out to see them. People with bright, grinning faces hoped to nab a picture or an autograph.
But none of those boxing stars packed them in like Canelo. Not even close.
To his credit, the kid drank it all in like he was born for it. He looked focused and calm. There he was amidst the biggest gathering I’d seen on the tiny converted food-court stage—cool, quiet and confident Canelo, ready to grab the reins.
The reins of boxing are perhaps the hardest to grab, though. There are no teams in boxing. Sure, the fighter has a manager, a trainer and a cut man in his corner. Yes, he’s got a promoter, handlers, etc.
But when the bell rings, he is alone. He can't use any timeouts or call for a substitution. He can’t hope someone on his team carries him to victory.
And all the while, he’s getting punched in the face.
Still, as much as Canelo and his team want to be front and center of the boxing world, the truth of the matter is that boxing wants him to be, too.
We sure hope so, because more than any other sport, boxing is driven by one thing: star power. A fighter with that on his side defines the sport to the general public. Don’t believe me? Ask any mainstream sports fan what he knows about the sport of boxing today.
You know what he’ll say.
We hope that he is the future because the ripeness of age comes early in boxing. Fighters cannot just be excellent at their craft but marketable too. Boxing is at its best when young, hungry stars make their mark as early as possible.
Because of all these things, Alvarez needs to deliver—and not just against Austin Trout this weekend. He needs to do more.
He needs to be a star. He needs to be great. He needs to be what we hope he is.
“I am very well prepared. It will be a difficult fight but I’m ready,” he said last month in Houston, in Spanish and with a smile. “I’m ready.”
We will see.