In boxing, we are often left feeling short-changed by a slow drip-feeding of mediocre matchups throughout the year. A step-up by one of the sport’s best is more often than not followed by several step-downs; mandatory defences used as a smokescreen for ticking over, assuring their status is protected for another year.
This philosophy, or blueprint, has been underpinned by the heavyweight division in recent months. Lucrative television/streaming deals have forged a wedge between the top dogs so deep, that it’ll take drastic negotiations to lure the fighters and their teams away from the security of mediocrity - there is a limit to the patience that fans have in demanding the biggest fights are made.
Enter Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Last year’s DAZN announcement confirming that the WBA/WBC middleweight world champion would pocket a handsome sum of $365 million for 11 fights over a spell of five years was front page, as well as back page news. DAZN — still the new kid at school, sitting front-and-centre amongst the squabbling class of competitors surrounding them managed to scoop the “face of boxing.”
Canelo’s global appeal is currently unrivaled in the sport. Starring in nine pay-per-view shows since making his top-of-the-bill “debut” against Floyd Mayweather in 2013, the 28-year-old has justified any investment that has come his way, with the streaming service the latest to throw their trust the way of the three-weight world champion.
In just his second fight in this 11-fight deal, Canelo is rolling the dice in this unnecessary risk. Daniel Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs) is widely considered the hardest test to Canelo in this current climate, with the IBF middleweight titlist’s key appeal the chance to move Canelo a step closer to the undisputed fight.
Jacobs’ obsession in securing this fight was made clear upon winning the vacant IBF strap against Sergiy Derevyanchenko last October. His promoter, Eddie Hearn, may be new to life across the pond, but their combined hunger for greatness was considered too strong for Golden Boy to turn down; Canelo has been consistent in wanting to test himself against the sport’s best.
From “Sugar” Shane Mosley in 2012 to Daniel Jacobs on Saturday night, Canelo is building an unrivaled résumé of fighting the best options at the desired times. Still at the tender age of 28, wins over Austin Trout, Alfredo Angulo, Erislandy Lara and Miguel Cotto cemented his legacy as we approached the Gennady Golovkin era.
Amir Khan was obliterated, Liam Smith was bludgeoned — in a better win than many give Canelo credit for — and Chavez Jr was outclassed; the two fights against GGG that followed were as controversial as they were gripping, with the Golden Boy fighter escaping without defeat over 24 pulsating rounds of action.
“If Canelo was any other fighter he would not have chosen Jacobs to fight,” Oscar De La Hoya told ESPN. “We can pick anyone we want to fight, but Canelo is fighting for legacy. He understands that if you fight for legacy the money will come. You fight for legacy first and then the money will come, but this is what every partner gets when they sign with Canelo and Golden Boy. We want to give the fight fans the best fights and that’s the bottom line.”
It’s hard to argue against this rhetoric. Saturday night’s middleweight unification fight in Las Vegas ticks all the boxes. Jacobs — the third-best 160-pounder — has proved himself at this level more in defeat than in victory. His controversial loss to Gennady Golovkin (113-114, 112-115, 112-115) in 2017 was a statement performance by the “Miracle Man,” and more than enough reason for the rest of the middleweight high-flyers to submit their excuses in fighting the Brooklyn fighter.
In many’s eyes, Canelo has a chance to gain the No. 1 pound-for-pound spot with a win inside the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday. At this stage of his career, it’s the riskiest fight that could be taken, but the potential rewards are unmistakable.
There are several underlying issues with the Canelo regime that have surfaced over the past couple of years, but his quest for legacy can’t be questioned. Saturday night is set to be another engaging chapter in an incredible story forged in Guadalajara, Mexico.