The consensus pound-for-pound kingpin, and world Super Middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez finds himself in an interesting position.
At the age of 31, he has already amassed a resume many fighters would be more than proud to call their own. He has held world gold in multiple divisions, has generated some of the largest purses for a Mexican fighter in history and has likely already cemented his position as a first ballot Hall of Famer.
He also will likely always maintain an asterisk by his name.
This asterisk, of course, stems from a failed drug test the Mexican superstar registered in March of 2018 during the lead-up to his second encounter with Middleweight rival Gennadiy Golovkin. Ultimately, the Nevada State Athletic Commission temporarily suspended Alvarez due to both his initial sample and his B sample showing up positive for the banned substance clenbuterol.
While you can search for yourself as to what the potential benefits of clenbuterol might be, the fact is that the reaction to the failed tests for Alvarez have been rather divided.
Some have argued that the levels Canelo reached when tested were consistent with contaminated meat, an issue Mexican athletes have struggled with in the past. A quick Google search will show you dozens of Mexican soccer players having failed tests for the same banned substance, with many attributing it to the fact that Mexican ranchers illegally put the ingredient in their cattle.
Others, meanwhile, will suggest the levels were low because he was coming off of higher levels as the fight neared and, naturally, he would begin to pull back with his dosages.
Regardless of whether most people believe the contaminated meat story or not, the point is Alvarez will always have to deal with these accusations. However, he's never quite had to worry about the claims arising from an upcoming opponent, sans the aforementioned Golovkin -- and for obvious reasons. As a result, outside of his most staunch detractors, Alvarez had effectively moved on from that dark period.
That is, of course, until Caleb Plant.
A few days prior to their initial press conference promoting their fight for this Saturday in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand, Plant took to social media and blasted his Super Middleweight counterpart for being a drug cheat. In fact, Plant blasted Alvarez as well as the camp of his lead trainer, Eddy Reynoso, a man that has had several fighters test positive in the past.
"...All of them are suspect, everything out of that camp is intentional. They have the knowledge and experience to know better and the resources to have the best of the best in whatever they want but [tacos] or [meat] or some [tea] is the reason (for failed tests)," tweeted Plant, with tea being a reference to Alvarez' stablemate Oscar Valdez claiming herbal tea caused him to fail a drug test for his bout with Robson Conceicao.
"You mean to tell me you have made over $100 million and live in San Diego," Plant continued, "but you ate some tacos or steak at some random ass taco stand in Mexico or some random ass steak and just doing that once made your levels THAT HIGH?"
Clearly, Plant had his reasons for suspicion.
Following the tweets -- and there were more in a similar tone -- the sentiments were again expressed by Plant at the press conference, where ultimately the two got into a physical altercation before being pulled apart by handlers.
In the aftermath of both the series of tweets as well as the presser, fans were divided once again as to what side of the fence they fell with this issue. Naturally, Canelo supporters backed their man regardless, and some proceeded to point out the link between Plant and SNAC Nutrition, a company headed by infamous drug cheat-turned-supplement supplier Victor Conte. The link, some suggested, was an odd one coming from someone that feels drug cheats should be out of the sport.
Still, others were in agreement with Plant, claiming Alvarez and his team had effectively received little more than a slap on the wrist and were eventually given a pass. In their defense, Alvarez has rarely received negative press and receives little to know criticism about his failed test, when most in the sport claim to be anti-drug.
Some agreed with Plant and some completely disagreed. Certainly, I have had mixed feelings about Alvarez and his failed testing results and the ethics of many attempting to sweep the incident entirely under the rug. About the morals of so many people that simply moved along as if it were business as usual. Still, ultimately time will only tell how the boxing community as a whole views it's biggest star when it's all said and done. That's a moral question for a time down the line.
Regardless, it's with what Plant concluded his Twitter rant that made me ask a different sort of question about morals and ethics in the sport.
"It's [sic] almost seems frowned upon to even speak up on this stuff in boxing but [I don't give a f*ck]," tweeted Plant. "There's a whole other world out there when it comes to banned substances that people in the fight game don't wanna speak up about but I could care less. There's no room for it."
You see, that last part caught my attention. "There's no room for it".
Steroids have always been an interesting topic in sports, at least to me. I've never been fully convinced by those for or against steroids, and, as a result, have always tried to shy away from making too harsh a judgement on fighters that have been caught using.
However, there are plenty that will tell you they want drug cheats out of the game for good and that, as Plant put it, there is no room for such people in an already dangerous sport. That's fair, in my opinion. Again, I don't know exactly where I fall on the issue, so if you want to stand firm with your beliefs, I won't begrudge you.
However, then one must pose this question to Plant: If you don't want drug cheats in the sport, why are you helping one profit even further off of boxing?
Logically, let's begin breaking this one down. If Alvarez is a cheater and, as a result of his cheating, rose to become the face of boxing, then you'd have to argue that he in part generates millions of dollars off of his presumed cheating. That means, any fighter willing to face him also benefits from that same unethical rise to prominence.
How is that any better?
Sure, Plant could say he's doing it to help rid boxing of Canelo. However, it's a fight and anything can happen. Even if Plant firmly believes he will win, he understands he could lose and would literally be adding to the tainted legacy of a man he apparently views unworthy of being allowed in the sport.
And even if he's defeated, Alvarez isn't going anywhere. This will just be another lucrative night in a row of many for the Guadalajara native.
The argument loses more weight when you realize Plant, like anyone else would or has done around 168 pounds, has attempted several times to face Alvarez. This has been a fight in the making for well over a year. Also, by his own admission, he and his team gave into virtually every demand necessary to move the negotiations along. In other words, he wasn't forced to face the cash cow of boxing, he actively pursued it with his team, the sacrifices be damned.
And he hasn't given any indication that he plans to forfeit his career-high payday due to not wanting to accept this tainted money. That he's only doing it for the right to defeat a cheater. No, he will almost certainly cash every check he's given for participating in a fight with a fighter that, by his own admission, he feels shouldn't be in the sport.
Many have lauded Plant as a man of integrity, a man willing to stand up for the ideology of a clean sport. However, if you're more than willing to accept the blood money generated, how clean are you, yourself, keeping the sport?
For the record, I am in no way, shape or form indicating that I wouldn't take the Canelo fight if I found myself in a position such as Plant's. However, I wouldn't be concerned with the integrity of it all, because there isn't much to be had. If I felt that fighting a cheater was the best move for my career, I would make the move. What I wouldn't do is pretend that I now still hold this moral high ground when we are, theoretically, both benefitting from those nefarious exploits.
You can't have it both ways. If he cheated and it helped him push forward in his career, then you, too, reap those dirty rewards. The fight wouldn't be as big because he wouldn't be as big if he hadn't been cheating. Right?
Perhaps, one could argue, Plant is merely saying these things to get under the skin of Alvarez. That's a fair enough argument. I'd give him more of a pass for that and chalk it up to pre-fight nonsense used to sell an event. However, with that, I would point my attention to all those that still believe the words Plant uses to build this fight.
If the boxing world as a whole believes that we need to do away with drug cheats, then do away with them we must. But that means fighters shouldn't fight them, regardless of the financial gain, and fans shouldn't be watching these fights, regardless of the excitement of the events in which they perform.
You lose the moral high ground when you benefit from the same disgusting acts you claim should be eliminated, be that financially or via entertainment value.
Ultimately, while I understand those that will never truly rate Alvarez as an all time great for his potential cheating in the past, I can't say I agree with those that choose to treat him as an all-time dirt bag. Fans and future opponents can't complain about him being given little to no real punishment for his bad deeds if we are apart of the mechanism handing out the pass he's been given.
Hope you enjoyed reading, would love to have any and all feedback. I genuinely appreciate it. Also, if you're interested in my predictions for Alvarez vs. Plant as well as Elvis Rodriguez vs. Juan Pablo Romero, click here
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