Welp, it’s finally happening.
Perhaps the cynic in me is still not registering the fact that Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin are engaging in a rematch on May 5, but I can’t believe it’s happening even though Golovkin’s head trainer straight up told me that there will be a rematch all the way back in October.
The fact that fans didn’t have to wait another two years for negotiations to make the fight official is outstanding if you really think about. In fact, this fight, as well as some of the other big fights in 2017, has proven one thing: boxing is entering another renaissance where the aim is to create superfights.
Of course the aim of the business of combat sports have always been to create the best possible matchups for fans to watch, but in boxing, politics, clashing promoters and numerous governing bodies usually get in the way of this. Despite what some may say about 2016 being a terrible year for boxing or not, 2016 was a step backwards for the sport. 2017 took a complete 180-degree turn and created superfights to hopefully recaptured some of the magic it had more than a decade ago.
In just one year, boxing created various superstars in guys such as Vasyl Lomachenko and Mikey Garcia who can transition to almost any reasonable weight outside of their current weight to fight another star or attracts stars from other weight classes to come to them. Other superstars, such as Anthony Joshua and Terence Crawford, became the kingpins of their respective divisions by accomplishing monumental tasks and elevating their status as pound-for-pound boxers.
But for as much as some of these stars are helping the sport, this generation of boxers, which have the tough task of leading a post-Mayweather/Pacquiao/Cotto era. Alvarez and Golovkin not only need to continue to their outstanding rivalry but add layers to keep fans and non-fans interested in the sport.
Which is why the split draw from their first fight was a necessary evil to keep the sport’s momentum.
Everyone was up in arms, including myself, when Adalaide Byrd scored her now-infamous 118-110 scorecard in favor of Alvarez. But ask yourself this: Would non-fans and casual viewers be just as interested in the rematch had Golovkin won?
The answer is likely not. Why?
Because the “storyline,” for lack of a better word, calls for a rematch that will have fans likely seeing the second incarnation of Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns. The tagline of this rematch is that the judges will not be needed, indicating that both men will do everything in their power to win knock each other out, adding a layer of passion and intensity that was somewhat lacking in the more controlled buildup of their first encounter when both men were more respectful towards one another instead of going the Mayweather vs. McGregor route in terms of building up a fight.
But now that a rematch is official, the winner would clearly be considered the best middleweight in the world, right? Maybe, but the fact that the rivalry will have the winner have a 1-0-1 record and the loser have a 0-1-1 record means that a third match should happen. Oscar De La Hoya, who promotes Canelo Alvarez and one of the biggest reasons the first fight took so long to happen, is perhaps the biggest proponent for a trilogy between the two middleweight kings.
“It has to, there’s no doubt about it,” De La Hoya said. “The first one was a draw, whomever wins the next one, the loser is going to want to get revenge. So, this obviously calls for a trilogy, and that’s exactly what the fight fans deserve.”
De La Hoya recognizes the value this rivalry has and it would make all the business sense in the world to continue the rivalry. Manny Pacquiao’s legendary rivalry with Juan Manuel Marquez had the last two fights do at least a million pay-per-view buys. How did that rivalry start in 2004? With a split draw, just like Canelo vs. GGG.
Fortunately for Canelo and GGG, while it took Pacquiao and Marquez three fights to get to the point Canelo and GGG currently are in their rivalry, this modern day superfight series already has the momentum past historic fights had in their times.
The rule in boxing is that in a rematch between two great boxers where the first fight had a controversial judges decision, usually does more or less the same amount of pay-per-view buys or even worse. It happened when Pacquiao had his rematch against Timothy Bradley, which saw PPV buyrates go down by about 90,000 compared to their first fight and it happened last year when the rematch between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev went down from 160,000 buys in their first fight to 130,000 in the rematch.
Historically speaking, we shouldn’t be expecting more than 1.35 million buys and less than 1.1 million buys for Canelo vs. GGG 2, but this fight has done something that no boxing fight not involving Mayweather and Pacquiao has done: capture the attention of not just the entire boxing fanbase, but also grab non-fans attention.
How big is this rematch? It’s so big that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, mostly known for his time as a WWE legend and now as an movie megastar, made a quick promotion of the rematch.
“Twelve rounds wasn’t enough. The rematch to settle it all! Canelo vs. GGG...and I guaran-damn-tee you it ain’t going to be another draw!”
That last line about not needing another draw is why this rematch is the type of rematch boxing needs. Had there been a winner in the first fight, the rematch would have followed the same exact formula, but with the draw, the rematch suddenly becomes much more interesting with the buildup now being centered around who can knock the other’s lights out in less than 12 rounds.
It is the type of fight boxing needs to rekindle true interest in the sport once more. Other major fights such as Joshua vs. Wilder or Lomachenko vs. Garcia may amazing fights in their own right, but they aren’t exactly the type of fights that the sport need to truly get back to its past American popularity high.
With the UFC lacking major superstars fighting on a consistent basis, the sport of boxing is now working tirelessly to put all of its chips on the table to not only make this rematch happen, but also create the perfect narrative for people to latch onto.
The advantage of boxing is that there are numerous great boxers that are draws within the sport and promotions such as Top Rank, Matchroom Boxing, Golden Boy Promotions and PBC as well as networks such as HBO, Showtime and ESPN are ready to make the type of superfights and unification bouts that help maintain, but not fully elevate, boxing's resurgence without the need of a Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey type of superstar on tab.
In 2017, we saw fights such as Thurman vs. Garcia, Joshua vs. Kiltschko, Garcia vs. Broner all draw exceptionally well within boxing's somewhat limited television exposure. In 2018, Canelo vs. GGG 2, as well as potential Joshua vs. Wilder, Thurman vs. Spence Jr. and Pacquiao vs. Crawford fights are the type of fights that will break the HBO/Showtime barrier and further expand its reach to a still-untapped mainstream television audience that has proven that boxing has a place in today's sports television landscape.
Have the two boxers make the rounds across all television. Be on Jimmy Fallon's late night talk show, make a million rounds on ESPN, make the best 24/7 series in HBO's history, do as much publicity as humanly possibly because this is the type of fight that can really create thousands and perhaps millions of new fans. People can gravitate towards the pretty boy, corporate-crowned prodigy in Alvarez who has been given every conceivable big fight imaginable and succeed for the most part or they can gravitate towards the blue chipper from Kazakhstan in Golovkin who had to scrape and claw at every opportunity until he forced the sport to not only give him big fights, but essentially turn into the sport's boogeyman. There's no wrong choice on who to root for in this rivalry as both are equally good candidates to be boxing's next public face.
Canelo vs. GGG 2 with the narrative of both fighters not wanting to have judges decide the fight again is the true type of combat theater the sport needs. The stage is set and now we shall see whether or not Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin has what it takes to bring the sport to newer heights.