Business vs. Sport: Canelo and the WBC
By Hector Franco
Last week the boxing world was again turned upside down. Golden Boy Promotions announced that Canelo Alvarez would be vacating his WBC middleweight title. This move made IBF/WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin the official WBC middleweight champion. Golovkin was the WBC interim champion since October 2014. Fans have lambasted Canelo all over the Internet since the announcement was made. Many are jumping to the conclusion that with Canelo dropping the title he will not face Golovkin. Canelo and his promoter Oscar De La Hoya stated in the announcement that they intended to continue negotiations with Golovkin and K2. Fans and insiders alike have heard the rumors of Canelo possibly facing the likes of David Lemiuex and Curtis Stevens. There have even been rumors floating around of a bout with WBO 154-pound champion, Liam Smith. Fans have to wonder how we got to this point.
It’s no secret that the WBC has been inconsistent with its rules when it came to its titles at 154 and 160 pounds this decade. Floyd Mayweather was able to hold the WBC 154 pound title for years without once having to face a mandatory. Canelo himself is no stranger to preferential treatment from the WBC. Many may remember that Alvarez was able to win the WBC title at 154 at a catch weight of 150 by taking on welterweight contender, Matthew Hatton. Even then Alvarez was unable to make the 150-pound limit. Needless to say Alvarez is no stranger to doing business with the WBC. At 160 pounds the WBC has been even more inconsistent than at 154.
Many fans may remember the WBC stripping then champion Sergio Martinez of their title for not facing mandatory, Sebastian Zbik. Zbik was not approved by HBO to face Martinez. The WBC then turned around and had Zbik face Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for the title. HBO of course approved the bout. Chavez won the bout against Zbik and was awarded the WBC middleweight title. Afterwards Martinez won his title back against Chavez in September 2012. The bout with Chavez was Martinez’s last great performance and may have been the end of his prime. In the Chavez bout, Martinez suffered injuries to his knees, which slowed down much of his movement in the ring. Martinez would once again have a mandatory due for the WBC against Marco Antonio Rubio. This is when the WBC set the stage for the Canelo-Golovkin situation.
The WBC decided to create an interim title as a way to not strip Sergio Martinez of the title. The sanctioning body wanted to avoid another Graciano Rocchigiani situation. Rocchigiani successfully sued the WBC back in 1998 for failing to recognize him as champion after the organization declared the title vacant after then champion, Roy Jones decided to move up to heavyweight. Jones decided to not move up to heavyweight that year and was reinstated as WBC champion. Rocchigiani won his lawsuit against the WBC and was awarded up to $30 million.
Marco Antonio Rubio was the mandatory for the WBC title. He faced off against Domenico Spada for the interim WBC middleweight title. Rubio won the match up and title in April 2014. This allowed Sergio Martinez to face off against Miguel Cotto in June 2014 as the WBC and lineal middleweight champion. Cotto won the bout in dominating fashion and became the first Puerto Rican fighter to win titles in four weight divisions. In the meantime, Gennady Golovkin and his team decided that since they couldn’t force fighters like Sergio Martinez and Miguel Cotto to face them, maybe they could have the sanctioning bodies force the fights. Golovkin defeated Marco Antonio Rubio to become the WBC interim champion. This now made him the #1 contender for whoever held the WBC middleweight title.
Golovkin and team allowed for Miguel Cotto to face Canelo Alvarez for the title. Alvarez won the title against Cotto and once again Golovkin and team allowed Canelo to face Amir Khan for the title. Now that we know how we got here, why was it more about business than sport for Alvarez to drop his WBC title?
Alvarez has stated himself multiple times that he is not afraid to face Golovkin. In his post fight interviews after his bouts with Miguel Cotto and Amir Khan he stated that he was willing to put the gloves on and fight him at once. Alvarez is the only person on his team that has to step in the ring. He is the one taking the risk. It is unlikely that he is actually scared of Golovkin. His promoter may be another story.
With Alvarez dropping the WBC title and essentially handing it over to Golovkin, it changed the complexion of their negotiations. The WBC only granted the two camps until May 24th to come up with some agreement. If they didn’t come up with an agreement they could have gone to purse bid. This is likely the main reason why Alvarez dropped the title. A purse bid under WBC rules between a champion and interim champion is a 55/45 split. Under most circumstances the split may be 80/20 or 70/30. Alvarez and his team would likely demand a bigger split then 55/45. There’s also the matter of all the other details being worked out such as where the fight would take place. Seeing that in the past Alvarez has had such a good relationship with the WBC it’s possible an extension beyond May 24th may have been granted.
Canelo Alvarez dropping his title belt was simply a business decision. We’ll find out within the next few weeks if Alvarez and Golden Boy have real intentions in facing Golovkin. With both men being champions in the same division, one would believe that Alvarez would want to prove that he is the best in the division. This isn’t that kind of era for the sport of boxing. This is the era where fans care more about PPV numbers and sales than fighters taking on the best opponents. Canelo-Golovkin is the biggest fight that can be made in the sport of boxing. The sport of boxing is in an era where it is more business than sport. Fans will have to wait to see what’s more important to Canelo Alvarez. Money or Legacy?
(Featured Photo: Sky Sports)