LAS VEGAS — It was a scene straight out of a WWE production where completed storylines don’t have time for reflection and examination and the next match is always more important than the last one.
Minutes after thoroughly dissecting Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. through 12 rounds and claiming a unanimous decision Saturday, Canelo Alvarez stood in the center of the ring for his post-fight interview and he was already as over his last opponent as some of the fans who started to head for the exits before the final round. When he was asked about his next opponent, he didn’t need his translator to relay his thoughts; he simply threw it to a prepared montage.
Suddenly Alvarez’s image disappeared from the big screens at T-Mobile Arena and in its place was a waving Kazakhstan flag followed by a highlight reel of Gennady Golovkin knockouts played to dramatic music. Golvkin’s entrance theme, “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes, then blasted in the arena while lights and smoke fired around him as he walked towards the ring.
Following a stare down and a brief interview with both fighters, confetti poured down from the rafters of the arena as the big screens made it official, “Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin September 16.”
It was actually a more dramatic, choreographed announcement than anything the WWE has done in a while. The only thing missing was an Oscar De La Hoya chair shot to kick off the program.
“Triple G, you are next my friend,” Canelo said in Spanish. “The fight is done. I’ve never feared anyone, since I was 16 fighting as a professional. When I was born, fear was gone. I never got my share of fear. I’m very happy, and the rivalry is going to show my skills even more. I’ve had difficult fights, and that will no doubt be a tough fight. But, I always say, Canelo Alvarez is the best because I fight the best.”
Golovkin, who was seated ringside for Canelo’s victory over Chavez Jr., was all smiles when he was asked about his upcoming bout against Canelo.
“I feel very excited, right now is a different story,” Golovkin said. “In September, it will be a different style — a big drama show. I’m ready. Tonight, first, congrats to Canelo and his team. Right now, I think everyone is excited for September. Canelo looked very good tonight, and 100 percent he is the biggest challenge of my career. Good luck to Canelo in September.”
The level of preplanning for the announcement extended beyond the dramatic in-ring show following the pay-per-view fight. The first press conference for the Sept. 16 fight took place in the ring after the arena had been cleared with De La Hoya presenting a commercial for the fight and answering questions alongside Canelo and his team and Golovkin and his team. It could be argued that more time was spent on this announcement than Chavez Jr.’s game planning for Alvarez.
Golovkin has been the dream opponent for Alvarez in the eyes of fight fans since Alvarez defeated Miguel Cotto in 2015 but no dream match in boxing ever takes place when you really want it to so we have waited for this match to become a reality for two years. During that time Alvarez has seen the pay-per-view buys for his fights steadily drop with fans refusing to pay to watch Alvarez fight second-tier options instead of Golovkin.
The 900,000 pay-per-view buys Alvarez garnered when he fought Cotto in 2015 dipped to 600,000 when he fought Amir Khan last year and that number was cut in half to 300,000 when Alvrez fought Liam Smith last September. Those numbers still dwarf those of Golovkin, whose pay-per-view debut against David Lemieux in 2015 did 150,000 pay-per-view buys while his last fight against Daniel Jacobs in March did just 170,000 buys.
While it is clear from the pay-per-view numbers that Canelo is the A-side and Golovkin is the B-side in the matchup, it is also clear that Canelo and Golovkin need each other to become household names outside of boxing circles.
This may come as a surprise to fight fans who live in a boxing bubble but Alvarez and Golovkin are not well-known names outside of boxing yet. Walk around The Strip in Las Vegas before an Alvarez fight or walk around Times Square in New York before a Golovkin fight and the majority of the people roaming the streets have never heard of either fighter.
They may be the two biggest names in boxing at the moment but they’re not in the same stratosphere as Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya or Manny Pacquiao, who combined for the two highest grossing pay-per-view matches ever, as draws yet. That doesn’t mean that they can’t or that they won’t be but they needed to fight each other to realize their potential in the ring and outside the ring as transcendent fighters that casual fans can get excited about.
Canelo and Golovkin both took their first dramatic step in that direction on Saturday and if their introductory production was any indication, both will be household names outside of boxing by the end of the year.