OK, firstly, forgive the headline. I felt a random need for something crass and I am sorry. Yet, you must admit that it is oddly appropriate; a silly, semi-ridiculous title for an article discussing a silly, semi-ridiculous fight, one that is in very real danger of turning what should be the most promising year the middleweight division has seen for a while into an utter farce.
A few months ago, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez FINALLY moved up to a weight he had been tip-toeing round for some time and unanimously defeated Miguel Cotto for the WBC middleweight belt. The eyes of boxing fans glistened with the thoughts of potential future super-fights. 2016 could be the year that the 160 pound weight class led by example and managed to unify itself in one, undisputed individual (to the great credit of all contenders concerned). Every fighter ranked in the top 5 or top 6 spots looked to have a legitimate claim to the throne and the very mention of any two of them facing off sparked heated debate within all boxing circles. The most talked about match up was the hypothetical clash between Alvarez and undefeated champion Gennady Golovkin, a fight that most of us deemed an unavoidable certainty. The WBC, to their credit, appeared keen to encourage both men and said that the pair must each have a defense of their titles (Canelo the full version, Golovkin the interim version) before facing one another in the Autumn.
Fast forward to the present day, and we have a rather awkward situation on our hands. Alvarez’s camp, seeing themselves as the cash cow that they are, suddenly remained adamant that they will not be moving from the 155lbs catchweight (the weight at which Canelo won the middleweight strap) and insisted that anyone who wants to face him, Golovkin included, must meet him there. This sparked outrage; denying fighters from the middleweight division the opportunity to compete for the middleweight belt by insisting that the champion only fight those who are able to make a certain weight range WITHIN that weight class is audacious at best, laughable and insulting at worst. Why, we ask? “We are quite comfortable at that weight and it suits us,” states trainer Eddy Reynoso. “We are not inventing a new division. It’s just part of business and everyone seeks what suits them. Who[ever] wants to fight with Saul, come down or go up”.
There’s the first stumbling block. Then, in a move that blindsided pretty much everybody, it was announced that Alvarez would make his first defense of his middleweight belt against Amir Khan. Cue stunned silence. The Brit, who endured a miserable 2015, wasn’t just last on everyone’s list of potential opponents for Alvarez; he didn’t even make the lists. Failing to secure rumoured superfights with Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, he eventually had to settle for an uninspired points victory against Chris Algieri in what was his only outing of last year.
Aside from that, the credentials just don’t stack up, no matter how much Alvarez and his team insist otherwise. Yes, Khan is a former world champion, but he won his belts all the way down at super-lightweight – three full divisions below where he intends to challenge the Mexican. His time at welterweight has been successful, but short and his resume there lacks big names with Devon Alexander being the only real world class 147lbs operator he has faced.
Make no mistake, the excuses for this fight are thin. Reynoso’s protests that Khan’s speed and ringwork will make the fight interesting should not distract from the main principle here (especially as they may not even be effective at a heavier weight). The point is, this fight is utterly and completely artificial. Both fighters were on totally different paths until about a week ago. Alvarez was supposed to fully move to middleweight and compete with the division’s best (who already believe he is arriving late to the party) and Khan was supposed to build on the progress he has made at welterweight and fight in early Spring before clashing with long term rival Kell Brook in the Summer, in what would undoubtedly be a box office event. The best laid plans, it seems, really do go awry.
The final and most worrying thought is what will happen to the middleweight division once this fight has taken place. Fighting at the catchweight of 155lbs has rightly earned Alvarez growing criticism, especially when a title is at stake. But the WBC now seemingly want to pretend there isn’t a glaringly obvious elephant in the room by reminding everyone that it is a contractually legitimate weight. “…if there is any weight agreement, such is a private contract between the fighters” says WBC boss Mauricio Sulaiman. “The division limit is 160, so any weight lower than that is considered as official and within the rules.”
Not a good sign and the fallout from the WBC’s position is already starting to take shape. Alvarez, apparently now holding all the cards, won’t move from his 155lbs fortress and will face fighters who have to put themselves at a disadvantage to face him. Meanwhile the ever-frustrated Golovkin, who has already refused to move down in weight, is left to feed off whoever is left in the division willing to face him, which in this case is unbeaten, but unheralded Dominic Wade, who he meets in April in what will surely be a one-sided and under-whelming match.
What a shambles. We may yet get some interesting contests at 160 pounds, but it looks like Golovkin-Alvarez may not be among them. Golovkin could instead face WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders, who has expressed interest in a fight with the Kazakh at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium in London, but he might have to wait until Saunders has had a successful defence of his belt first. But that is a negotiation for the future. What matters at the minute are the negotiations that are taking place right now, and sadly, all signs seem to indicate that the middleweight division is still going to deny us the biggest fight it could possibly produce.