Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, undoubtedly one boxing’s brightest young stars, is a man without a division. This is the same Canelo that at the tender age of 23 took on the biggest star of the sport’s most recent era, Floyd Mayweather Jr., smashing PPV records at the time. This is the same Canelo that most recently put over 30,000 adoring fans in a baseball stadium to watch him dispatch what ended up being a shell of James Kirkland. This is the same Canelo that will be a part of a fight that in almost any other year, besides this one, would be the biggest event on the boxing calendar when he faces Miguel Cotto in a little less than a month’s time.
So what, you ask, is the problem? The problem, at least in this boxing fan’s opinion, is Canelo is a fighter that is defying the rules of the sport for which its throne he is aspiring to occupy. Nonetheless, he’s not the only fighter using a practice designed to be good for the sport against it for their own advantage.
However, he is one of the few fighters that is being counted on to carry the sport into the future.
Boxing is a sport made up of weight divisions. Seventeen, depending on who you ask, in total. They are designed to give order and fairness to the sport, dividing fighters up to give skill, and not size, the upper hand in the sweet science.
Catch weights are something used historically as a means to match two opponents who compete in two separate weight classes, and were used sparingly.
It has become the norm now for the “A side” of a fight to stake their claim to a weight between the defined weight classes, and demand that his opponent come to that weight. That weight can be above, but is more often below, the other fighter’s weight class. In cases where this is used, perhaps most notable recently in the Miguel Cotto-Daniel Geale fight, it is clear at the weigh in that the “B side” fighter is at an even bigger disadvantage than the obvious skill gap.
This practice keeps fighters, already competing as underdogs, at an even greater disadvantage, and is dangerous to the fighter sucking down in weight. It prevents some of the best possible fights in the sport from happening.
Canelo Alvarez’s recent assertion that any potential showdown with Gennady “GGG” Golovkin will have to take place at a catch weight between the junior middleweight division, where Canelo used to reside, and the middleweight division, where Gennady is currently king, is telling. Telling in the sense that it shows that Canelo knows he is the financially dominating star with “A side” power in almost every conceivable fight he can be in, no matter the opponent.
It also shows that the practice of catch-weight demands aren’t going anywhere as boxing enters a new era post Mayweather-Pacquiao.
Championships in boxing are won in weight divisions. There is a middleweight championship of the world, and a junior middleweight championship of the world. Well, there’s four of each, but this isn’t a perfect world. There isn’t a 155 lb. world championship. Canelo needs to determine if he wants to go back to junior middleweight and rule the division like he was showing he could earlier in his career. Or, he needs to take the full step up in weight to 160 lbs. and take on the best that division has to offer. The sport needs superstars to emerge in the wake of the last era’s standard bearers, and if Canelo wants to fulfill the potential he’s shown to be one of those, he needs to step back in line with the rules of the sport and compete in an actual weight class.