If you’re going to build a major pay-per-view boxing event around two boxers, you probably would want one of them to be coming off a stunning victory in his last fight.
At the very least one of them should be a proven pay-per-view star with a track record of being involved in thrilling matches.
None of that is the case with the match between Saul “Canelo’’ Alvarez and Alfredo “El Perro’’ Angulo, which will take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and be broadcast on Showtime Pay-Per-View on Saturday night.
Alvarez, 23, took a graduate level course in the Sweet Science taught by Professor Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in Las Vegas last September. He failed, but he got to keep his WBC junior middleweight title, which is on the line on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Angulo, whose nickname is “The Dog’’, was in a pitched back-and-forth battle against Erislandy Lara, a slick Cuban with advanced defensive skills and manoeuvres. Angulo managed to drop Lara in the fourth and ninth rounds, but still lost when a massive hematoma developed over his left eye from a punch in the 10th round. When Angulo turned his back to Lara, the signal in boxing that an opponent has had enough, the referee stopped the match which gave Lara a 10th round TKO victory.
Both Alvarez and Angulo are from Mexico and are promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. But Alvarez is the golden child. They have invested heavily in his being a star with crossover appeal that will fit nicely into the pay-per-view landscape once it is left barren by the departure of Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
Alvarez’s fight against Angulo, a true 154-pound force of nature, will serve two purposes if he wins. First, because of Angulo’s straight-ahead, take no prisoners style, a resounding victory establish Alvarez’s credentials as a legitimate Mexican warrior. And second, if Alvarez wins a thrilling victory, it will re-establish him as an entertainer.
If Angulo wins, then years of marketing and planning spent on Alvarez will go to waste. It’s hard to promote a guy as the next great thing in boxing if he is coming off two straight losses.
Heading into this fight, Angulo (22-3, 18 KOs) knows what the score is. Not much has been handed to him on his rise through the 154-pound ranks. He was a member of the 2004 Mexico Olympic boxing team and his pro career got off to a fast and concussive start (12 of his first 15 fights were KO victories).
The last three years have been rocky, both professionally and personally. He had differences with his promoter, Gary Shaw, before his contract was bought out by Golden Boy in 2011. He was KO’ed in a championship match against James Kirkland in 2011, after punching himself out in the first round.
Then in 2012 Angulo, who was born in Mexicali, Mexico, was detained by U.S. Immigrations for eight months at the El Centro Detention facility in California near the Mexico border after he turned himself in for being in the U.S. on an expired visa.
“My life has been difficult both in personal obstacles and professional obstacles,’’ Angulo said. “I don’t look back on regret with anything. This is the point that I’ve reach at my career.’’
He has watched as Alvarez has been portrayed as the next Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr. He believes he’s a pampered star.
“I do believe that he has gotten a lot of marketing help in Mexico and this is why his team wanted him to have a fight against me so that he can prove that he does belong at this level,’’ Angulo said.
Alvarez said he knows that Angulo doesn’t like him. And he’s ready to make a statement on Saturday night.
Angulo said part of the pampering and protecting of Alvarez has been keeping him away from Lara, whose boxing skills make him one of the least favorite boxers to face in the 154-pound division.
Austin Trout was the toughest opponent at 154 pounds that Alvarez fought before stepping in against Mayweather.
“Look at what Lara did to Trout and look at what Canelo did against him and that will tell you where Canelo is,’’ Angulo said. “I think Lara is a better technical fighter than Canelo.’’
Trout lost decisions to both Alvarez and Lara.
After all the hype around Alvarez’s mega-match against Mayweather last September, Angulo was anxious to see how his fellow-Mexican countryman would do in the ring against the best Pound-for-Pound in the business. He wasn’t alone. The fight did two million pay-per-view buys and grossed $150 million, a record for a boxing pay-per-view event. The numbers aside, Angulo was not impressed by what he saw from Alvarez.
“I thought there would be greater things showing from Canelo,’’ Angulo said. “I thought he’d put up more of a fight. But I wasn’t really surprised that he didn’t show that much. It shows that Canelo (42-1-1, 30 KOs) still isn’t at that level of Floyd Mayweather.’’
Now we’re about to find out if Alvarez is at the same level as the 31-year-old Angulo, a battle-hardened veteran who has had to claw his way to the top.
“This is a very, very important fight for me,’’ Angulo said. “If I beat Canelo this opens many doors for me. All the things I’ve been waiting for will be there for me. This is a stepping stone to more great fights, especially the other fighters with high ranking opponents in the 154-pound division.’’
That is Angulo’s plan. It doesn’t necessarily line up with the one that Golden Boy has for Alvarez.