About two months ago, boxing writers started getting frantic phone calls and emails from competing promoters Top Rank and Golden Boy. September 15, part of Mexican Independence weekend, was fast approaching and both promoters wanted to stage a big fight with their biggest stars. Along with their broadcast partners HBO and Showtime, the two promoters control boxing. They also despise each other. They had decided to stage two of the biggest fights of the year on the same night at the same time, about a mile from each other in Las Vegas. It seemed the decision would split the sport's dwindling fan base and force the boxing media—an endangered subculture—to decide which event to write about, and essentially promote. Top Rank's Bob Arum, whose fight would be on HBO, said Golden Boy was "being obstinate" about picking the same date and remarked that his competitors needed better "adult supervision."
Staging the two fights and the same time made no sense, of course, but since we're talking about boxing it made all the sense in the world.
I found myself in Las Vegas on Friday with a decision: go to the world middleweight championship between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Sergio Martinez on the UNLV campus, or observe the super welterweight clash between Josesito Lopez and Canelo Alvarez at the MGM. I had spent a couple hours with Alvarez—who is called Canelo (Spanish for cinnamon) because of his red hair—one day in Los Angeles several weeks ago. He was a warm person. Alvarez, 22, was more interested in talking about how much he loved his five-year-old daughter (she was back in Mexico), learning English, and the books he enjoys reading than discussing boxing. He was half-way through The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, a "Toltec wisdom book" by don Miguel Ruiz. Alvarez is handsome and serially dates beauty queens. He is an emerging star, already popular in Mexico, so popular that his trainer had to move his camp to Los Angeles to get away from the adoring mobs. They hid him away in Brentwood, and had him train in a private gym in Santa Monica.
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There wasn't much doubt in my mind that Canelo would destroy Lopez—a 12-1 underdog—and I also knew Chavez-Martinez had a more compelling storyline. Martinez, 37, who rose from poverty and obscurity to become the fourth best pound-for-pound fighter in the world would go against his opposite: the twenty-six-year-old Chavez, scion of Mexico's greatest fighter, Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr., who had been eased into the sport because of his name recognition. They call Chavez Jr. "son of a legend." He is the George W. Bush of boxing.